Wherefore art thou anonymous?

Posted on October 31, 2014 by

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The concept of online virtual identities is as integral to the Internet as the very protocol (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) that underpins its communications infrastructure.

And even if you’ve been living under a rock the past 20 years and wake up to this current brave new mobile world, I’m pretty sure you won’t even bat an eye once you start getting hooked on using mobile devices, interacting and interfacing with others, and noticing just how many choose to not use their real names, their real selfies, nor paint real descriptions of their identities on their profiles.

On the one hand, those who seek to regulate and monitor online activities are naturally apprehensive of anonymity and not-easily-identifiable avatars or pseudonyms. Anything (or anyone) untraceable to a real person or entity becomes subject of speculation and suspicion. On the other hand, privacy practitioners, advocates and activists equally maintain a well substantiated position in upholding the merits of anonymity.

Don’t worry, I am not cooking up conditions that will give way to a perfect storm of a debate over these delicate and complex issues.

However, I would like to zero in on the notion of anonymity and pseudonymity, particularly in the growing popularity of mobile social apps that offer opportunities for anonymous interactions (think Secret, Whisper, Snapchat, Rooms, etc). As we are all aware, some of these apps are more on point with their anonymity ethos than others.

Now lets take off our marketing hats for a moment and put on our social science and philosophy hats and attempt to broadly deconstruct the indelible fascination and propensity for the nature of online anonymity.

While we won’t be raking falling strategic objectives leaves and talking marketing shop over hot apple cider, we will be winterizing our professional households in anticipation for anonymous mobile-based behaviours that may affect future mobile marketing efforts.

So. Ready?

Have a think:

Q1 Why is digital anonymity (using pseudonyms, fake avatars etc) so important to the average user? Beyond privacy-driven intents, could there be more basic and practical reasons?

Q2 What are the benefits of anonymous interactions with others online? What are the risks?

Q3 Have you ever posted something anonymous online and felt you really wanted to be identified but can’t for whatever reason? What do you think is the impact of this behaviour?

Q4 If you came across a new social app that freely and easilty allowed you to be anonymous or be public, depending on your mood and/or agenda, would you use it? Why? Why not?

Yep. This is how we do things at #smchat. We get to the heart of burning topics to discover how it relates and affects other aspects of our professional and personal pursuits.

Talk to you Wednesday, Nov 5, 2014 1pm EST

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