Anonymity on the Internet

In You Are Not a Gadget, Jaron Lanier talks about anonymity on the Internet. This immediately made me think back my middle school days when my friends and I would communicate mostly through AOL or similar messaging services.


When using AOL messaging everyone must have a ‘screen name’ that becomes their online identity. What I found interesting about ‘screen names’ is that they rarely involved the person’s actual names. Rather, screen names typically included the person’s hobby, favorite number, birthday, pet, or something else that the person liked.  I found it interesting that through time many people have stepped away from anonymity. From what I have noticed, nowadays people’s email address typically include some variation of their first and/or last name. On sites like Twitter and Facebook, anonymity is usually scarce and people take pride in attributing their posts to themselves.

Why has this shift away from anonymity occurred? Perhaps, because online identities have shifted to become a virtual representation of ourselves, and who doesn’t want to get credit for what they do online? On the other hand, other websites such as Reddit or still pride themselves in anonymity. 

What about you? Do you prefer to be anonymous on the Internet, or is anonymity a thing of the past?


3 comments on “Anonymity on the Internet

  1. I believe anonymity is a personal choice, and if someone wishes to hide behind the smoke and mirrors of obscure names to say things they would otherwise never say, I guess that’s their right to do so.

  2. I remember my high school guidance counselor advised us to change our email addresses to something more professional; i.e. using our names instead of the semi-embarrassing usernames/email accounts. I have been using my “adult” email account since freshman year of high school, and am glad I made the switch. I think remaining anonymous has some benefits, but for the most part, you want to be identifiable.

    • The same thing happened to me. I had been using my embarrassing AOL email address for most of middle school and high school. However, it wasn’t until my junior year of high school that I went for a more professional looking gmail address.

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