Anonymity may soon be coming to the social media giant.
Long-known as the most un-anonymous social network, Facebook is developing an application that allows interaction through pseudonyms, following the trend of anonymous apps such as Whisper and Secret, according to a New York Times article.
The concept of anonymous posting, however, has been the subject of many debates throughout the past decade. Its most outspoken critics often cite trolling, cyberbullying, and intolerance as indicators that allowing people to hide behind screen names fosters unhealthy interactions.
Although those claims deserve some merit, the critics overlook the known benefits of anonymous networks. Such networks aid discussions regarding sensitive topics that might not currently be found on a network such as Facebook, where users have to constantly worry about portraying a certain image to their friends and family.
By designing an application that allows for these discussions, Facebook is smartly leveraging its dominance in the social networking industry. It is already home to over a billion un-anonymous users; this application will ensure that those users will no longer have to turn to other networks in order to discuss more sensitive and/or embarrassing issues.
Facebook can become almost like a journal for some people. Image courtesy of Sarah Marshall.
Particularly interesting will be the case of homosexual Facebook users. The Telegraph cites a study in its article that shows the prevalence of Facebook accounts among gays and lesbians: nearly 73% have Facebook profiles, as opposed to only 65% of heterosexuals.
Despite these numbers, a stark difference exists among the use of Facebook when comparing homosexuals and heterosexuals. As discussed in Professor Druker’s “Social Media Networking” course at New York University, homosexuals tend to avoid using Facebook as a platform to openly relay their interest in same-sex partners. Rather, they use other, more gay-friendly sites to find partners and then use Facebook to merely verify the identity of said partners.
Once Facebook supports anonymity, though, it will be interesting to see whether gays will adjust their use. Quite possibly, they will begin to use anonymous Facebook profiles to find partners.
This shift will likely not be found only among gays. The new application will also foster discussion among groups ranging from recovering alcoholics to shy introverts, people who might not otherwise use Facebook to seek a community.
And while websites currently do exist for such matters, the fact that Facebook, a widely popular network, will support anonymous profiles will result in more people using the feature at one point or another. I, myself, for one may post anonymously every now and then, especially if my post covers a controversial topic that may offend some of my friends or family.
Whether anonymity will affect Facebook’s central function as a directly profiled social media network, however, remains to be seen.
Featured image courtesy of Luciano Castillo.