This article explores youth narratives concerning the effects of internet anonymity on social ties online. Using an essay-based study of 78 youth (mean age 15.5 years), the effects of internet anonymity on relationships were examined. Results of the qualitative thematic approach showed that anonymity online has led to new forms of relational risk, stemming from misplaced trust or deception. Anonymity was also seen as lessening barriers to relational intimacy, as weak ties could transition to strong ties based on shared interests or social validation. Anonymity was also viewed as enhancing interactive courage and self-expression. Harassment and other negative behaviours were strengthened through anonymity. The dynamics between strong and weak ties were central to risks; here, social tie deception was found to cause harm where an aggressor feigned strong ties in the pursuit of instrumental gain. The findings point to the prominence of the online social effects youth attribute to anonymity.
- social ties
- COMPUTER-MEDIATED COMMUNICATION
- TEENAGERS USE
- WEAK TIES