When I was 21, the cool thing to be was famous on Instagram

When I was 21, the cool thing to be was famous on Instagram

There just isn’t any good reason to use your real name anymore

The youngest adult generation and the most online generation is frustrated with being surveilled and embarrassed by attention-seeking behaviors. This has instigated a retreat into smaller internet spaces and secret-sharing apps, as well as a mini-renaissance for Tumblr, where users rarely use their full names. (The majority of new users are Gen Z, according to Chenda Ngak, a spokesperson for Tumblr’s parent company.) The voice- and text-chat app Discord, known for a culture of anonymous and pseudonymous discussion, now has 150 million users; anonymously run hyper-niche meme accounts are suddenly the coolest, most exciting follows on Instagram. The group-therapy app Chill Pill offers a “world of future friends and better days” but does not permit the sharing of any personally identifying information. (I downloaded the app but can’t make a real account-I’m over the age limit, which is 24.)

Something has shifted online: We’ve arrived at a new era of anonymity, in which it feels natural to be inscrutable and confusing-forget the burden of crafting a coherent, persistent personal brand. “In the mid 2010s, ambiguity died online-not of natural causes, it was hunted and killed,” the writer and podcast host Biz Sherbert observed recently. I find this sort of exciting, but also unnerving. What are they going to do with their newfound freedom?

Now young people are trying to bring it back

In part, the trend is a response to security concerns. During the Black Lives Matter protests in the summer of 2020, young people downloaded the encrypted messaging app Signal by the millions to avoid the surveillance they considered possible or probable on other platforms. The anonymous hacker group Anonymous made a buzzy return and was embraced by K-pop fans, many of them anonymous, while engaging in pranks that doubled as acts of civil disobedience. Other activists disseminated tools for blurring protesters’ faces in Instagram Stories, and tried to steer one another off mainstream apps and onto smaller, decentralized ones where users have more control of the data they create and share.

Anonymity can also be ideological. Crypto culture, now known as Web3 culture, was founded on the idea that transactions can be made online without the exchange of personally identifying information. It also has a newer norm of replacing one’s human face with a cartoon. In crypto circles, mentioning a very rich and successful person’s real name can amount to “doxxing,” and even those who aren’t well known are cautious about sharing the barest personal details. At a recent party sponsored by a new Web3 platform, a guest with about 5,000 Twitter followers explained to me that people online do know what he looks like-he “shows face,” as he put it-but that he has never shared a single photo of his girlfriend. Too dangerous.

But in the end, a return to anonymity is just a return to form. Hiding your identity has always been important for getting through the horror of being a person under the age of 24 on the internet. The gradual reveal of personal information, even building up to a “face reveal,” was once a give-and-take among people who shared the same online space for a long time, fostering trust. When Instagram and TikTok arrived and made it possible to make a lot of money from your face, personality, thoughts, beliefs, and personal trauma, young people forgot how good it felt to be no one kissbrides.com voit kokeilla täältГ¤ in particular, or to try on various identities. In the past few years, they have been coming back around.