Facing up to the Faceless Man

The Internet, since the origin of the first chat room, has allowed us to be whomever we wish to be,  ourselves or even  Justin Harrison; whistle blower, self-proclaimed Internet entrepreneur, and if we are to believe the rather convincing evidence that 2Oceansvibe has uncovered: a rather uninspired pseudonym. See the article here

As much as social media and the Internet have defined how we communicate and share information, they have also provided individuals with a certain level of anonymity – anonymity to say what they want without fear of repercussion. A fact that has fuelled the user’s ability to brand bash, troll, cyber bully and engage in a seedier side of the internet . Fake profiles and identities are not a rare occurrence with Mashable stating that Facebook acknowledged earlier this year, that a total of 8.7% or 83 million of its profiles are indeed fake.

This is not to say that anonymity is entirely reprehensible. Without it, sites like Wikileaks would never have come into existence but being anonymous affords us a certain level of protection, giving us the option as to what information we would like to withhold and what information we would like included in the public domain.

Anonymity is an important part of how we engage online, and even social media platforms have recognised the need to protect anonymity, possibly because they have no choice under scrutiny of their abuse of user privacy information. Nonetheless they protect their users. No longer are you able to determine who started a Facebook page. In an instant a celebrity can be killed online and nobody would be any the wiser of the originators true identity.

This facelessness does however provide a challenge to brands and companies, as it no longer matters what you as a brand say about yourself; because you are defined not by your mission statement but more by what the community says about you. They have the power to praise or punish brands for terrible service, substandard product, policies that they disagree with or even just out of the need to be senselessly nasty, and that is where inconspicuousness becomes more of a hindrance then a benefit.

Anonymity is not going to go away, despite what prospective laws are promulgated by policy makers. The Internet is a self-regulating body and the reputation of brands that engage on the platform will always be held by a higher standard than ever before: the standard of the faceless consumer.

Every so often a roar of conviction bursts forth from the hum drum of rehashed news that is the on-going conversation of social media. Often misguided, sometimes offensive and always either supported or abrogated en masse by the community, these unipolar expressions are held close to those that utter them as more than mere words but as statements of truth upon which their very moral fibre is stitched together – a rather dramatic intro to a simple question: How do you say something with conviction when you aren’t who you say you are?