Beyond anonymity: Social identifiability with personal anonymity improves social media discussion quality

Jaidka, Kokil and Zhou, Alvin and Lelkes, Yphtach and Egelhofer, Jana Laura and Lecheler, Sophie (2021). Beyond anonymity: Social identifiability with personal anonymity improves social media discussion quality (September 30, 2021). Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication. Available at SSRN:

55 Pages Posted: 1 Jul 2021 Last revised: 24 Nov 2021

See all articles by Kokil Jaidka

Kokil Jaidka

National University of Singapore (NUS) - Department of Communications and New Media

Alvin Zhou

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities - Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication

Yphtach Lelkes

University of Pennsylvania - Department of Political Science

Jana Laura Egelhofer

University of Vienna

Sophie Lecheler

University of Vienna

Date Written: November 24, 2021

Abstract

The online sphere allows people to be personally anonymous while simultaneously being socially identifiable. Twitter users can use a pseudonym but signal allegiance to a political party in their profile (e.g., \#MAGA). We explore the interplay of these two dimensions of anonymity on a custom-built social media platform that allowed us to examine the causal effects of personal and social anonymity on discussion quality. We find no support for the hypothesis that personal anonymity breeds incivility or lowers discussion quality in discussions on gun rights. On the other hand, when personal anonymity is combined with social identifiability (operationalized as political party visibility), it improves several features linked to discussion quality, i.e., higher rationality and lower incivility. We discuss the mechanisms that might explain the results and offer recommendations for future experiments about the design of social media platforms.

Keywords: deliberation, anonymity, social identity, social media, web experiment, affordances

Suggested Citation

Jaidka, Kokil and Zhou, Alvin and Lelkes, Yphtach and Egelhofer, Jana Laura and Lecheler, Sophie, Beyond anonymity: Social identifiability with personal anonymity improves social media discussion quality (November 24, 2021). Jaidka, Kokil and Zhou, Alvin and Lelkes, Yphtach and Egelhofer, Jana Laura and Lecheler, Sophie (2021). Beyond anonymity: Social identifiability with personal anonymity improves social media discussion quality (September 30, 2021). Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication. Available at SSRN: , Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3870548 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3870548

Kokil Jaidka (Contact Author)

National University of Singapore (NUS) - Department of Communications and New Media ( email )

Singapore
Singapore

Alvin Zhou

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities - Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication ( email )

MN
United States

Yphtach Lelkes

University of Pennsylvania - Department of Political Science ( email )

Stiteler Hall
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

Jana Laura Egelhofer

University of Vienna ( email )

Bruenner Strasse 72
Vienna, Vienna 1090
Austria

Sophie Lecheler

University of Vienna ( email )

Bruenner Strasse 72
Vienna, Vienna 1090
Austria

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