There are many reasons why people, including academics, open anonymous profiles on social media.
It’s not because you are trying to hide who you are or even ‘pretending’ to be someone else, it could be because you might have more fun or just want to disassociate yourself with a high-powered stressful job. If you’re particularly worried about what your Tweets might do to the world as we know it, have a look below at some common reasons why some people choose to go anonymous.
Common reasons to go anonymous can include:
- Being targeted by extremist groups: If you are an academic who writes about the middle east, politics, or who has to use animals in your research, it’s completely understandable you might not want to expose yourself on Twitter and use a pseudonym instead.
- Saying something controversial: Much like point 1, above, If your research or academic life tackles more sensitive issues, then you might choose to become faceless on social media to separate yourself from the ‘haters’ and ‘trolls’. If you’re not in a very controversial area of research – be polite and mind your manners and you should be fine.
- No confidence: Unsure about what to say on Twitter? Well, you don’t actually have to say anything to use Twitter, you can just put people in lists (and/or follow them) and ‘people-watch’ (look at other people’s Tweets) until you gain confidence; use a pseudonym and change it once you’re more comfortable.
- I work for a company who doesn’t allow it: Enough said. But if you really want to talk to their communications group to see what the boundaries are, policies change all the time.
- I’m an Early Career Researcher I could mess up my career!: You might and you might not – I was perfectly happy using Twitter and social media, my PhD supervisor couldn’t give two hoots if I was on Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter etc… as long as I did my research. If you are unsure, see point 3.
- I don’t want to end up ruining my chances for a job or future collaborations: Again, you might, you might not. Who do you want to work with, someone who is interested in your opinion and your research or what you Tweet? Make sure you know why you are are on Twitter. Are you using it to further your career, make professional connections or just have a bit of fun?
Using Twitter (and other social media outlets) to enhance your academic career can be a really exciting and rewarding experience; On social media I was offered a post-doc and a science communications job (perhaps it was the approachable nature of my persona and the fact I was so contactable!), but only you can decide what you are using social media for and how you use it, just remember, it’s a public place and behave how you would in public and you should be alright. If you’re unsure just set yourself some Twitter Rules.
Find a mentor/role-model
When I was new to Twitter I found a few researchers and academics on Twitter I really admired and followed them before Tweeting anything, and I also got great encouragement from them to get involved. So, find people you like and admire and sit back and see how they Tweet and interact with their users.
Benefits of being anonymous: Can swear! And make more jokes than normal.