Why do people hide their online identity

Transparency and privacy

Sarah Mönkeberg

To person

M.A., born 1984; Research Associate in the Department of Microsociology, Department of Social Sciences, University of Kassel, Nora-Platiel-Straße 1, 34109 Kassel. [email protected]

What drives people to present themselves on the Internet and to reveal their private and inner life? What is hidden behind this digital publication of the private, which not only allows critical voices to proclaim a transparent person in the sense of Orwell? Worse still: The disclosure of data concerning the person is apparently voluntary or in the promise of better information, products and friends. In such cases, are we witnessing a dangerous erosion of the boundary between the private and the public?

Beyond a culturally pessimistic perspective, phenomena of self-disclosure or self-staging on the Internet can also be viewed under the question of their function for one's own identity. Because the people who make themselves an issue do not act against the background of a commercialization of personal data, an intensifying capitalism or tendencies towards the economization of society as a whole. If you want to get to the bottom of self-portrayals and self-disclosures on the internet, you shouldn't forget that they also take place in the context of an intensification of uncertainties - through changes in traditional patterns of lifestyle, such as the form of our work and partnership, the waning ones Durability of our knowledge or the increasing detachment of culture from national borders. In other words: the insecurities affect questions of one's own identity. Isn't the staging of the self on the web then perhaps also a practice of becoming aware of it and insuring it?

In order to be able to give an answer to this question, we have to go a little further. Because identity is something that has always been "just as problem"[1] existed: you think of it or try to work on it," whenever you do not sure is where you belong; (...) one is not sure how one should classify oneself in the evident variety of behavioral styles and patterns and how one can ensure that the people around one accept this classification as correct and appropriate (...). 'Identity' is a name for the sought-after escape route from this uncertainty. "[2] Max Weber made a similar observation at the beginning of the 20th century: When people are insecure, they deal more with themselves. For Weber, a certain form of discussing one's own life, as rationalization or systematization, formed life practice, the breeding ground on which western capitalism could grow. This, according to his thesis, is based on a certain religious ethic. After all, it is not a matter of course that people save capital. They need a motive for this. To align one's own life in such a way that capitalism could later grow from it, Weber saw in the fact that people were unsure whether they would gain the grace of God or fall into disgrace. To escape this uncertainty, they had started to rationally- to work based on the division of labor. [3]

Self-thematizing or working on one's own identity is always an accomplishment and a constitutive element of social reality or normality. [4] Based on these assumptions, the problem of identity must be made fruitful in the following with regard to the question of the reasons for self-portrayals on the web.

Institutions of self-thematization: confession and psychoanalysis

Making yourself an issue is by no means a new phenomenon that would be reserved for the Internet or that only emerged when it emerged. Two institutions in which there is a connection between the handling or processing of uncertainties and self-thematizing can already be identified in confession and psychoanalysis. Against this background, what is new about identity work on the Internet is taking shape.

In the confession, which shaped pre-modern Europe significantly in relation to the work on one's own identity, the individuality of a person is thematized in the form of deviation, in the context of guilt. [5] It's about confessions and confessions before God; in anticipation of sins being forgiven and grace, one promises to change. Whether constancy or development - one's own biography is always constituted here before the horizon of guilt. Confession forces the individual "to research his conscience (...) because all his actions" [6] are calculated against this very horizon. In a time "when the hereafter was not only more important, but in many respects also safer than all interests of this life", [7] one tries to escape the uncertainty about life after death by means of a way of life beyond sin . This is what dominates the biography and identity work.

With a leap into the modern age it becomes clear that the emerging psychoanalysis is setting a different accent. What you and the confession have in common is that both encourage you to look inward. However, psychoanalysis is not about reckoning with one's own life in the context of guilt, but rather the self in its entirety is the topic. It is no longer about sin, but about inner strength, the question: sick or healthy? Sigmund Freud in particular was "interested in those intrapsychic processes through which the ego could attain a kind of strength in relation to the body-bound claims of the id and the socially mediated expectations of the superego, which he always more or less associated with mental health". [8th] Wherever with the development of modern society people are tied into ever larger and more anonymous circles, where in everyday life they meet more strangers than acquaintances and where there is someone else in the family than at work, [9] this self appears uncertain about who it is actually is. It is shaped by conflicts, [10] by different ways of narrating itself. Accordingly, it makes the search for the self, as its inner being and the truth, its subject.

In addition to the stimulation of introspection, once in the context of sin and once in the context of inner strength, what the institutionalized forms of self-thematization in confession and psychoanalysis have in common is that they take place in camera. [11] There is little orientation towards an audience. The first case is more about redemption, the second about the knowledge of an inner truth. If self-narration and self-portrayal on the net also serves a certain function with regard to working on one's own identity, what is it about?