Unpacking (the) secret: Anonymous social media and the impossibility of networked anonymity

Tzlil Sharon, Nicholas A. John

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study focuses on the perceptions and practices of anonymous communication with friends enabled by tie-based anonymous apps. Based on qualitative analysis of in-depth interviews with users of the application Secret, the strategies deployed by interviewees in order to de-anonymize other users are emphasized and placed within the broader context of the real-name web. The article shows that Secret was not only based on pre-existing social networks but also drew on the network as a structure of thought. The concept of networked anonymity is introduced to account for the ways that anonymous actors imagine one another as “someone,” rather than as an unknown “anyone.” As such, the survivability of this communicative model is inherently limited by competing forces—the drive to connectivity, on the one hand, and to anonymity, on the other.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)4177-4194
Number of pages18
JournalNew Media and Society
Issue number11
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2018


  • Anonymity
  • Facebook
  • Secret
  • anonymous social media
  • networked anonymity
  • social network sites

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Communication
  • Sociology and Political Science


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