How anonymous are you online? Examining online social behaviors from a cross-cultural perspective
Communication on the Internet is often described as “anonymous”, yet the usage of the term is often confusing, even in academia. Three levels of anonymity, visual anonymity, dissociation of real and online identities, and lack of identifiability, are thought to have different effects on various components of interpersonal motivation. Specifically, we propose that cross-cultural differences in interpersonal motivation (autonomy vs. affiliation) are illustrated by choices individuals make when deciding whether or not to remain anonymous while communicating online. Autonomy is often valued in Western societies, whereas Eastern societies tend to emphasize affiliation, suggesting that individuals in Western societies will gravitate toward online communities that allow lower levels of anonymity, while individuals in Eastern societies will be more likely to seek out online communities that promote higher levels of anonymity. The research presented in this article supports this notion, suggesting that we need to consider cultural differences when designing online communication systems and other communications technologies.