What is it about?

Anonymous social media platforms comprise sprawling publics where users, untethered from their legal identity, interact with other anonymous users to share and read user-generated content. The emergence of mobile applications that promise anonymity as a primary feature has led to new forms of social interaction and identity that have so far been understudied. To address these issues, I have drawn from 12 semi-structured interviews of undergraduate and graduate students at Queen’s University who were avid users of Yik Yak to explore the sociology of anonymity, surveillance, and identity. The findings reveal the wide diversity of cultural norms, social identities, and anonymous practices that are possible when people interact without their legal identities.

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Why is it important?

This article is an empirical and theoretical attempt to understand the ways in which anonymous social media have altered the social interaction through anonymous digital acts over anonymous social media platforms. I do this through two main assertions: first, that practices of anonymity mediated through a social media platform comprise discrete acts of identity due to a process of dissociability, and second, that those dissociated acts become undisciplined.


This publication is the first of several that I will be writing based on my research of the now shut-down social media platform Yik Yak. My interests are to explore the diversity of human experience that occurs under the opaque cover of anonymity, but also, how these experiences are intimately shaped by the digital affordances of the social media platform itself. Research on anonymous internet usage is important in the face of real-name web platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. My research captures the many ways in which people resist the normalization of surveillance and visibility that has defined the Internet for the last decade.

Ms Abigail E. Curlew

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Undisciplined Performativity: A Sociological Approach to Anonymity, Social Media + Society, January 2019, SAGE Publications,
DOI: 10.1177/2056305119829843.
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