The social platform Reddit offers a unique type of account that gives users more anonymity: temporary “throwaway” accounts, which users create to protect their identities while discussing a sensitive topic. While most social platforms discourage or disallow anonymous accounts, a new research study has found that these anonymous accounts garner more support for parents posting for help with difficult issues. Without fear of judgement or personal scrutiny, parents can feel free to discuss tough topics like postpartum depression, divorce and custody, work and financial struggles, and parenting styles.
In the study, researchers at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor found that the level of anonymity that self-described “throwaway” accounts offer gives parents the freedom to divulge sensitive information, ask tough questions and get support. Lead author Tawfiq Ammari and his colleagues looked at 10 years of data on three Reddit parenting boards. Their extensive research found that parents were more likely to discuss their most revealing problems when using throwaway accounts.
“Having a level of anonymity can allow parents to discuss topics considered socially stigmatizing,” shares Ammari. The accounts “are only temporary and about something special you want to divulge or discuss without feeling like you are breaking rules.”
Ammari’s findings revealed that not only were parents willing to share emotionally vulnerable information through these accounts, but they were also more likely to get extra support from other Reddit users. Responses to posts from these temporary accounts were longer and garnered higher karma scores than other posts, meaning that more people “upvoted” the content. The higher the karma score, the more likely the post is to get viewed by others and stay prominent in the Reddit feed.
While social media platforms like Instagram have become more and more dependent on sharing life through pretty pictures and happy stories, the anonymity provided by these Reddit accounts is proving to be much needed for some. The research study demonstrates that anonymous accounts can provide a valuable outlet for honesty at a time when all we usually see are picture-perfect snapshots.