Online interaction provides an interesting avenue for experiment and experience. People are able to hide or fabricate their personal details including age, sex, and appearance. For the purposes of this question I am using the term "personal identifiers" as any indication of a person's age, sex, name, race, place of residence, etc*

As a user here, I have experimented with showing my real name, changing my user name; having a photo of myself as a kangaroo, and whether or not to display my age, provide my real age, or at one point used an age of 93 years. I have also played with whether or not to show my country (the kangaroo reveals I am at ease with this).

I am most active on Stack Overflow, which is a programming site, and my belief is that programming is a male dominated field. So when I address a user, with no personal identifiers, I find myself assuming that they are male. I have noticed that when people assume I am of the opposite sex (to what I am, not what they are!), I respond differently.

This has led me to think about the value of maintaining a certain anonymity and which aspects of one's identity are best revealed in various online settings.


  • What information is there about perceived personal identifiers and how this affects people's online behaviour?
  • What information is there regarding a person's reaction when they know they are being treated as if they are a person with different identifiers?
  • $\begingroup$ People exploit this in the field of competitive video gaming, where an offensive (A**LDominator), humorous (ShootinPutin2012) or girly (FluffyKitty) names are used to deceive or frustrate an opponent. Being repeatedly defeated by these names would feel more frustrating than by something like (mike1274) $\endgroup$ – Alex Stone Dec 5 '14 at 0:46

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