Sparking conversations in real life is different from doing so on Twitter. The results are magnified; saying something that resonates with your group of friends is different from saying the same on Twitter and having it spread—liked, RTd, and commented on—by tens of thousands of people.
For the most part, using Twitter is an asymmetric risk. Posting is generally low-effort and will yield few responses or nothing at all. On the other hand, if an idea you share is embraced, you might get thousands of comments and a host of new followers. Enough of this over time, as the community around your tweets grows, leads to new relationships and potentially being viewed as someone to follow. On the flip side, on a platform where people can be equally compelled to engage with positive and negative, and someone disagreeing with you can lead to Twitter mobbing.
Anonymous accounts provide a viable solution; they allow you to express yourself freely without any of the potential downside. However, none of these benefits of Twitter are gained if you shrink under the pressure and anxiety of potentially being called out and opt, instead, for an anonymous account. To a lesser extent, this is also true of having a private account. Posting as yourself is often the best way to establish an online presence that helps you meet others and learn about opportunities. Test out saying things under your own name and owning your opinions and ideas. Without this skin in the game, you won’t be afforded any of the upsides of being on the platform.
At the same time, anonymous accounts are increasingly common and can earn acclaim for their creators once unmasked.
@StartupLJackson, an anonymous satire account taking aim at Silicon Valley culture, was started by Parker Thompson (@pt) as an experiment to see whether ideas from an anonymous account could gain traction.
NOTAWOLF (@SICKOFWOLVES), an anonymous account started by writer and comedian Dan Sheehan (@ItsDanSeehan), has garnered over 165K followers. As a result, he’s established himself as a comedic voice, gained a personal following, pursued additional creative projects, and earned acclaim in mainstream publications.
Parody accounts can be interesting to follow because their creators, under the veil of anonymity, often bring light to unexamined phenomena or feel comfortable enough discussing topics outside the Overton window.
Tells that an account is either anonymous or parody on Twitter include the following:
A profile picture that is a stock photo, random graphic, or in the likeness of a well-known historical figure or celebrity.
Their name is non-specific and doesn’t belong to someone who can easily be Googled or affiliated with a certain workplace or association.
The tweets on their timeline can be categorized under a singular theme or idea.
The tone of their tweets is often marked by humor, sarcasm, hyperbole, nihilism, or solemness.
Parody and anonymous accounts are distinct from fake accounts, those which purposefully impersonate someone, or bots, computer-generated accounts.