Online Personas, Offline Identities: Exploring the Use of Pseudonyms Amongst Saudi Twitter Users

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Saudi Digital Library
In everyday life, people present themselves depending on who their audience is. The emergence of social media platforms collapsed various audiences into one virtual space, urging users to present a unified face to everyone. To navigate that, some have resorted to the use of pseudonyms rather than their full names when they create a profile on social media. The use of pseudonyms has been an interesting phenomena that researchers have explored in the context of self-presentation and self-disclosure. However, most previous literature has focused on Western cultures when they examine the affordance of a pseudonymous self-presentation and self-disclosure. Following a socio-technical approach, this study contributes to the scarce literature on the use of pseudonyms amongst non-Western users who come from collectivist societies. The study proposes two research questions: why and how do Saudi users use pseudonyms to present themselves on Twitter. The methodology followed in this study is qualitative semi-structured interviews followed by a thematic analysis. By integrating culturally-embedded theories, affordance and anonymity, this study deduces the dual privileges that pseudonymity provides to Saudi Twitter users: 'no strings attached' and 'no questions asked' between their online personas and offline identities. Additionally, it delves into how the audience, despite the veil of pseudonymity, plays a significant role in users' self-disclosure and self-presentation dynamics. This study contributes to the information systems literature by looking at affordances and anonymity as relational concepts, providing valuable insights that unpacks the complex and socially embedded nature of these concepts. By assessing self-presentation, anonymity, and related aspects in a Saudi context, the research offers nuanced insights potentially guiding a more inclusive design and policy-making of future social media platforms.
Social media, Twitter, self-presentation, online persona, offline identity, Saudi Arabia, collectivist society