In the third quartile of 2019, Twitter users in Indonesia has risen significantly, so does how the users utilize Twitter.[i] The rapid phase of streaming tweets that we see each time we refresh our timeline adds up in just a blink of an eye. The usage of Twitter signifies that Twitter users themselves are publicly outspoken on expressing themselves on the platform. However, some also nurture their mundane aspects in life, especially the fear of getting known when they are in the act of taboo.[ii] Don Kulick then explains how being ourselves (expressing the ‘taboo’) in a different environment paralyses the mind and generates fear of expressing out ideas or in this case, taboo.[iii] Therefore, humans will try their best to remain anonymous when discussing their ‘private-taboo’ expression.
Humans interact and express themselves to a community based on their commonality and interest that they have.[iv] Expressing their ‘private-taboo’ ideas will be much more comfortable when they are within their ‘safe space.’ Communities that are still considered taboo, such as LGBTQIA, hookups, friends with benefits (FWB), porn, and others
have made their appearance as ‘Twitter Bases’ in Indonesia. ‘This taboo Twitter base’ system created by users has gained its popularity in 2019, especially in Indonesia. At first, the accounts were made as a safe space or a ‘base’ (base is a rough translation from Bahasa Indonesia to English of wadah — which could have been platform) for Indonesian twitter users to anonymously gossip about a specific issue.[v] The uprising of these communities could draw the social condition of Indonesian Twitter users and their hidden desire(s). Ergo, users function themselves to create their safe space to reach their social desire(s) that are not meant to be public. .
To reach this safe space, some users have created a ‘base’ for Twitter users to interact based on their commonality and interest. At first, the ‘base’ was created to accommodate users to confess anonymously and discretely ‘mention’ specific user(s). It is the reason why it was known as ‘menfess’ that stands for ‘Mention Confess’ at the early stages of Twitter bases. The early ‘base’ or ‘menfess’ system utilises Twitter’s direct message (DM) feature. Users could just express or confess their words through DMs and get ‘re-expressed’ or ‘re-confess’ by the base account ‘anonymously.’ When it becomes a massive phenomenon in ‘Indonesian’ Twitter, some ‘bases’ utilise bots. Twitter bases could automatically ‘re-express’ or ‘re-confess’ without needing a person to do the clerical work on copy-pasting DMs. In a glance, the anonymity could give users’ safe space,’ but the fact that the Internet, especially social media platforms are considered as a digitalised public space, so the anonymity is considered as public anonymity. That being so, the creation of new ‘safe space’ communities on Twitter has expanded with notorious ‘anonymity.’
Not Really That Anonymous
As mentioned before, the ‘bases’ need to receive DMs to generate the ‘re-expression’ or ‘re-confession.’ The ‘ID’ and the personal data of a user will be revealed by those who receive DMs, even Twitter’s staffs could read everyone DMs — though it is still debated.[vi] On an FWB base (a base that is specifically used for hookups and or one night stand(s)), physical attraction is needed to attract those who require FWB(s).
Image 1. @FWBase (https://Twitter.com/fWBase/status/1199600174965784576)
Image 2. @FWBase (https://Twitter.com/srendiphty/status/1199601308463820800/likes)
As seen on the tweet above, partial censorship might apply to their picture. Nevertheless, the user stated, “I will give a like” which could expose the user and indicate that the user is searching for FWB(s). The tweet is an example of a direct exposé to their account. Some users also do not mention about “how to find me.”
Image 3. @FWBase (https://Twitter.com/fWBase/status/1199602693800525824)
On the tweet above, the user does not mention ways to find the user but stated his location and sex (or gender). There are many ways how users try to keep their anonymity; some work, some do not work. Therefore, when identity such as picture, location, and sex or gender are stated online, the essence of anonymity on the internet itself disappears.
Internet, as a hyper-connected sphere, has its cunning way to reveal someone’s effort on being anonymous. When it comes to picture, reverse image search technology exists. String variables (name, words, and many others) could be easily searched for further details, especially when it is collected using some sophisticated tweet collector. It is very challenging to stay anonymous on the internet if a person dwells within this hyper-connected world.[vii][viii][ix]
What to Do?
Meeting people with the same interest(s) is a very ‘pleasurable’ experience. Notwithstanding, the risks that underline this phenomenon is much more significant.
Image 4. @fikriqq (https://Twitter.com/fikriqq/status/1201135443502190592)
The tweet above shows one out of many risks that occur in this anonymous world, which is getting tricked. Anonymity does not only hides personal identity, yet it also hides traits and the personality that the anonymous person has. Therefore, protecting ourselves (even our feelings) from this hyper-connected anonymity is impossible.
Knowing the risks that occur in base accounts has brought a conclusion to this article and ways not to receive this new form of ‘scam.’ Three solutions are offered to remain discreet on social media, especially on Twitter. First, do not get tempted on DMing the account, because this is where your words, based on your account, will be ‘re-expressed’ or ‘re-confessed.’ Second, if you are using your anonymous account (alter account), do not state your characteristics and identity. The aforementioned is vital to get away from stalkers and online harassment. Lastly, do not send any pictures, images are easily spread and it is a very strong evidence to clarify someone’s identity.
It is fun doing these kinds of stuff that is currently on-trend on the internet, but is it worth your data and privacy?
[i] Clinten, B. (2019). Pengguna Aktif Harian Twitter Indonesia Diklaim Terbanyak. Kompas [online]. Available at: https://tekno.kompas.com/read/2019/10/30/16062477/pengguna-aktif-harian-Twitter-indonesia-diklaim-terbanyak [Accessed on 30 Nov 2019]
[ii] Kulick, D., & Willson, M. (Eds.). (2003). Taboo: Sex, identity and erotic subjectivity in anthropological fieldwork. Routledge.
[iv] Thoman, D. B., Sansone, C., & Pasupathi, M. (2007). Talking about interest: Exploring the role of social interaction for regulating motivation and the interest experience. Journal of Happiness Studies, 8(3), 335-370.
[v] Septiani, U. W. (2019). Julid Online: Maraknya Auto Base Twitter yang Mewahdahi Julid Together. Mojok [online]. Available at: https://mojok.co/terminal/julid-online-maraknya-auto-base-twitter-yang-mewadahi-julid-together/ [Accessed on 8 Dec 2019]
[vi] Collins, T. (2018). Twitter denies claims that hundreds of its employees are reading private user messages after one staffer admits 'I've seen a lot of d**k pics.’ Daily Mail [online]. Available at: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-5275067/Twitter-denies-claims-reading-private-messages.html (Accessed on 29 Nov 2019)
[vii] Kumar, T., Liyanage, M., Braeken, A., Ahmad, I., & Ylianttila, M. (2017, June). From gadget to gadget-free hyperconnected world: Conceptual analysis of user privacy challenges. In 2017 European Conference on Networks and Communications (EuCNC) (pp. 1-6). IEEE.
[viii] Lufkin, B. (2017). The Reasos You Can’t be Anonymous Anymore. BBC [online]. Available at: https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20170529-the-reasons-you-can-never-be-anonymous-again (Accessed on 30 Nov 2019)
[ix] Xue, M., Ballard, C., Liu, K., Nemelka, C., Wu, Y., Ross, K., & Qian, H. (2016, November). You can yak but you can't hide: Localizing anonymous social network users. In Proceedings of the 2016 Internet Measurement Conference (pp. 25-31). ACM.