Migration from traditional Social Network to Anonymous Social Network

Even though social network sites (SNS) are still popular, more and more young users are abandoning traditional social network sites. In 2018, less than half of people aged 12–17 used Facebook monthly.  These changes can be attributed to the fact that young users are looking for other options such as Anonymous Social network (ASNS) platforms like Whisper or Anomo.

Unlike traditional SNS, anonymous social networks do not showcase a friend list but instead, rely on geofencing and location to create common interests and shared connections. Moreover, due to the nature of anonymity, users can be more open to exposing their true beliefs and interest. On the other side, anonymity allows users to hide behind the technology and post malicious content that might be offensive or hurtful without any repercussions.

In this article, Nathalie Gerhart and Mehrdad Koohikamali set to understand why users are increasingly using anonymous social networks and using traditional SNSs less. The authors used the Push-Pull-Mooring Framework. According to this framework,  push factors refer to the features of the traditional SNS that would cause a user to migrate. Pull factors are to the features of the SNA that are attractive to a user moving towards it. Mooring factors refer to any factors not directly associated with the technological capabilities but features that do impact the use of the technology.

The authors developed a questionnaire distributed to undergraduate students at a large Southwestern University in the United States.

The findings of the study show that the push, pull, and mooring factors are important in predicting a user’s intention to migrate from traditional SNSs to anonymous SNAs. The pull factor of dissatisfaction of users with traditional SNS has a positive relationship with the intention to migrate. The mooring factor of setup costs (i.e. the one-time costs required to setup the new anonymous SNA) is positively related to intention to migrate. The push factors of open opinion expression and social norm positively relate to the intention to migrate.

Anonymity does not play a role in a user’s intention to migrate to an anonymous SNA. This result suggests that other factors are more relevant to users of anonymous SNAs, such as social norms. The authors believe that users are switching to ASNS because their social circles are switching too.

To cite: Gerhart, N. and Koohikamali, M. (2019). Social network migration and anonymity expectations: What anonymous social network apps offer. Computers in Human Behavior 95 (2019) 101–113