One of the areas where social media has had a profound impact is on gender relations, especially in highly conservative societies where this has enabled young women and men to establish sustained and direct contact with each other. In some cases, a crucial element of this is the use of fake accounts.
In our Turkish fieldsite we found that social media allowed people to participate in activities that would have otherwise been frowned upon by their family and community. In this film, a young woman explains why she needs to use anonymous accounts to help her gain an audience for her music without attracting dishonour as a woman.
The use of fake accounts may be even more pertinent for people expressing identities outside of normative heterosexual relationships.
In this film, made by a student at the local university, a girl talks about using a fake profile following the negative reaction to her coming out as queer.
While social media has had a less dramatic impact on gender in our Italian fieldsite, and anonymous accounts are almost not existent, social media has allowed for greater intimacy between couples. As shown in this story, some couples even share a single profile.
In China, even the largest commercial platforms try to add a personal touch. Taobao (similar to Amazon marketplace) has a built-in social media feature, so that most buyers and sellers message each other before a sale.
Multiple accounts, each targeted to a particular audience, are just as important as fake accounts, in the way people use social media
Although young users from the village are very aware of fake accounts, creating fake accounts is not a popular practice. But they do have second and third accounts for flirting.