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Abstract

The Social Identity model of Deindividuation Effects (SIDE) asserts that social (i.e., collective) identities are more salient under conditions of anonymity, prompting “deindividuation” as group members place more focus on community standards and downplay individual differences. As a result of deindividuation, social standards become the driving force of group interaction, and the successful practice of group norms identify individuals’ in-group status while reinforcing the social identity of the community. The current study applies the SIDE model to the anonymous image-sharing platform Imgur.com to ascertain whether self-referential posts are assessed more negatively than other-referential and non-directed content, and to examine whether posts of varying referential-type occur more frequently across post-type subcategories. A content analysis of 42 posts to Imgur’s “front page” revealed that self-referential posts receive significantly more “downvotes” (i.e., negative assessments) than non-directed content and substantially more downvotes compared to other-referential posts. Further, self-referential content was most common within the subcategories of “capitalizing” and “social support,” as compared to “community identification” and “information / mobilization” for other-referential, and “visually appealing” and “humor” for non-directed posts. The findings suggest that the Imgur community engages in voting habits that favor the maintenance of social identity over the sharing of individuating information, providing sustained support for the applicability of SIDE in anonymous online contexts such as Imgur.

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