Voices: My family found my anonymous social media account – here’s how I survived

You can never be 100 per cent sure that your accounts won’t be traced back to you  (Getty)
You can never be 100 per cent sure that your accounts won’t be traced back to you (Getty)

I know about your secret Twitter/X account.

Well, maybe it isn’t a Twitter/X account. Maybe it’s a Reddit account, that’s subscribed to all those NSFW subreddits you don’t want your girlfriend to see. Maybe it’s a TikTok full of makeup tutorials aimed at people half your age that you don’t want your friends to know you secretly really enjoy. Or is it a Facebook account that you use to leave mean comments on articles like this one? That’s right – I’m on to you.

In a world where anybody can create a brand new, totally free social media account in 30 seconds or less, it stands to reason that most of us have a sneaky profile or two out there. I certainly did – until a family member found it.

It’s the nightmare scenario: somebody you know stumbles across one of your secret accounts, and you – sloppy anon that you are – leave enough identifying information on there for them to make the link. It’s the exact subject that had Twitter/X in a frenzy recently – after one poster claimed that they had done exactly that, and whatever they had seen had made them inconsolable.

“Ladies I found his Reddit I could really use a friend rn we’ve been together 5 ½ years”, said a TikTok screenshot posted by the user, accompanied by the message “This happened to me”.

What happened? What exactly did they find? It doesn’t matter – most users were happy to fill in the gaps based on their own sly social media usage, with some even posting from the exact accounts they wouldn’t want their significant others to stumble across.

Luckily my own outing, while embarrassing, wasn’t quite as mortifying as it could have been. A few weeks ago I wrote an article that did reasonably well, due in part to my posting it on Reddit under a pseudonym. I’ve done this with a couple of articles, whenever they need a bit of a boost. Don’t judge me – the internet is a jungle, and only the strong survive (ie get clicks).

I didn’t think much of it, until the following week when my brother sent me a WhatsApp message containing a screenshot of the Reddit link, with my username circled. I should say, my username was something that was very closely tied to my area of study during my PhD, and it was very unlikely that somebody with the same niche area of interest would also be interested in the subject of the article I had written.

I’m also realising as I write this that I use that same username across several other accounts… just a second.

Okay, I’m back. Anyway, the worst part of this was that I received the message as I was stepping onto the Tube, and had to spend the next 25 minutes agonising over the fact that my brother had unfettered access to my secret account, and there was nothing I could do about it.

Luckily for me, I’m not a complete deviant, unlike the rest of you and your anonymous accounts – I basically just used mine for self-promotion and getting eye-wateringly upset about my nerdy hobbies (mostly comic books and professional wrestling). Cancel-worthy? No. The most embarrassing thing the human mind can comprehend? Absolutely.

The second I arrived at my stop, I ran home and immediately deleted the account – but the damage was done. I don’t know what he saw there – hopefully just an endless series of complaints about Cody Rhodes’s booking, but who knows? What if I used it for something even more embarrassing, and just forgot? We haven’t spoken about it since – and since he doesn’t read these articles, we hopefully never will.

If you have an anonymous account and you want to keep it anonymous, here’s my advice: don’t try to be clever. Don’t post anything that can be traced back to you. And don’t get too attached – be ready to delete it at a moment’s notice.

Of course, you can never be 100 per cent sure that it won’t be traced back to you. The government could pass legislation tomorrow that makes it mandatory for social media sites to reveal your location – you never know.

My real advice is just not to use anonymous accounts in the first place – or at least, don’t use it in a way where your anonymity is a key factor in its use. If there’s something you don’t want other people to see, maybe there’s a good reason for that – and you should probably reflect on it.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to log into my Twitter/X burner and go yell at The Rock.