26 votes

How do/did all of you feel about posting your age on the internet?

(Semi-throwaway account because of personal details)

This is prompted by /u/Adys comment to /u/Kuromantis.
I'm currently 14, and online I've refrained posting my age on my main account (on this site and others) to avoid it becoming a point in discussions (most prominently with politics, but any topic).

  • How do/did you feel about posting your age on the internet (in regards to being younger)?
  • Do/did you feel like your decision made an impact on discussions?

21 comments

  1. [2]
    WinterCharm
    Link
    I am weary about posting any personal details. Truth is that we all drop Breadcrumbs over time, and enough of those can be connected To one another and used to find us. I’d rather not willingly...

    I am weary about posting any personal details.

    Truth is that we all drop Breadcrumbs over time, and enough of those can be connected To one another and used to find us.

    I’d rather not willingly drop breadcrumbs if I can avoid it. There are definitely two sides of my online presence — then anonymous and non-anonymous side, so I’m not really that crazy about privacy, I do use my name in social media and such. But I would just like to keep the two sides separate.

    25 votes
    1. SleepyGary
      Link Parent
      Agreed, I also try to establish some lies about myself and intentionally drop those from time to time. If I ever mention something personal I try to fudge it but keep it consistent. E.g., If I...

      Agreed, I also try to establish some lies about myself and intentionally drop those from time to time. If I ever mention something personal I try to fudge it but keep it consistent. E.g., If I ever mention my birthdate it's off by a couple years, months and days, but always the same date. One of my brothers might actually be a sister or a close friend I've known all my life. Stuff like that.

      3 votes
  2. Algernon_Asimov
    Link
    I'm deliberately vague about anything that I think can be used to identify me. Like @WinterCharm says, every datum I share on the internet is another breadcrumb on the trail to me. I've seen the...

    I'm deliberately vague about anything that I think can be used to identify me. Like @WinterCharm says, every datum I share on the internet is another breadcrumb on the trail to me. I've seen the crazies on the internet; I've had them send me some very nasty messages, including threats. There is no way I'm letting them know who & where I am.

    So, as far as possible, I'm vague. I'll admit to being middle-aged. I'll identify as Generation X. I'll talk about old tech I bought in the 1980s. But I won't tell people what year I was born.

    17 votes
  3. Anwyl
    Link
    I grew up in the age of A/S/L, so I got pretty used to everyone knowing those three. Seems like that would be considered crazy these days. I think revealing those usually led to more good...

    I grew up in the age of A/S/L, so I got pretty used to everyone knowing those three. Seems like that would be considered crazy these days. I think revealing those usually led to more good interactions than bad ones in chatrooms. When I was around 14 it would dissuade drunk 40 year old women hitting on me, which was handy.

    These days people don't ask, so I don't share unless it's directly relevant. Also I tend to be on slower media now. On tildes people will be reading long posts, so they'll see (and potentially judge) your age instantly. When I was young in IRL conversations I definitely noticed I was taken less seriously due to age, and even worked explicitly on lowering my voice so I could be taken more seriously when discussing stuff I actually knew about (actually still helps as an adult). Also now stuff is more permanent, so I'd imagine you'd get more creepy people seeking you out. So if I were young these days I'd probably hide my age in public.

    13 votes
  4. mrbig
    (edited )
    Link
    These days I tend to slightly alter my age and personal information whenever I share it, solely for privacy reasons. I am aware this won't prevent a dedicated person to get my data, but at least...

    These days I tend to slightly alter my age and personal information whenever I share it, solely for privacy reasons. I am aware this won't prevent a dedicated person to get my data, but at least it might make it harder for people close to me to easily identify some personal stories I wish to share.

    In the 90s, when I was both young and had access to the Internet, I lied about my age all the time, especially on porn sites that seemed to expect horny teenagers to be honest (in reality, it was probably just a safeguard in case of litigation). I don't think my age ever came up elsewhere, to be honest. On Internet forums, my age was never really a concern or relevant information. For good or for worse, nobody really cared. Including myself. It was a non-issue.

    edit: I just remembered that I did share my age on a fiction-writing mailing-list once, with the secret intention of fishing for compliments ("wow, you're very good for your age!"). I'm kind of ashamed of it now, but at least I got the compliments hahaha

    12 votes
  5. Atvelonis
    Link
    It's interesting that this has come up. I reflexively assume that people on Tildes are no younger than their 20s, but of course that can't be true. When I first started using the internet as a...

    It's interesting that this has come up. I reflexively assume that people on Tildes are no younger than their 20s, but of course that can't be true.

    When I first started using the internet as a child, I was not very conscious of privacy and routinely over-shared personal details. Sharing my age definitely contributed to the reputation I had on some of the forums I started off on; not bad per se, but certainly immature. Being surrounded by people who were for the most part much older than me probably contributed to my personal growth, although it meant that I couldn't totally comprehend most of what they were talking about for many years. I might read the words, but I'd miss the picture.

    As I've gotten older, I've avoided stating my age directly on the internet. When I was a teenager it was mostly because I was a little insecure about it, or perhaps worried that people would treat me differently if they found out. These days I omit it because I like having a slightly nebulous persona. I find it interesting how people's perceptions of me completely change based on what they assume my age to be.

    If I look back on my own life and maturity—and perhaps this is a strange thing to do—I see the age of perhaps 14 or 15 as a cutoff between my perception of myself as a person and my "pre-person" self, if that makes any sense at all. I have always been a human, inhabiting a human's body, speaking a human language, living a human life, but I had so little agency, self-understanding, and just general experience in the world before I was around high school-age that it's hard for me to consider my young self any more than an automaton masquerading as a sapient being. I feel like I glided through my childhood relatively unaware of just about anything. There's a lot wrapped up in that; a lot of privilege, and a bit of shelteredness, but also a certain optimism which hid the nuance of many interactions. I don't think this is unusual for any child; it is a necessary fact of life to at least start out immature. But seeing the slow, continuous changes in myself unfold over the years is interesting and a bit humbling.

    Probably this feeling is cyclical. My first year of college is another sort of cutoff point, and my second year just as much, etc. I think that I would characterize them a little differently; while at 14 I had grasped agency but lacked self-awareness, at 18 I had grasped reflection but lacked security in who I was. I'm sure that I will look back on today and think something similar.

    9 votes
  6. cwagner
    Link
    I don’t mind it at all (I’m 34). I used to have a personal website and a blog that had my full details as is required by German law and whois protection was not something that was included for...

    I don’t mind it at all (I’m 34). I used to have a personal website and a blog that had my full details as is required by German law and whois protection was not something that was included for free anyway. Worries about tracking are in regard to automated systems, not what I post publically. If someone wants to personally stalk me (or scrape the data with NLP), they are free to do so. They could even go back into Newspaper archives and look for me there, there are a few that mention my age.

    Note though, that identity theft is not a big problem in Germany, and that I treat anti-security question (Mother’s maiden name and similar shit instituted by people with a lack of brain) as passwords and generate & store them the same way.

    8 votes
  7. kfwyre
    (edited )
    Link
    I'm someone who experienced a mild doxxing on an old account name I'd used elsewhere on the internet. Nothing major (and the attempt was largely unsuccessful), but it was enough to make me sweat....

    I'm someone who experienced a mild doxxing on an old account name I'd used elsewhere on the internet. Nothing major (and the attempt was largely unsuccessful), but it was enough to make me sweat. It made me aware of just how much I'd passively provided identifying information about myself over the years. I'd once made a minor reddit post in favor of a certain local restaurant, which then became a key for others to narrow down my specific neighborhood, from which people could almost figure out my exact address. Pretty scary.

    Now, when I do provide information, I try to make it "true, but fuzzy". I've never stated my exact age and never will here on Tildes, but the people who see me around this site probably have a good idea of an age range that I might fall into. That's fine, because the uncertainty is protection. The same goes for my location. I'm in the US, and it's relatively easy to make assumptions about which time zone I'm in based on my posting habits, but I'll not go narrower than that.

    Even with this fuzzy information, there's enough concrete stuff for a stranger to narrow me down. I've been open about being gay, male, and a teacher, which already narrows down the possibility space significantly (it's also somewhat disconcerting, as there are a lot of open public records about teachers, such as our salaries, credentialing status, etc.). Add to that my definite age, subject area, and location, and it would be trivial to surf school websites, who almost all publish open directories of their staff, and find my exact name and contact information. From there, you could dive into public records to find my home address, voter registration status, etc.

    Every piece of concrete information is one more thing someone could use against me, often in ways I don't even realize at the time that I'm posting them. And, while any one particular disclosure might not seem significant, the constellation of them all together can create a very clear and specific picture. As such, I shy away from certain specific disclosures and details to err on the side of safety. While I hate to conduct myself under the specter of fear, I also acknowledge that I don't ever want to be on the other side of a dox again.

    I also try to fuzz other people's information when I talk about them. I'll usually say "family member" in place of, say, "sister" or "dad", unless it's important to the comment that I'm making that you know that individual's relationship to me. Not only is their information also potentially identifying for me, but I also don't want to share information about them unknowingly. Let's say someone decided to go after my sibling. If they can be linked to me, information I've posted about them might be additionally compromising, in ways they couldn't control or even expect.

    I know what I wrote isn't an exact answer to your question, but I share it here as a generalized warning to everyone about being careful about what you share. It is very hard to take back something once it's out there, and while most people genuinely don't care enough about you to dive deep into your personal history, all it takes is one malicious actor to turn your posts into ammunition against you.

    7 votes
  8. [5]
    Kuromantis
    (edited )
    Link
    I'm the one who started this so I should probably give an answer. I mostly post my age (links for the fact-checkers) as : A short hand for 'I'm young, I don't remeber that period' A short hand for...

    I'm the one who started this so I should probably give an answer.

    I mostly post my age (links for the fact-checkers) as :

    A short hand for 'I'm young, I don't remeber that period'

    A short hand for 'I'm young so I'm not gonna be voting in case anyone here thinks so'

    A short hand for 'I'm young so the ongoing financial/political breakdown going on right now is not something I can do something about, just watch and dread'

    Not too much of this is personal although i have posted some comments about my childhood where I end with 'Now I'm 14 and vaguely ok.' or talk about being socially lost, which admittedly probably goes beyond age and is one of the less healthy reasons to say my age.

    When I was 12 though I was much more scared to reveal my age on reddit though, since by TOS you literally shouldn't be there and '13 year olds' was more of a meme on reddit for presumably dumb circlejerk reasons. I remember once saying I was 15 on some dating related thread and someone replied 'you said you're 15 but you're acting like a child.' I should probably find that comment, say he was right and say I was actually 12 when I wrote that comment.

    As for all the doxxing stuff that's popped up in this thread it's admittedly one of those things where half of me feels like such a thing would be pointless and yet, it's not and the other half of me says I should probably do something about it and protect myself instead of literally posting a link of all the times I have stated my age.

    6 votes
    1. [4]
      culturedleftfoot
      Link Parent
      Frankly, whenever I come across your posts, it continually amazes me that you're 14. You have coherent thoughts and perspective on things I never would have at your age, especially coming from a...

      Frankly, whenever I come across your posts, it continually amazes me that you're 14. You have coherent thoughts and perspective on things I never would have at your age, especially coming from a different country and culture.

      9 votes
      1. [3]
        UniquelyGeneric
        Link Parent
        I agree. Kuromantis has been a great contributor to discussion, and up until now I assumed they were in their 20s. I think my reticence of sharing ages is that it doesn’t prevent my innate...

        I agree. Kuromantis has been a great contributor to discussion, and up until now I assumed they were in their 20s. I think my reticence of sharing ages is that it doesn’t prevent my innate stereotypes from coloring my perception of their post. I remember when I was 14, and I was a far more edgy know-it-all that I would hate running into in an online forum today.

        Furthermore, being twice the age of Kuromantis would make me think that I have twice the life experience, and therefore my opinions are twice as valid. However, this logic doesn’t hold up when faced with someone twice my own age, as I might rationalize that they must be out of touch and less relevant to the discussion.

        When age isn’t presented, I’m left to project what I perceive their age to be based on the eloquence of their writing. Similarly, I would judge their arguments on their own merits, rather than discount their points due to stereotypes about them I’ve built up in my head.

        I guess I’m fine with people sharing whatever details about themselves if it’s relevant to discussion, but I wanted to present a different viewpoint for potential negative aspects of sharing one’s age that don’t relate to doxxing.

        6 votes
        1. [2]
          Kuromantis
          Link Parent
          That's pretty fair and in nice communities like this can work in reverse. Would I have gotten a(nother) compliment on my writing if I didn't state my age? Given that the only 'exemplary' comment I...

          When age isn’t presented, I’m left to project what I perceive their age to be based on the eloquence of their writing. Similarly, I would judge their arguments on their own merits, rather than discount their points due to stereotypes about them I’ve built up in my head.

          That's pretty fair and in nice communities like this can work in reverse. Would I have gotten a(nother) compliment on my writing if I didn't state my age? Given that the only 'exemplary' comment I have is a somewhat dumb experiment, probably not.

          The problem is this quote also explains why I state my age so often because I don't want people to think I have memories and 'life experience' I don't, like remembering 9/11 or 'the old Internet', whatever that means. A simple answer could be to not state it plainly but 'I'm a teenager' doesn't really help the compliments and I'm in my mid 10's is not much better a patch. I could compare my age to something like 'post 9/11' and join the zoomers without stating adolescence but it's a pretty close call.

          4 votes
          1. Atvelonis
            (edited )
            Link Parent
            Adults have a weird habit of looking upon precocious children/teenagers with this sort of awe that they don't apply to people their age. It stems from an assumption as you get older that everyone...

            Adults have a weird habit of looking upon precocious children/teenagers with this sort of awe that they don't apply to people their age. It stems from an assumption as you get older that everyone younger than you is a bit of an idiot/immature, or at least "has a lot to learn." This is not necessarily a malevolent feeling, more of an observation, although it might be a bit disdainful. You see it in high school seniors looking down at freshmen, or college freshmen looking down at high school seniors, etc. It's just the "natural order" of things; the older you are, the more experience you have, and therefore the better you understand the world. This is why seniority alone can be such an implicitly compelling factor in group leadership.

            An especially mature child subverts this expectation and threatens the adult's perceived sense of superiority in the imaginary social hierarchy that they have created or participate in. An insecure adult might react with jealousy, which is a common theme in children's literature (A Little Princess, Matilda, etc.). It's also a common adult reaction if a young person reveals their age during or after winning an online debate with them, as a form of dismissal. On somewhere like Tildes, which is instead focused on producing good-faith discussion, there is no structural reason for this jealousy to manifest; the young person's usurpation of "the natural order" is not important because the older person has nothing to lose. Thus the adult's reaction is not jealousy but awe, which they will call surprise. But they are not just surprised; they are still questioning how the child's maturity reflects upon their own. They are questioning how it makes them look.

            I led a fairly extensive service project with my Boy Scout troop when I was in high school. As I met with the project's benefactors/landowners to get permission and complete the paperwork, the emotion that I constantly received from them was, in fact, awe. They were in awe that someone so young (17) could be doing something that they would certainly never have thought to do at that age (do community service? And all the paperwork? For free?). In many cases they were literally at a loss for words. I was doing a good thing, but theirs were nonetheless a very disproportionate set of reactions. My project constituted a break in their understanding of my entire generation, whom they instinctively viewed simply as "immature hooligans" (such is the natural order). It was as though they had forgotten that young people can have agency.

            In the meetings I would smile and nod, accepting their flattery and getting the signatures I needed. To my friends I would complain about the condescension that I could not escape—it was very likely not intentional, and not exactly harmful to my project, but it was still philosophically frustrating. It reminded me that, to most of the world's population, I was automatically categorized as a "lesser person" and could only escape that categorization by doing something out of the ordinary. I had to prove that I was a real human being to them in a way that they never had to do to me. So I did not like this flattery, because it was not truly flattery. It was adultism, prejudice; I was being told implicitly that I, as a child, "didn't really count." Of course they would never admit this. But only a perception of me as inherently lesser could prompt such a strange sense of surprise, or awe, when they learned that I had just as much agency as them (and just as many morals), if not more.

            Such treatment is a microaggression. Every bureaucrat I met with when I was 17 made at least one. Anyone who tells you "Wow, you're so well-spoken for a 14-year old!" and the like is making one too. Of course their intent is not malicious. It is not even worth addressing, in the grand scheme of things, which is why I never bothered back then. It is good that we can have discussions about these things on Tildes, though (the act of honestly admitting one's biases is obviously not a microaggression); that we can reflect on our own predispositions and prejudices and learn more about the ways in which they affect our interactions with others.

            As I've gotten older, I have definitely noticed myself falling into some of the very same habits that I now decry. It's already difficult to break free from the cycle of "I put up with condescension when I was their age, so they should too," but it's significantly harder to take the necessary next step, which is recognizing that "seniority alone is not proportional to experience, knowledge, or merit," and therefore that, as an older person, you do not inherently deserve the respect that is automatically and disproportionately granted to you in the opposite direction. People will often point out that age does not equal maturity, but they will still look down on you for being young (I am no exception). Give them no concern. If you prefer to share your age online because you specifically want to elicit these reactions of awe from older users, that's your prerogative. If you'd rather not be judged based on your age, that's also fine. Just remember that what exactly defines you is always going to be the person that you are, irrespective of your age; the morals that you inhabit in every fiber of your being, and the actions you carry out to make the world a better place.

            3 votes
  9. moonbathers
    Link
    If tildes wasn't scraped by bots for the world to see for all eternity I'd be fine sharing my age. I might have said it already, but I fudge the number a bit. With a community like this where I...

    If tildes wasn't scraped by bots for the world to see for all eternity I'd be fine sharing my age. I might have said it already, but I fudge the number a bit. With a community like this where I know most of the people posting I'd feel comfortable sharing my age otherwise.

    5 votes
  10. Adys
    Link
    I frankly miss having an anonymous persona. At times I used to keep up sockpuppets to try to have a part of my life remain separate, but those end up finding their way back to me as I find it...

    I frankly miss having an anonymous persona. At times I used to keep up sockpuppets to try to have a part of my life remain separate, but those end up finding their way back to me as I find it tedious to keep up "multiple identities" so to say.

    Still, overall my personal response would be the same as @sqew's. But now… meh. I have enough notches under my belt that I feel safe sharing my age; not that I would unless it's relevant or prompted.

    5 votes
  11. Maddox
    Link
    I'm more afraid of people realizing how little I know at my age (28) 😨

    I'm more afraid of people realizing how little I know at my age (28) 😨

    5 votes
  12. sqew
    Link
    I started actively using Reddit when I was around 13-14, and, early on, I just always avoided mentioning my age (often going so far as to actively obfuscate it by acting like things I was talking...

    I started actively using Reddit when I was around 13-14, and, early on, I just always avoided mentioning my age (often going so far as to actively obfuscate it by acting like things I was talking about were deep in my past). I think it was a mix of privacy concerns and fear that people would look down on my age and not treat me the same. Now, I'm in college, and I've stopped worrying so much about it. Overall, though, I'd say I'm intentionally vague about who I am, where I'm from, etc. I have alts for stuff like my college's subreddit, and I definitely don't get more specific than the general area I'm from.

    I think not mentioning it when I was younger was probably a benefit to me in terms of how I thought about what I was saying. When I posted stuff online I kinda ended up in an adult headspace and in adult conversations, which I think probably helped me to develop the more mature beliefs and ideals that I hold now.

    Personally, I'm not going to look down on someone online or really act too differently because of their age, so long as they're acting in a mature manner. I think that most adults probably feel roughly the same way.

    4 votes
  13. krg
    (edited )
    Link
    I'd much rather be a precocious young person on the internet than an out-of-touch older dude, but I'm definitely moving toward the latter (if not already there)*. With regards to posting my age: I...

    I'd much rather be a precocious young person on the internet than an out-of-touch older dude, but I'm definitely moving toward the latter (if not already there)*. With regards to posting my age: I find it embarrassing (mostly).

    I'm not very concerned about being outed on the internet as my personal/professional(ha!) life is unlikely to be effected by any internet drama. Still, I'm not about to post my full name or address any time soon. I imagine it'd not be very difficult to find that info should one want it, though.


    *I'm a mid-millenial, for what it's worth

    4 votes
  14. gpl
    Link
    When I started really being active in online communities I was around 12 or 13, and I was extremely careful not to share my age for fear of not being taken seriously or having my posts...

    When I started really being active in online communities I was around 12 or 13, and I was extremely careful not to share my age for fear of not being taken seriously or having my posts over-scrutinized. I found that it ultimately did not matter much - in the communities small enough where people recognized my username they didn't much care so long as my posts were a positive contribution to the community, and in the larger communities people wouldn't remember once the thread it was mentioned in died.

    I still don't make a point of mentioning my age, but if it comes up I'm comfortable with it. But it also matters less now that it can't "be used against me" in like political arguments or whatever.

    3 votes
  15. sron
    Link
    I’ve never shared my exact age but if you looked at my Reddit comments and knew what to look for you could probably get it down to my age +/- a year. You can find out vaguely where I live too,...

    I’ve never shared my exact age but if you looked at my Reddit comments and knew what to look for you could probably get it down to my age +/- a year. You can find out vaguely where I live too, it’s my flair in some subs.

    I don’t see it as too much of a problem. People that do social media are more at risk here, from a few photos you could probably find in good detail what their house looks like, what’s in it, where it is and when nobody’s home. It’s safe to say that’s not a problem for me!

    3 votes
  16. monado
    (edited )
    Link
    I usually don't care too much about what people think if my age ever came up into question during a discussion of any kind. Being ageist isn't really going to help you prove your point or...

    I usually don't care too much about what people think if my age ever came up into question during a discussion of any kind. Being ageist isn't really going to help you prove your point or whatever, I think everyone out there has a valuable perspective they can share no matter what. To answer the question, I don't have a preference. I'm 15. Might as well also make it clear that I don't use reddit, was never interested in reddit, and have grown to have a certain disdain for reddit.

    2 votes