Mrr. Sephy. Leia. Diva. Lowshot. Massimo. Miser. Carlac. Preacher. Krager. Aliengirl. Nailess. Redhead. Fresh. TheNewStatesmen.
These are just a few names of people who I know – some I met back in the 90s, some just recently. All, however, are people who I met first with their online handle and only secondly (for some) with their real name. I dated one of them. Another knows more about me than my therapist. Another? I used to call my fake little brother. I interacted with them daily. I went to their weddings. I might have signed their card with my handle.
When Google announced that Google Plus would support pseudonyms, someone on my professional Twitter account commented that they “Can see why some people would need it, but didn’t know how I feel interacting with a pseudonym/fake person.”
This seems to be a popular sentiment for some - for people who seem giddily happy to connect with real friends on Facebook and “network” with people via LinkedIn or Twitter. One would think that I feel the same way, as online marketing is my profession and social media my current milieu.
Except I don’t.
Oh, I have a Facebook page*, and I even have a Twitter account and a Google Plus account that I use primarily for work-related items with my real name on it. I use my real nickname on this very blog** and several (most) people who read this blog are people who know my real FULL name in real life, and who I ported over from my work Twitter account because I thought they’d be interested in the knitting, or the sci fi, or some amalgamation of both***, rather than the work stuff I post on my regular Twitter account. I’m fine with that.
However, I don’t think that everything one does online needs to be shared with everyone else you know, or attached to your real name. A lot of this has to do with Facebook, wanting to collate everything you to online and attach it to your profile. To that, I say “Hell to the No.”
The argument that seems to appeal most to people who want you to stick your name on everything you do online is that some people – those who have suffered domestic abuse, authors who write under a pseudonym or political activists – may sometimes need to “hide” behind a different name.
I think everyone deserves to use whatever name they chose online, otherwise you take away the spirit of what made the internet awesome in the first place. Having the freedom to call yourself Drackmore the Magnificent and roleplay in Twilight fanfiction forums when you’re a 45 year old lawyer is awesome. Wanting to learn more about a different subculture and ask questions about it without your friends and family eventually learning you wanted to learn about Live Action Roleplaying and then having to explain to your mother over Thanksgiving dinner its NOT the dirty kind of role playing? Totally fine. Wanting support when you’re going through a tough time and not let everyone get up in your business? Acceptable, my friend!
I don’t merge this stuff with my work stuff because I want to hide. I don’t do it because I don’t want people to know what I really think. I decided to keep Linus Hates Me and my LHM twitter account, and have decided to not post about it on my Facebook, work Twitter or Google Plus accounts because I have clients, people I used to work with and people I currently work with (i.e., PR type people) who follow me via Twitter, Facebook and on my work website. They don’t connect with me to hear about yarn and my problems with how Star Trek presents relationships. I deserve to separate my personal interests form my professional ones, and write about stuff that interests me without worrying whether or not I’m boring or offending someone (though how someone could be offended by my love of yarn, I just don’t know) and they deserve to not be presented with stuff that they didn’t originally sign up for.
When I started writing Linus Hates Me, I wrote the following:
I don’t enjoy the internet like I used to. Back when I did (approximately 1993 – 2006) I:
…connected with other people
I felt participatory. And now, well, I don’t feel that way at all.
I realize now that part of that lack of enjoyment comes from everything going out under my work name. My professional name. The name my mother can Google. The name your mother can Google. A lot of the whole “real name” thing being pushed by Facebook and other social networks (LinkedIn, etc) isn’t being driven because they want everyone to open about everything they think and do – its being driven by advertising.
If you want to learn more about choosing your own name, and why it can be a good thing, visit My Name is Me and read up one what some (far more eloquent) people have to say about utilizing pseudonyms and why its important on the internet.
*I wouldn’t, if I didn’t have to do work on there and if my various aunts/uncles/cousins didn’t all post pictures there.
**I am actually considering changing that, so if you see a pseudonym instead of “Corrie” at some point, don’t grasp your pearls in shock.
***There’s really just one person who likes both, and I’m ok with that. You know who you are.