Sometimes We Need Pseudonyms

[fr] Pourquoi on a besoin de l'anonymat et du pseudonymat en ligne.

Ten years ago, if I’d spent over an hour reading stuff on a website, I would probably have written a blog post about it. Not necessarily a long blog post. But I would have blogged about it.

Nowadays, I share the link on Twitter and Facebook. (I’m having trouble dragging myself to Google+, for some reason, and only just signed up for App.net — can I please have a client that allows me to post to all four at the same time? maybe even with customized text for each, but from the same place? please?)

So today, here’s My Name Is Me. Picked up on Twitter, and I’ve already forgotten through who. Click on some names there. Read the stories.

I’m a self-confessed fan of real names (it goes way back) — but I’m by far not an absolutist. I believe in trying to live an “integrated” life, in being as whole as reasonably possible in the various aspects of my life. I’m lucky to have a life and circumstances which make that pursuit realistic. Though I have my secrets and I do value my privacy (even if it doesn’t include certain things many others would consider private) I am not in a situation where there are whole aspects of my life I need to keep from certain people. I’m straight, I don’t have an employer, I’m not in a job like teaching or being a therapist or a lawyer where my personal life could be of interest to the people I work with, I’m not well-known enough for fame (or that of others close to me) to mess up my relations with people, I’m not an abuse survivor or an activist. I have it easy.

Like many of the people sharing their stories on My Name Is Me, I don’t believe enforcing real names will eliminate bad behaviour. I think it’s reasonably legitimate for some spaces to ask people to use their most stable identity (usually their “real name”), but there are always edge cases. I also believe there is a huge difference between “anonymity” (often short-lived and slippery) and a stable pseudonymic identity accompanied by a verifiable reputation. I think such identities are fragile, but sometimes they are the less bad solution.

I started off my life online very careful (almost paranoid) about keeping my real name a secret. I was afraid. Afraid of all these “strangers” populating the internet, the weirdos I might stumble upon. After a while I chose a pseudonym which I started using (“Tara Star“) as my “real name”. Some people knew my real name, but most didn’t. I was active on Webdesign-L at the time, and remember that I began feeling increasingly uneasy that (a) all the people around me seemed to be using their civilian identity, and I was kind of “cheating” and (b) I was building a reputation for myself which was not connected to who I “really” was. That’s an important bit: Tara Star was just a buffer for me between who I was and this strange online world that still scared me. Who I was was Stephanie Booth. I took the plunge to ditch Tara and be fully Stephanie online when I registered the domain name for this blog — also realizing that the domain registration made it possible for me to be looked up.

Trolls and haters are a problem online. The fact they are often (not always) anon/pseudonymous does not mean that others don’t have valid reasons for hiding their identities, nor that they are unable to use a pseudonym responsibly.

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This entry was posted in Connected Life and tagged anonymat, anonymity, identité, identity, name, pseudonym, pseudonymat, real name. Bookmark the permalink.

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