[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?)
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.