The Case for Anonymity

When I was first lured here to WordPress, by my friend and internet boyfriend, I decided to make my WordPress persona anonymous. In other spheres of the internet universe, I am known by my real name. Some of the people who know me here also know me “out there” as well. A few of them have met me in the flesh. I know a few people from here and elsewhere as well. I know their real names and addresses, and their email addresses.

In my case, I don’t mind for most people to know me as the One True Me (meaning the real me, the one with a real name and address and social security and phone number). I really have nothing to hide. Besides, if a person really wants to track you down, there’s a way to do it online, and you don’t even have to divulge your name or location. I’m also a writer-wannabe, so eventually I want to be recognized as such, using my real name.

Now, my husband is also a real person. In “real” life (meaning the physical, non-internet life), he is a pretty big wheel. He’s often quoted in newspapers and such, and if you were to Google his name, you’d find a lot of material there. Unlike me, he doesn’t want the notoriety of his real persona out there. He’s a private, introverted sort of a person, whereas I’m a loudmouthed, opinionated crone-in-making.

My kids are also online. Both use their own real names, which is a bit scary to me. One is only 17 and she can get herself into a lot of trouble. In fact, she has gotten herself into a bit of trouble, but not the kind where we’ll be making the ABC Nightly News. The other one is college aged, and he can get into troubles of his own by using his real name. He’s been touched by an early anti-establishment gene which he obviously received from his mother. I have to remind him to weigh his position carefully and choose his words with even more care, because someday someone may look up his rebel streak on Facebook and refuse to give him a job.

I know of people, here and elsewhere, who want to keep their real selves secret. Some of them do so because they don’t want to be harassed by wackos and nutjobs. I’ve never been stalked online, but I’ve been stalked in real life, and if the online type is anything like the real life stalking, it’s equally as demeaning, invasive and frightening.

On WordPress, I wanted to let some of my weirder thoughts escape from my mind without my friends and relatives in the “real” world who know my “real” name think that I’m totally insane. My “real” self is generally upbeat, somewhat positive, and speaks with a reporter’s voice (or so I am told). So “Pan-Demonic” may seem borderline psychotic at times. I’ve invited some of my “real” friends who know me here to WordPress, with the caveat that they not use my name in comments. If they do, their comment will be zapped.

I can’t see having that kind of freedom if I’m weighed down by my “real” self. However, I understand the case for anonymity and support anyone who chooses to go down that path.

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14 Responses

  1. I’ve found that “Wanda” speaks her mind much more easily than the real me does. It’s kind of liberating.

  2. Now I’m confused, am I a “real” friend that knows who you are, an internet friend that knows your online persona, or just a figment of someones imagination?
    Man, this is deep, I may not even exist.

  3. Do any of us really exist JoJo?

  4. Yes, I’m like Wanda. I am much more likely to be ‘real’ with my opinions when anonymous, than in ‘real life’. I also find it’s like going on a mini retreat to go online and not be the same person I am the rest of the time. Hmmm. That sounded a little unbalanced. Oh well. 🙂

  5. Funny, I had those very thoughts when I started my blog. I have kept it anonymous, and even blogged about the anxiety of keeping it anonymous (at http://muddleman.livejournal.com/2213.html).

    In fact, the only person who knows about the blog is my wife (either because I am incapable of keeping a secret from her, or because I needed to know that at least SOMEONE was reading it). And even that is a bit of a cramp, because she’s already commented about something I wrote about her. There’s a certain chilling effect upon your writing when you know that someone else knows it’s you.

  6. You make a good point. Of course, since I don’t really care if anyone thinks I’m nuts…

    (I’m an idiot too. I had the wrong page bookmarked, and kept waiting for you to write something. 😦 )

  7. A great idea, something to consider before you stupidly buy your own name as a domain.

  8. You have an extremely valid point here. Sometimes I rather wish that I’d been more effectively anonymous. Though I also like having some ‘strangers’ know my real name.

  9. I see it both ways, Pan! 😉

  10. Hey, there BGG! I missed you today.

    I HAVE purchased my surname as a domain name (after being on a wait list for years) and I am reluctant to put anything on it for just those reasons, Stevo.

    And Muddleman, interesting point. I wonder if I get more readership from using my real name or here on WordPress? I wonder if people purposely NOT read me because they know it’s me.

    And JoJo, I’m fairly certain most of us here are real, but you never know.

  11. I have a stupidly busy day again today. In fact, for the foreseeable future, I will be stupidly busy.

    Of course, I will find some time to hang about with you. I’ll do that because it is more fun than not hanging about with you.

  12. I firmly believe in some degree of anonymity on the Net, unless one is promoting one’s book, or something like that. People are crazy, and life is hard enough.

  13. Hello – I made it to the other side.

  14. Hi, Vicky!

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