Choices... choices...

The other day at work a colleague mentioned his Facebook page, and how he'd reconnected with a friend from high school because of it. He asked about mine and I confessed that I don't have one (nope, and I'm not on Friendster or MySpace either). It got me thinking: about three years ago, I got an e-mail from an unknown address, with the subject heading "Old Friendships", usually a Sign of Spam. Something (or Someone) prompted me to open it and am I glad I did. My best friend from 3-7 grade had Googled my name and decided to contact me; we've had one meeting, shared e- and snail mails, and I know she reads this blog (Hi, K!). It's been great having her back in my life. I mean, who else would remember huddling as molecules on the playground back during fourth grade recess (it gets pretty cold in Smalltown)?

Occasionally, I think about others with whom I've lost touch. There's an e-list for my prep school class, with about half the class on it (not that many participate or send news, but still...). I suspect that the half that aren't there wouldn't be on these social networking sights either. Friends from other careers, or pre-prep school, or college, might be on them, and it might be fun exploring and seeing who's out there.

The question inevitably arises: do I join as Lazygal, or as my real name? Walt's comments about blogging anonymously (which this sort-of is, since many of my readers actually know me IRL) gave me pause.
I agree that it’s important to know that what you write may come back to haunt you. I wonder whether blogging under a pseudonym is a reasonable response–unless you’re determined to make sure there’s never any link between the pseudonym and you.

That’s not easy. I’ve seen any number of cases where someone starts out under a pseudonym and then wants to brag about something, or writes something that’s so local and so specific that colleagues and coworkers can readily identify them, or just lets slip something clearly identifiable. (Worst case: the blog is identifiable through domain ownership or other means…)

If you want to blog under a pseudonym, I think you have to assume you’ll drop the blog after a while. You’ll find that the limits of pseudonymity hamper your thinking and your writing, or you really will want to say something from your heart. Not that there’s anything wrong with dropping a blog, of course… until you start another one, signing it, and somewhere down the road make a reference to the old blog that lets the blogger out of the bag.
(The Little Professor takes the view that it's up the the blogger to decide.) Now, I haven't found it limiting. I started as Lazygal to separate my personal and my professional blogging, and I'm clear on the division. MPOW would prefer that I not blog at all, so I try to keep my references sufficiently vague and generally related to being a school librarian (albeit one rebuilding a library) rather than about the school itself.

But what about expanding to other networks? On GoodReads, I'm Lazygal. Ditto TheThingsIWant. But on The Readers Place, I'm someone else (a name I chose years before, when we were The Readers Vine and the convention was to choose a name and join a literary family).

So, if (and it's a pretty big "if" - doing these things takes time from other things I could be doing, like reading or sleeping or blogging or...) I decide to join one, do I use Lazygal, or my real name? If I do the latter, I'd not link to this blog, or my GoodReads account, just to maintain the pseudofiction that we're separate people. Would that matter? Does any of this? Comments? Opinions?


Aravis said...

I disagree that by writing under a pseudonym, you have to accept that the blog isn't going to last. I've been blogging on my current domain since '01 or '02. I deleted the first couple of years for my own reasons, not due to any concerns of being found out, etc.

If I feel the need at some future point to write as myself, I'll create a blog under my own name, and keep it separate. It's funny, but when I joined Classmates.com for a few months, I felt odd using my own, true identity online. I felt somehow exposed, uncomfortable. I can't conceive of a time in the near-future where I'd want to blog under my own identity, though I wouldn't rule it out completely either.

So, LG, I don't think you need to give up your anonymity here in order to own your own identity online. Knowing you, I would say that you are entirely capable of keeping your pseudonym and true selves separate, for their separate purposes.

Murphy Jacobs said...

I've run up under this conflict just recently. My husband has returned to grad school in a very politically conservative environment. Now, we've lived long years in such a place here, but our private lives were not subject to scrutiny and we had whatever level of revelation between private and internet-public we wanted. Now, however, he is being cautioned by the head of his program to guard his online ID carefully. This had led to a lot of pruning for both of us. We use privacy settings when we can.

For that purpose, I have 3 online personalities -- a Blogger one, a Live Journal one, and a Facebook one.

The Facebook accounts are all "real" identity, which means they are also the most information poor. Luckily Facebook has recently put in new privacy controls that give the account "access levels" -- you can select what people can see what information.

The Blogger ID is a hybrid, evolved from the purely anonymous ID I started with 10 years ago (which developed from the anonymous and even fictitious IDS of early online areas when the rule was NEVER use your own information). As such, it is highly censored by my personal standards with the always in operation rule that if anything caused a blip, the whole thing would come down. (and I back it up regularly, just in case).

The Live Journal, where I completely control who can and cannot see the journal as a whole and particular posts as I see fit, is the most anonymous while at the same time being the most "real" -- what an odd situation. The people who read that journal either know me VERY well offline, or know relatively nothing about me through online sources.

I think carefully about the linkages, too. The LJ connects to the Blog, for instance, but not the other way. The Facebook doesn't connect to anything at the moment.

I also gave up some years ago the idea that I was ever truly anonymous. It might take some effort, but anyone who really wanted to find out who I was could do so. Rather than be paranoid about it, I just accept it just as I accept anyone can find me face to face with a little effort if they choose.

So far, after 20 something years of online activity, I've had no repercussions of any lasting kind.
I treat it all the same way as I do any other social interactivity -- I do my best not to gossip, I don't curse in church, and I am prepared to stand behind whatever I type.