I thought about writing something about this issue because of the current huff-huff around Google Plus’ enforcement of its real-name policy. A lot of people write about this issue and Violet Blue’s post Google Plus Deleting Accounts En Masse: No Clear Answers on ZDNet is a good place to start, as is danah boyd’s “Real Names” Policies Are an Abuse of Power.
So that’s been on my mind and when I cleaned out my ‘draft’ folder here on my blog I came a cross a draft from months ago about managing online identities. Because, obviously, I’m not writing under my real name here. And before Facebook, the thought of using your real name online was unthinkable! I’ve been dicking around on the internet since 2005, always under a pseudonym. It started out as Bearded Dave, but morphed into The Grumpy German. (The blogs before 2007 are not around anymore)
Now, after years, there are some places on the internet where I do use my real name, for one simple reason: to manage my online presence. I ‘secured’ my Twitter name and domain name, so that – should potential employers or who knows who Google me – they will find that particular version of me. And this allows me to control what they are seeing and what not. I have written and am writing things that I want to have associated with my real name and there are other things that I don’t necessarily want to have associated with that particular version of me. And the point is not that I’m doing horrible things online under a pseudonym, but, frankly, family members, co-workers and clients don’t need to know how often I use the word ‘fuck’.
Or that I read Aleister Crowley in my spare time.
Or that I have a knack for crime novels.
None of this is secret or illegal, it’s simply none of their business, period. Just like you wouldn’t get drunk and swear at your grandmother’s dinner table. (Maybe you do that but, boy, you have some other shit to worry about than using or not using your real name online.)
Remember back in the days, when the ability to have different identities on the internet was something to be celebrated? When this multiplicity had an utopian flair? That we had moved beyond one identity, but could actually live the multitudes we contain? Not a big fan of old Walt, me, but he got this one right:
Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
Let’s see how this gets sorted out. Otherwise, Ariancita, we do have to secure our own server where we can do whatever the fuck we want.