Sunday, 1 September 2013

Anonymity and Pseudonimity

Recently, I changed my twitter handle to my real name. I did this mainly because of a small poll @VickyBeeching did about how much people trusted other tweeters who didn't use their real name. It made me think.

I should point out that I was technically pseudonymous, not anonymous, because I always posted from the same account, under the same name, and I tended to have similar Schroedingers Cat related names across all of the forums that I post on. I have never had truly anonymous accounts, because that is always suspicious. I am always prepared to stand by what I posted, and apologise if it is taken/expressed wrongly.

The reason I started being anonymous was twofold: firstly, I met some rather deranged people on the net, and I didn't want them to be able to identify me. I was also aware that by being anonymous, I could post my thoughts and irritations without people in my church or my work being able to identify me. It gave me a freedom to express what I wanted to without fear, and, in various places, I have.

I should point out, in light of recent events, that this does not include being offensive or abusive to people without them being able to respond, it just meant that I could be more honest. There was never any intention to hide behind my persona online, just to enable me to separate the online me from the physical me - I won't say "real" me, because both of them are really me.

The reasons I have decided to stop are various, but one is that too many anonymous people use their anonymity to be abusive and offensive. I wanted to stand up against this, I wanted to be open about who I am, so that no-one would suggest that I was hiding.

I was also made aware that some people find that they do not trust anonymous tweeters as much as those who tweet under their real name. I have no wish to make people distrust me (for any other reasons than being an idiot). I do not want to raise anyone's anxiety levels unnecessarily. If the simple act of being more honest and open about who I am can help this, then I will do this.

It is also true that, having left church, I no longer have to worry about what others at church think about my comments. Over the years, I have also learned that there are areas I should not touch on in any online forum - any criticism of work situations or colleagues. There is nothing that I post online that should cause me any work-related issues, because anything that might I should not be posting anyway. So anonymity is not so much of a problem anymore.

But the other reason that I want to be more open about myself is that I no longer have a church community - in truth my online community and friends are all I have, and it is therefore important to be open and honest with them, to varying degrees. I sat in the Jesus Arms at Greenbelt this year on the Friday night on my own, but knowing that there were probably others in there - maybe others I saw - who I knew on twitter or Facebook or through the Ship of Fools. There were probably others there who were sat thinking the same thing. It is one of the core problems with online relationships and community that it can be very lonely if you don't recognise others.

I will still take care of my online profile - that is something everyone should do. But I will become a whole lot more open about myself, in places that I have not always been so candid. I may regret it, but I hope not.

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