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December 8, 2012 7:03 PM   Subscribe

If you have linked your Metafilter account to your real-life identity, how did you come to this conclusion?

I'm setting up a CV/blog site and have been considering making the connection between my professional identity and my account here explicit. I'm curious how various users have reached this conclusion for themselves before I take the plunge.
posted by codacorolla to MetaFilter-Related at 7:03 PM (107 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

I have no deep secrets to hide, and I'm not important enough to need a pseudonym for legal disclosure reasons. Might as well attempt to build a "personal brand" then.
posted by pwnguin at 7:11 PM on December 8, 2012


I've always just considered my "on-line identity" to be an extension of the actual me. I've owned my name as a .com domain since 2000 or so, & have never seen a need to obfuscate who I am. I do have to maintain some sensibility about what I say on fora & at sites like MetaFilter & not post things that would be inflammatory to family, customers or employers, but the real-life me isn't substantially different for the one you see here, so that's not too hard.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:13 PM on December 8, 2012 [9 favorites]


We are rapidly heading towards a post-privacy society, and it's better to be ahead of the curve. I am more willing to divulge my personal information than most people are willing to hear it.
posted by modernserf at 7:27 PM on December 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


I've always kept my real and online identities separate since the bizarre incident in 1997 when my wife received an email from a stranger who had cobbled together where we lived, our phone number, our son's name and date of birth and a bunch of other details of our lives that were shocking to us at the time.

15 years later, no detail of my life in an email from an internet creep would shock me the way that email did but I'll be damned if I'm going to do their work for them.
posted by double block and bleed at 7:34 PM on December 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm too lazy to maintain multiple online personas.
posted by COD at 7:36 PM on December 8, 2012 [11 favorites]


The thinking went like this: back around 2000 or so I came to realize that everything I write on the Internet is perishable. I've had long "careers" on other sites that are simply gone, hundreds of thousands of words that vanished like proverbial tears in rain when the servers were shut off, or buried in archives that no one will ever see again. So if I wanted to be remembered at all by anyone, I needed to have a consistent identity across time and different websites, and if I was going to be consistent it was better to use my real name. At least then I wouldn't have to call myself Supesfan977 or some other pseudonym for the next twenty years.

Anonymity has its uses, and there are lots of people who need to keep their online and real life identities secret for various reasons. (Perhaps most commonly so their employers don't know how often they're browsing the Net during work hours!) But it never felt right for me. Whether you want to keep your activity as codacorolla secret or not depends upon what your needs are, and why you chose to use a pseudonym in the first place. Have those needs changed, and will they change again in the future?
posted by Kevin Street at 7:38 PM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


It never occurred to me to be anything other than upfront about who I am.
posted by blaneyphoto at 7:38 PM on December 8, 2012


Yeah, I never really considered any benefits to hiding my identity.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:48 PM on December 8, 2012


Someone else was grandstanding about how pseudonymous posters were cowards or some shit, so I went super public (even to my ridiculous middle name) in reaction to their nonsense.

I have total respect for people who choose to keep their nyms and their legal identities separate---double block and bleed's unfortunate experience is a sadly perfect illustration of why that makes really good sense for many people.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:59 PM on December 8, 2012


I never really considered keeping my identity hidden, and I've experienced lots of awesome benefits of having my real identity linked to my blogging etc. (like job opportunities, meeting people I admire, making friends).
posted by jjwiseman at 8:04 PM on December 8, 2012


" how did you come to this conclusion?"

It keeps me honest....
posted by HuronBob at 8:12 PM on December 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


I was just thinking about contacting the mods re: re-asking this question, last asked in fall 2009. I feel like the internet is different since then, but I'm not exactly sure how. I'm delighted you've posted this in MeTa, so I can plot a different use for this week's question.
posted by purpleclover at 8:27 PM on December 8, 2012


I am an extreme narcissist who is willing to link people I know in real life to comments I made here so they will go "whoa three people favorited that, you practically got a cult following going on here" and I go "shucks fellas, it's really not as intense as that but yeah I do practiclaly run the place"
posted by Rory Marinich at 8:28 PM on December 8, 2012 [9 favorites]


Keeping an obvious online identity connected with my real life identity is a convenient smokescreen to deter more casual investigators from discovering my superhero status.
posted by lucidium at 8:31 PM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


On a less frivolous note, MeFi is a community which I take seriously enough that I want it to be part of my "first impression" (read: easily googleable) personality. Other accounts are perhaps not.

For me, that's the line I draw between deliberately linking to accounts and maintaining at least a vague effort at keeping them anonymous.
posted by lucidium at 8:42 PM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


The thinking went like this: back around 2000 or so I came to realize that everything I write on the Internet is perishable. I've had long "careers" on other sites that are simply gone, hundreds of thousands of words that vanished like proverbial tears in rain when the servers were shut off, or buried in archives that no one will ever see again.

It seems unlikely to me that this is true. Think of how many different search engine companies there were back in 2000; their indices would have been considered their primary assets and probably won't have just been trashed when the company folded. Those archives have a variety of uses; for example computer systems like IBM's Watson, the one that played Jeopardy, are "trained" on archived chunks of the internet. At some point with the progression of storage density an archive of the entire circa-2000 internet will fit on a thumb drive and that data will probably end up back in circulation.

loquacious was pointing out in a thread recently that well beyond just the contents of web sites, quite possibly a substantial fraction of all the traffic on the internet is being archived at this point, maybe by multiple parties.
posted by XMLicious at 8:48 PM on December 8, 2012


This was actually the one place on the internet I didn't just use my real name (for values of "real" that equal "people from all different parts of my life call me that,") mostly because my AskMe history includes plenty of fairly personal anecdotes and opinions. Since I became a mod, well, all hope of that being obfuscated was basically gone, but I still don't go out of my way to link them anywhere. There's nothing secret - I could certainly anonymize a few things if I really needed to, and I don't - but... well, my mother reads this site now.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 8:50 PM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think a better question is why would you have two separate identities?
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 8:53 PM on December 8, 2012


I'm probably more honest here than I am almost anywhere else on the internet. I don't know. It just feels right. Like you guys accept me for who I really am. So why would I want to put a shield up between us?
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:59 PM on December 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


I don't really do having an online handle and whatnot anymore - TBH it all started seeming a bit silly and juvenile and a hangover from my old warez days These days in generally just plain old me.
posted by Artw at 9:07 PM on December 8, 2012


I made a conscious decision a while ago to be easy to find and pretty uniform in my online presence - but that was born from my own circumstances and goals.
posted by The Whelk at 9:11 PM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I created a unique MeFi name because, after lurking for years, I knew I would probably answer a larger (and more personal) set of questions that way. (I didn't even consider that I would one day be interacting on the Blue because you guys are so all so scary.) However, if I'd really understood how sock puppets work here I probably would have just used my primary online name. My profile page does include real information, though.

I wrote a few paragraphs about why my primary online identity is also mostly pseudonymous (think brand name, not zeprules1985), and after more than decade is well-established as 'me') but after previewing the other comments I think maybe I'm just not using the internet the way a lot of people here are. If I was doing things like writing IMPORTANT THINGS, networking, or advertising my upcoming seminars, then I would use my real name all the time I suppose. At this point in time the status quo works for me.

Also, I had a similar experience as double block and bleed and ever since then internet strangers usually have need-to-know clearance.

On preview:

I think a better question is why would you have two separate identities?

Maybe I'm misunderstanding this question (and possibly this topic in general). Are we talking about online handles, or tumblrs or something? Or are we talking about having an online persona that is a "character" that doesn't really represent who you are? Because to be clear, I'm not doing the latter.
posted by Room 641-A at 9:16 PM on December 8, 2012


I made a conscious decision a while ago to be easy to find and pretty uniform in my online presence - but that was born from my own circumstances and goals.

It's because you want us to post your fanfic to the frontpage, isn't it?
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:32 PM on December 8, 2012 [8 favorites]


silence you.
posted by The Whelk at 9:34 PM on December 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Maintaining the separate mathowie identity just got exhausting after a while.
posted by gerryblog at 9:43 PM on December 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


"It seems unlikely to me that this is true. Think of how many different search engine companies there were back in 2000; their indices would have been considered their primary assets and probably won't have just been trashed when the company folded. Those archives have a variety of uses; for example computer systems like IBM's Watson, the one that played Jeopardy, are "trained" on archived chunks of the internet. At some point with the progression of storage density an archive of the entire circa-2000 internet will fit on a thumb drive and that data will probably end up back in circulation."

I really doubt it, because what would be the value of old message board discussions? Some types of information (like records of who calls who) are probably saved by the NSA or some equivalent party, but anything that's not accessible through the Internet Archive is probably gone for good.
posted by Kevin Street at 9:48 PM on December 8, 2012


I've used the same username since I was 11. Why stop now?
posted by ocherdraco at 9:54 PM on December 8, 2012


It is pretty easy to identify me with just my username, but I prefer not to make it even easier. I registered this account 12 years ago, at a relatively young and naive age. It was years years before I understood that anyone would think there was any reading of my username other than Crouton Supafreak, fan of disco and croutons. I've written some stupid shit here -- not as part of any kind of persona, but because sometimes I write stupid shit. You could probably write an autobiography of half of my family tree from the disclosures I've made on the Green. So yeah, not anonymous, but I don't want to hang a sign around my neck with my Metafilter user name in big bold letters. This is my last remaining digital pseudonym.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 10:24 PM on December 8, 2012


When I left graduate school and therefore abandoned an academic career and therefore my future hopes and dreams no longer rested partially on the capricious whims of a tiny community that happens to have more than its statistical fair share of arrogant lunatics with poor social skills, being anonymous on Metafilter no longer seemed necessary.
posted by Kwine at 10:39 PM on December 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


I lack creativity when it comes to thinking up names, but my mother did not lack for creativity when she decided how to spell mine. So, when I started signing up for things on the web, I was pleased to discover that while all my friends had to have email addresses like Sara4527@aol.com and hotstuff4you@hotmail.com, I could simply sign up for things as "jacquilynne" with the relatively certain knowledge that the username would not already be taken. And on the rare occasions it was taken, if I submitted a request to reset my password, I almost always found out that I had registered there sometime previous and simply forgotten.

So I never really made a conscious decision to link my accounts to my real life. I just never found a compelling need to not link them. So I am jacquilynne on the web, just as I am Jacquilynne in real life. Even my Puzzle Pirates character is named Jacquilynne, and she is tiny and noseless and wears skintight pink pants, so somewhat unlike real life me.

There are times when I mildly regret this -- there are things I have written that I am not exactly embarrassed about, but which I would not choose to discuss with my mother or in a job interview. And I wish those things were more distanced from my real life instead of showing up in my google results. But I think just having a different username here (and elsewhere) would be more than sufficient distance for me. I'm not worried about someone with time on their hands snooping around and finding that stuff, and I'm not interested in the level of anonymity that would be necessary to protect me from malicious snooping -- the stuff isn't that embarrassing. I just wish I'd made it slightly harder for my mom to possibly accidentally stumble across it.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:16 PM on December 8, 2012


I made the concious decision to create a mefi account with my real name, and make no effort to hide my account from the rest of the world, or my real life from Metafilter. My thinking at the time was that it was time to grow up and posting under my real name would force me to behave more like an constructive adult member of society. I could have come up with a clever anonymous nickname, but I would have probably only used it for snide putdowns and trolling.

I bitterly regret this course of action, but I am too self-concious to pay another $5 for a new account.
posted by AndrewStephens at 11:32 PM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I lack both the gene for shame and the gene for privacy. AskMeFi is all up in my business if you read through my answer history, but I could not care less who knows that level of personal detail about me. I get over the double block and bleed issue by making all of the info available on my website. On balance that has worked out well for me; I get more brownies than threats of violence so I'm OK with that.

I've written plenty of stupid shit here but that's OK; occasional bouts of stupid are part of the human condition and I'm not pretending to be a better person than anyone around me.

I could be wrong but I think part of my comfort with openness is internet-generational. I am very old-school and was blogging all kinds of stuff about me (and my vagina!) back in the day when there were like 300 blogs online, way before the ZOMG THINK OF THE CHILDREN privacy and security stuff came on board. It just never took for me.

For the record, my mother also reads MeFi. I blame her and her braless, godless liberal hippy childrearing for all of my brazenness. (Hi mama!)
posted by DarlingBri at 11:33 PM on December 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's not a "real life" vs. "anonymous" thing, it's only a matter of time and/or interest thing.
posted by bardic at 11:37 PM on December 8, 2012


I think a better question is why would you have two separate identities?
Maybe I'm misunderstanding this question (and possibly this topic in general). Are we talking about online handles, or tumblrs or something? Or are we talking about having an online persona that is a "character" that doesn't really represent who you are? Because to be clear, I'm not doing the latter.


I was only thinking "character" in as much as there is a distinct firewall between your online persona and IRL self. You may behave the same way offline and online, but online you're a person without a history or address.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:41 PM on December 8, 2012


I really doubt it, because what would be the value of old message board discussions?

Just off the top of my head, how about Paul Ryan posting pictures of himself doing whatever the predecessor of P90X was back then, cruising for gay hookups when he was just a Congressional aide and didn't know he'd be a house member himself and involved in the Presidential races starting in 2012. Who knows how many Anthony Weiner or Larry Craig type scandals, or scandals of other sorts, are ticking away like time bombs in dusty data archives? Not counting ones for people who aren't even famous yet but will be.

If we develop some sort of general technology that can intelligently match up different pseudonyms as the same person across multiple sites, parse the natural language of your comments, and collate all the personal details you reveal—say, a Watson-like computer specifically designed for doing those things instead of playing Jeopardy, with maybe a few of these neural modeling systems working in tandem with it, running on the computer hardware of a few years in the future—an archive like that is full of tons of personal information on everyone that can be automatically sifted through, organized, and filed next to all of the photos scraped from Facebook of you and the retail store security video clips that were matched up via face recognition showing what you paused and looked at in the store, how you dressed and weighed and cut your hair at each point, and who you were with on each visit. Stuff of immense value to data miners and marketers, if no one else. Or for another example if you ever spoke about medical problems in these old message board discussions, your health insurance company would probably be interested in any data an automated bot can collect and serve up to them on a silver platter.

I would expect that as the search bots become more sophisticated and better at inferring and cross-referencing details they'll be set up to churn through the old data again and again, to gather more information and match up disparate accounts for the same person they'd missed clues on connecting before. So definitely worth keeping a few pallets—or even more—of backup tapes or optical disks or hard drives on hand in some appropriately archival-quality Northern climate. Not to mention that nowaday when it gets retrieved from whatever the antiquated storage media is, nowadays it could be loaded onto a long-term cloud storage service like Amazon Glacier.
posted by XMLicious at 11:43 PM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I use my real name here--and everywhere else on the internet--because I can. The internet is still a place, in my experience, where many people, especially women, feel that they can't use their real names for fear of harassment. Where people--again, especially women, and also other marginalized groups--feel that they're taken less seriously because their name identifies them as Lesser, or as Other.

I feel--or I choose to believe, anyhow--that the more we're exposed to the Other, the less Othered it becomes. That is, I hope that by using my own name (and, yes, occasionally taking abuse or harassment for it) it will eventually become easier for other people to do the same, and to feel that they can represent themselves in whatever way they feel appropriate.

Also, I think there's something to be said for saying what you want to say and owning that, even though it may not always be something you'd say in six months or five years or whatever. I'm ok being known as a person who's willing to admit that they were wrong.
posted by MeghanC at 12:28 AM on December 9, 2012 [7 favorites]


I think a better question is why would you have two separate identities?

I'll be blunt here and say that for some people it's so you can be a fucking asshole online and be sure that there'll be no repercussions IRL. I'd say that most all of the people at this site that have been or are really asshattish are the ones who remain anonymous. Thankfully, many of them have dropped off the site, little by little. Some are still around, of course, and some are newish.

Having said that, I'd emphasize that the great majority of people here at Mefi are, in my opinion, NOT jerks! And not all of those who choose to remain anonymous are asshats, either. But it's been my observation that the jerkiest of the jerks generally don't offer up their real names on their profile pages.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 12:34 AM on December 9, 2012


I was only thinking "character" in as much as there is a distinct firewall between your online persona and IRL self. You may behave the same way offline and online, but online you're a person without a history or address.

I don't consider this accurate. My address is my email account. My history... well... I generate 21,900 results through a search engine covering over fifteen years.
posted by Deoridhe at 1:39 AM on December 9, 2012


I don't say my name anywhere on metafilter, but the copious amount of information on my profile is pretty identifying. In that I'm reasonably sure I'm the only Cascadian bicycle commuting stridently feminist genderqueer religious phage biologist currently in graduate school in Flanders with a T4 myovirus tattoo. That said I do try to keep this account hidden though not inscrutable to people who know me but not metafilter, my mother doesn't need to read about the time I stuck my junk into a glass of Cockburns and my boss doesn't really need to know about the scrotum piercing I once accidentally got.
posted by Blasdelb at 3:18 AM on December 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't consider this accurate. My address is my email account. My history... well... I generate 21,900 results through a search engine covering over fifteen years.

Fair enough.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 3:58 AM on December 9, 2012


I don't have any obvious links to my identity at Metafilter, although I have posted such in the past and would again if they were relevant or useful. Elsewhere on the web I make no attempt at anonymity. I use my full real name at reddit, on comment pages and in the corners of the blogosphere I frequent. I see no reason to hide my identity. I don't post things I am embarrassed by or wouldn't stand by. If employers, family, friends or anyone else has a problem with anything I do on the net I really don't care. Their issue, not mine.
posted by Decani at 5:01 AM on December 9, 2012


I am me. That's what you get, be it on the Internet, at work or with my family. I've said it before on MeFi, but if there were an option to change your username to your real name (without losing your posting history) I'd do it in a second.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:06 AM on December 9, 2012


People encapsulated a variety of reasons that I agree with:
"We are rapidly heading towards a post-privacy society, and it's better to be ahead of the curve. I am more willing to divulge my personal information than most people are willing to hear it."

"I've always just considered my "on-line identity" to be an extension of the actual me."

"I'm too lazy to maintain multiple online personas."

"So if I wanted to be remembered at all by anyone, I needed to have a consistent identity across time and different websites, and if I was going to be consistent it was better to use my real name."

"It never occurred to me to be anything other than upfront about who I am."

"I never really considered keeping my identity hidden, and I've experienced lots of awesome benefits of having my real identity linked to my blogging etc"
That said, if there was a way to change my username to something else, like say "Mighty fine robot", while keeping my real name in my profile, I'd probably do that, just for the fun of it.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:22 AM on December 9, 2012


I figured using my real name would make me less likely to say something here that I wouldn't say in real life and for the most part it has.
posted by nathancaswell at 5:57 AM on December 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


As I mention in my profile, I started off on UseNET well before there was a WWW, when your only choice of email address was usually pretty identifiable and people (self included) often put things like employment info and even office phone numbers at the bottom of everything they posted. I've been possibly fortunate but more likely typical in that nothing untoward has ever come of being identifiable. I participate lightly in certain special-purpose forums on sensitive issues where I now fortunately have the option to use a different, less readily linked identity. But the default mode for me is to put no barriers between me and my IRL identity.

Also, when the Internet stalkers do finally come for me, I WANT THE BODY TO BE FOUND.
posted by drlith at 6:01 AM on December 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've been on BBSes, Usenet, and forums for the last twenty years or so. Most of the time I've used my real name, but occasionally I've used a nickname (often the same one). I've always assumed that everyone I've ever wrote or done online could be linked back to 'me', given enough time and effort by some interested or hostile party - especially stuff in semi-private areas such as chatrooms, public and private mailing lists, etc. So I've always tried to be a bit measured in how I write - a shift that partly came after having (very correctly) being told off by someone who I unfairly insulted by name on my own blog.

As other posters have mentioned, I've seen many benefits from using my real identity on Mefi and my blog, including getting paid to do quite a lot of writing, getting a job, being invited to speak at conferences, going on expeditions.

Of course I consider myself pretty lucky and I think if I were in another person's shoes, there would be very good reasons for not wanting to use my real name online (e.g. if I was seeking support for some kind of issue or condition I didn't want the people near me to know about), so I'm not one to judge on that.
posted by adrianhon at 6:58 AM on December 9, 2012


My real identity is easy to find from Metafilter, but less so from real world to Metafilter. This is not a conscious decision, more incidental. If I'm up front about who I am, I'm less likely to act like an idiot.
posted by arcticseal at 7:00 AM on December 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was thoroughly fed up with that sneak-identity silly-handle everyone-can-be-as-nasty-as-they-please culture, typical for discussion boards (even some specialized ones) of 12 years ago or so. Understanding Mefi as a more sophisticated forum, I said to myself to give it a try, I can always edit my profile if it doesn't work out. Well I haven't.
posted by Namlit at 7:08 AM on December 9, 2012


I have my address listed on my profile page so people from the internet can send me things.

So far the only thing I've received were some bagels from The Whelk.

They were delicious.
posted by Sailormom at 7:12 AM on December 9, 2012


My first exposure to online life was around 1998 or so via AOL, where there seemed to be a real culture of keeping your web self and your real self distinct and different. Over the next 10 years or so, I had numerous names on AOL and other places, none of them really tied to my real identity. I've never had need for a professional presence on line, so that's never been an issue for me. If I were starting my web life over again today, I would have much more integration and transparency between "real" me and "web" me. I don't have any big secrets to hide, but remembering who I am and what I've shared or not shared in different places can get tiring.
posted by SweetTeaAndABiscuit at 7:20 AM on December 9, 2012


I learned the hard way - via individuals with creepy entitled gross aggressive behavior - that putting my full name and location out there in the world as a single lady is a Bad Thing. I don't see the need to do so again.
posted by elizardbits at 7:27 AM on December 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


Somebody else set up my Metafilter account as a gift -- but as I was always Peter McDermott on Usenet, I assume they thought I'd have nothing I cared about hiding.

I haven't had a nickname since I was about 13.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 7:33 AM on December 9, 2012


Hadn't looked at my profile page in 1/2 a decade, so I popped over there to discover that my full name, picture, email, and street address are all there for anyone to see. I was surprised to see that I had done that, actually.

I'd say that the example of respectful discourse as set by Matt and the mods and the default expectation of honesty and good faith that is the community norm is why I made that (for me) somewhat odd decision. The culture of owning what you say is strong on Metafilter, maybe I figured I'd act like less of a jerk by knowing that anything I say here will always be tied to me forever.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 7:35 AM on December 9, 2012


I think in general people worry way too much about maintaining a particular kind of image in different domains, and that it's just much less stressful and more fun to give up the effort. I'm not talking about people who feel they need to keep their identities separate for reasons of safety and preventing harrassment (which is why I disagree with sites that try to force the use of real names). But to people who, say, have big ambitions for a corporate or academic career and thus feel they need to be straitjacketed about all their public pronouncements under their professional name, I always want to say: have you considered that you might have a more enjoyable life if you stopped engaging in this constant self-consciousness? You'll probably lose a few career opportunities as a result of revealing your full humanness online, and gain a few too, and it'll all even out in the end, and you'll have more fun doing it.

But, yeah, if you live in a part of the world/country where being openly atheist or Democrat or whatever really does mean that you'll be passed over for promotion every single time, I guess it's different.
posted by oliverburkeman at 7:51 AM on December 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm a fan of transparency, generally, and I don't especially care if my real name is made public. I also don't have any reason to obscure my identity, though I understand that others may be in a different situation.

I don't intend my comment to be a judgment on others who choose to anonymize themselves; transparency is what works for me.
posted by dfriedman at 7:51 AM on December 9, 2012


Like others, my legal name isn't on my profile, but it wouldn't be hard to figure it out if you poked around in my history here and my flickr. I've met a ton of mefites IRL who know my name, and some are friends on facebook. Oh, and g+, though I don't really hang out there anymore.

I used to be much more conscientious about trying to keep them separate, but I'm lazy and I came to realize that I don't really care if, say, a co-worker stumbles across some screed I've written here about same-sex marriage or the state of the American health care system, since it's not like I keep those opinions to myself in meatspace.
posted by rtha at 8:04 AM on December 9, 2012


> (Perhaps most commonly so their employers don't know how often they're browsing the Net during work hours!)

This was my reason, and when I stopped working for The Man I gave up the anonymity. But I will defend to the death any MeFi member's felt need for it, and anyone who thinks anonymity is bad per se has either never held down an actual job (outside of hip places where everyone thinks wasting time on the internet is fine, of course) or is just a jerk with no understanding of other people's lives.
posted by languagehat at 8:53 AM on December 9, 2012 [8 favorites]


Another data point of "Huh? I'm me." I've been me on the internet since 1992, and I have no plans to stop being me. I have no desire to be two different people. My full name, phone number, physical address, and thousands of photos of me are immediately available to anyone who googles my email address (which is just my initials, and has been the same for 20 years).
posted by dmd at 9:19 AM on December 9, 2012


Brownian camouflage. Anonymity of the herd. They don't care about me, just my receipts, so it's pointless to think I can hide from anyone who really wants to track me down.

My online ID has been consistant since 1997, when I first logged on to Dakota Chat. Thousands of people know me as mule. Well, hundreds. Dozens. A few.
posted by mule98J at 9:22 AM on December 9, 2012


In the words of the immortal Popeye, "I yam what I yam and that's all what I yam"
posted by briank at 10:55 AM on December 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have always been myself on the Internet. I've had an Internet account of some sort since '92, and I made a conscious decision at that time to make my real name my username for just about everything. I haven't had cause to re-examine that decision.

I'm self-employed, so I generally haven't had to consider any negative consequences for my online presence (though I did miss out on a job, once, because of something I had written in my proto-blog that offended someone).
posted by adamrice at 11:01 AM on December 9, 2012


I haven't made my identity public, but anyone who knew me could probably guess it. I don't plan to disguise myself at meetups. I just don't want Google to fetch my insecurities for anyone who asks.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 11:17 AM on December 9, 2012


Perhaps when my book on the etrusicans is copied...
posted by clavdivs at 11:20 AM on December 9, 2012


One thing to consider is that there will be other people on the internet with the same real name as you. Remember the rush to grab a good Gmail address?

People could accidentally connect you with writing, possibly even unpleasant or offensive posts, made anywhere on the internet by those people.

Of course if you have a really unusual name this might not be a problem, and if you have a super common name there will be so many false matches, but I think there is a grey area where people will think: that must be the same person when it really isn't.
posted by Lanark at 12:02 PM on December 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you have linked your Metafilter account to your real-life identity

I realized that there is no distinction between "online" and "real-life". Except possibly to trolls who wish to flame and grief with no repercussions.
posted by Justinian at 12:11 PM on December 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm Dan Hartung, so when I was setting up my first Unix-based e-mail account, I had a traditional choice of "dhartung" or "danh". I thought the latter looked like I was Vietnamese, so avoided having to constantly answer that hypothetical by choosing the former. That Unix account was then used for USENET newsgroups for many years and I never saw any reason to hide my identity then.

I've only had cause to really regret this twice. Once was a USENET troll who did something unspeakable to my name. The other was using my own name on a local newspaper site; someone began posting taunts (false) about my having been in prison and other things. I've used a pseudonym ever since.

The only other username I've extensively used is linked to the name of my former blog, also in my own name. For a while I used an anonymous username when I was sort of licking my wounds from a bad relationship, but I pretty much abandoned that a few years ago about the same time I started on Facebook.

In short, I don't mind being held accountable for what I say, even if I later bitterly regret it. I'm an adult. I have found myself more likely to regret things said or done under my pseudonymous identity, so there's that.
posted by dhartung at 12:15 PM on December 9, 2012


I keep mine separate for professional and medical reasons. In my most recent job search, I googled the people I would be interviewed by. I found one post from an interviewer on an atheism forum. I have no problem with this. However, consider if a potential employer with strong religious affiliations found via Google an atheism forum post by a job applicant; that employer could decline to offer an interview with no legal ramifications or recourse.

I have commented on my personal medical history on Metafilter in the past. While in general I wouldn't consider this a problem, I can see a point where I might be applying for life or disability insurance, and an insurer might find my posts and decline to cover me.

In my view, "post-privacy" is a falsehood conjured up by the CEO of a major social network to lend moral weight to his desire to monetize our information.
posted by Existential Dread at 12:49 PM on December 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


Mostly it's just easier to remember my logins if I use the same username everywhere, including on identity services like Facebook and Gmail. And then when I started blogging and tweeting and making sorta-professional connections online a few years ago, I figured that I might as well make it easy for people to look me up and go "Oh, this person who applied for this thing actually said something semi-intelligent about it once, neat".

I've thought a lot about the implications of linking my online and offline worlds, and I've come to the conclusion that it's probably safer--for me personally--to just not talk about certain things online, than to fool myself into thinking a pseudonym will protect my identity. I'm not going to Tor into every connection and I'm too lackadaisical to be super careful about anonymizing everything I want to chatter about online, so a different username really isn't going to do much when push comes to shove.

I do occasionally have concerns that my political opinions might not play in my favour if some MRA troll decided to come after me or something, especially when I see the same thing happening to others in my social circle, but....well, haters gonna hate. Can't hide from everything unpleasant.
posted by Phire at 1:29 PM on December 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


PareidoliaticBoy: "Hadn't looked at my profile page in 1/2 a decade, so I popped over there to discover that my full name, picture, email, and street address are all there for anyone to see. I was surprised to see that I had done that, actually."

This is an interesting distinction. Because I've got no problem with using my real name, but I've always hesitated to put my street address and photo online. Not that I have any need for that final level of obscurity, but it always seemed like something that would be useful to hold back, just in case. If someone really wanted to they could probably find out where I live by going through online posts, but it would take effort, and Google wouldn't help. Like Mefi's $5 gateway, that expenditure of effort ensures that random trolls won't send me packages of poop, or whatever.
posted by Kevin Street at 2:14 PM on December 9, 2012


I've always hesitated to put my street address and photo online.

I own my condo, and so my address is public information. That was sort of the last straw - once I realized I couldn't even conceal that with anything less than a massive, concerted campaign, I pretty much just gave up. Now I assume that the very most I can do is be discreet.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 2:18 PM on December 9, 2012


Sebmojo is a mangling of my own name - I'm not too fussed about people making the connection with my real identity, but it feels important that there is that separation even if it's token.

I feel weirdly happy about my daughter being able to track down all my nerdy blithering on rpgs and stuff after I'm dead in whatever version of the internet exists 50 years from now.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:21 PM on December 9, 2012


I've always used my real name here, but also always have been thankful that profile pages aren't indexed at Google.
posted by mediareport at 2:35 PM on December 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yes, another "thanks" for not indexing profile pages.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:04 PM on December 9, 2012


I've never used my anonymity to cloak acting like a jackass. If you find me acting like a jackass online, you're getting the same jackass that you would IRL. As far as I know, my real name is unique so hiding in the herd wouldn't work for me. I'm well aware that if Anonymous ever gets pissed at me, I'm screwed.

One nice thing about being anonymous is that it allows me to open up and discuss things that I would be very uncomfortable discussing with my real name. I'm not too worried about potential employers. If some asshole is going to dig through my internet history and judge me for being a liberal atheist who has secret gay fantasies and three autistic children, then I don't want that job. I am horrified at the thought of discussing my gay fantasies with my ragingly homophobic father. He has no need to know about that and I'm content to let him go to his grave without having that conversation.
posted by double block and bleed at 4:16 PM on December 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


The very first time I used the Internet, in 1994, I used my real full (very unique) name. Metafilter is pretty much the ONLY place I have not used my real name. Just a little hesitancy because I have shared so many personal details here. I know my husband cyber stalks my comments here, and I am sure a few colleagues have tried to figure out the site they saw me using so much at work (for research!) and I have been to several meetups, and am Facebook friends with mefites. I just don't see the need to completely connect the two. Maybe because of he legacy of harassment towards marginalized groups? Even though I have never been harassed I know it is always a possibility.
posted by saucysault at 4:51 PM on December 9, 2012


What real life identity ?
posted by y2karl at 5:03 PM on December 9, 2012


For a long while I was a journalist/documentary filmmaker involved in some very contentious issues and for that reason it was important to separate my personal opinions from my professional identity. That's why I used a pseudonym on the internet initially. Now I don't have that issue any more and I'm increasingly trying to correlate my physical identity to my online identity. I'd probably change my handle here if I didn't have a fairly sizeable history. If it's of any interest, I'm johnnydeadman, pinkheadedbug, unSane, and johnbrownlow, depending on which site you're looking at.
posted by unSane at 5:52 PM on December 9, 2012


(and basically, I like to be an open book as much as possible)
posted by unSane at 5:53 PM on December 9, 2012


If a website permits relative anonymity (pseudonyms, etc.) then I'm not inclined to judge somebody for using it. Personally, I think using your name keeps you honest as others have suggested above. But I also have the privilege of a common name, and I don't feel comfortable pretending my way into the shoes of somebody who doesn't and speculating about what I'd do.

Having said that, I would take exception to two themes repeated in this thread. The first is the idea that, "If you mine through my comments with enough dedication, you can figure out my identity. That's basically the same." No, it's not. And second is the claim that, "I'm anonymous, but I behave exactly as I would if I weren't." You can't know that, and the claim is roughly equivalent to insisting that advertising doesn't work on you because you're savvy.

It's totally okay to be anonymous, or pseudonymous, on MetaFilter. It's part of the culture here. But I think you should own that decision and not pretend you haven't made it.
posted by cribcage at 6:27 PM on December 9, 2012


I can't link to my real "real" identity, as (somewhat ridiculously) the Feds are still investigating that whole 'jumping out of a Boeing 727 with $200,00 over the forests of Washington' thing. You'd think they'd give it a rest by now, but do they? No. Anyway, it was good to finally offload a few 20 dollar bills today, hidden from view in a crowd of 30-odd, over lunch in NYC; just hoping no-one at Guy's looks at the serial numbers too closely. Though, ugh, those onion rings?! I jumped out of a plane at 10,000 feet into a storm so I could buy these?!! :(
posted by Wordshore at 7:36 PM on December 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


My username is my name because for whatever reason nicknames never really stuck to me and because I don't have a real alterego and/or imagination. I've had my phone number on the internet for over 15 years and very few people call me. I do get email from other Jessamyns pretty often and I always write nice notes back "Thanks so much for the invitation to the party, however I don't think I know you and I'm sure there is a Jessamyn who would like to be invited"
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:08 PM on December 9, 2012


Like others, I'm a fan of transparency.
posted by mazola at 9:56 PM on December 9, 2012


My Mefi username is not strongly or obviously linked to my real-world identity, BUT, it is the same username I've been using since 1997. It's not hard to make the connection with some Googling around, since this username basically is my entire online identity. I treat Metafilter the way I treat the rest of my life, which is to say, I have few qualms about airing my dirty laundry where other people can see it.
posted by linettasky at 10:20 PM on December 9, 2012


"One should never do anything that one cannot talk about after dinner." -- Oscar Wilde
posted by chrchr at 12:01 AM on December 10, 2012


I asked this as a btw in another grey thread recently.

I've read through what most are saying here - the bit about thousands of words written, only to be lost forever, hits home - someone's taken over lapsed work domain and put robots.txt - I thought I'd downloaded 5 years of writing (at minimum a post a day) but the file is truncated.

But that's not enough to add Mefi to the pile.

I'm sure, as many have said, that a bit of digging around in my past on here will reveal all, I've never gone out of my way to hide it and in fact, had dinner with MeFi last night (waves at likeso) but I'd rather not make it easy to link up.

As someone said above, this is the last remaining pseudonym online I have left (having been online voluminously since 1995) and I'd rather keep it to "myself" and let my hair down here
posted by infini at 2:24 AM on December 10, 2012


To answer codacorolla's question though - no, I would not link metafilter to my nameurldomain pages. That's work, this is my personal life.
posted by infini at 2:27 AM on December 10, 2012


I think a better question is why would you have two separate identities?

Most doctors will not answer medical questions online because they fear liability. I am not sure how reality-based that fear is, although I have noticed numerous websites and blogs where celebrity doctors or doctors trying to build their patient base/"brand" will actually answer medical questions, with disclaimers on the page. Because I am a doctor and I regularly try to provide answers on medical questions (with as many disclaimers as I can think of to add), I stay anonymous. I don't think this would protect me if someone really wanted to sue me because of something I said here, but hopefully it will never come to that.

I also like to answer R or X-rated questions sometimes and so I like the illusion of privacy while doing that, although it wouldn't be the end of the world if someone I knew realized that I made those comments. Other than those issues, I'd be more than happy to associate my real name with my account.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 3:39 AM on December 10, 2012


Originally I kept my Mefi user name totally separate from my real identity. But then Kattullus mailed me, guessing pretty right out who I was, which made me wonder why I was keeping these identities separate in the first place, so I stopped giving a shit.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:25 AM on December 10, 2012


At one point I thought "hey, I've got nothing to hide, and this will keep me from becoming an anonymous internet fuckwad". But I actually regret that. It's unnecessarily constraining. Turns out having my real name associated with pretty much everything I do has not prevented me from making an ass of myself, and even in those rare times when I'm anonymous, I'm still trying to be helpful.

It doesn't help that, near the very beginning of my "everything is associated with my real name" period, I was in the middle of processing some personal issues and used the internet as a particularly ill-suited talk-therapy-engine.

I haven't reversed that decision because I'm pretty sure I can't at this point, in any meaningful sense.

What I now wish I had done: Use a set of identities, each one for a different aspect of my life, retiring any that become associated with too much baggage. Use a real-name identity very little until reaching my mid-twenties; until then it should exist only where required (e.g. for banking, taxes) or to be otherwise-anonymously-helpful (e.g. for Q/A sites). Write a browser plugin that allows you to indicate what identity you intend to use; it then would analyse the word frequencies used in any text box fields on the page to display what identities you come off as.

It's probably too late for that sort of thing to work for, e.g. my toddler son. The internet he grows up in is going to be too omnipresent for him to fully control his identity. He wouldn't derive much benefit from such a browser plugin, because he's probably going to interact most with the internet away from the desktop, on devices that will be rigidly controlled enough that he won't be able to change them to take any real privacy measures.
posted by Jpfed at 6:03 AM on December 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


My best hope for immortality is to have as much about my real life out on the web as possible when the Singularity comes along and makes the Internet omniscient.
posted by aught at 6:18 AM on December 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


I love, and happily espouse, the flotsam conception of the internet. Interlinked identities don't mesh with that.
posted by deo rei at 1:08 PM on December 10, 2012


In one way or another, I know too many people here in real life, and I intend to meet many more.
posted by Ardiril at 6:54 PM on December 10, 2012


Also, I have posted a whole lot more damning shit using my real name than I ever posted as Ardiril or mischief.
posted by Ardiril at 7:00 PM on December 10, 2012


why would you have two seperate identities?

Personally, I try to keep my identity on metafilter somewhat distinct from my real life identity because I ask a lot of embarassing askmes, and if I felt comfortable asking the people in my life I wouldn't have posted the embarassing ones in the first place. Add to that a small dash of leftover people-from-the-internet-are-dangerous from my early years, and being a member of a professional organization that demands that its members uphold certain standards of "decency" in their public image, and I just don't want to take the risk that talking about my vagina or my politics or religion or sexual preferences could jeapordize my reputation. It's pretty unlikely, and a savvy person could figure out who I am fairly easily, but why not keep it private? It's no extra work, and it gives me peace of mind.
posted by windykites at 7:17 AM on December 11, 2012


Everywhere I go on the tubes I use my name. I gave up using an alias over a decade ago.
posted by Brian Puccio at 5:09 PM on December 11, 2012


I have no good user name creating imagination and always come up with some lame variation of my name. Of course, the fact that my name is the female equivalent of John Smith helps. Google me and even if you narrow it down to my city, you will still find at least five ladies with the same name AND the same job title. I wish I had an unusual name. I would use the hell out of it. On the other hand - good luck stalking me. I am everywhere. I am right behind you!!

Kidding. I am in the kitchen. Do you have some ice cream? I mean you no harm.
posted by mkim at 6:12 PM on December 11, 2012


I would just like to expand my answer by noting that I have a distinctive name, making my profile easily Googlable, and that I wanted to ask questions about my penis without the whole world knowing I was doing so.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 8:07 PM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've heard people argue for using real names online as a way of "owning your words" or "building real community." I think the MeFi mods have used a similar version (mods please correct me if I'm misrepresenting you) in saying that they were ambivalent about anonymous AskMes because they conceived of AskMe as a place where people could ask and answer questions in the context of a continuous identity. Clearly they don't require an offline, legal-name identity, but it sounds like they want questions to come with a level of context comparable to what you'd have when giving advice to an acquaintance in real life.

I don't agree with their position, and I can't see myself coming around to it until I hear a good story for archival. The difference between real life and the internet is that the internet is archived. At least on the timescale of a single lifetime, every word on the internet is immortal. And this is why I'm always wary of attempts to reproduce real-life levels of identity on the internet. The internet has no equivalent of having a quiet word alone with a friend. The internet has only op-ed pieces, archived in perpetuity on acid-free linen stock, and the scant hope that your future employers will skip to the comics.

As a result, if my online identity is explicitly linked or even just traceable to my offline identity, I am constantly aware that every word I say could be uncovered later. I don't know how, or when, or by whom; all I know is that it's extremely unlikely I'll have the opportunity to offer any sort of context or excuse or apology. That's a stifling realization. Since I've come to understand this, I've made a conscious effort to ask myself, before each submission, how I would feel if this were republished in the New York Times. I end up deleting a lot of comments, and in five years' time I'll probably regret not deleting more.

Ultimately, this is a consequence of social mores lagging behind technological changes. We're not used to having everything archived, and we don't know how to access (or not access) these archives. I'd love to see us get to a point where people can uncover each other's whiny teenage blogs and just say, "Oh, yeah, it turns out that twenty years ago Joe was twelve. Glad he grew out of that." But every time somebody runs for office, I'm reminded how far we are from that point.

Anyway, my point in writing this is to urge you to consider carefully how palatable your MeFi comment history is and will be to professional contacts. It's not enough to just audit your existing comment history. You should also consider whether you're likely in the future to post anything objectionable, whether the bounds of "objectionable" will change, and whether you're okay with constantly thinking of this. Maybe this isn't a problem for you, but it's something you should take the time beforehand to rule out as a problem.
posted by d. z. wang at 1:09 AM on December 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


It was early 1996 when I first got online, and the rules then (as I understood them!) were "deny deny deny, lie lie lie" because everyone on the internet was a pedophile and/or an ax-murderer*. Never give out your real name, never give out your address without two levels of obfuscation [i.e. 200 miles away from Chicago is fine, Iowa City was not even though I don't actually live in Iowa City, street address was COMPLETELY OUT], never give out your photograph.

*Until proven otherwise, at least.

As much as I'd like to disengage with that paranoid mindset nearly 17 years later, I'm not really able to shed it entirely* and therefore I continue to use a few pseudonyms or my real first name which is fairly common. I have known multiple people online for years & years who don't know my last name, which is hyphenated and completely unique (i.e. there is only one Erika Sur-Name). Generally I give that out only if you're going to mail me something in the post. Seriously. I would guess that roughly half of the people I talk to online multiple times a week don't know my last name.

*Mostly I haven't shed it entirely because people still get stalked and may have their lives ruined for things they've said and done online. I'm not really enamored of the possibility that some random stranger could fixate on me because I happen to be sex-positive and show up at my door. It seems outrageous, but it's happened to TWO women I know well who have been online since roughly the same time I have.

Facebook shut down my account for being a bot 18 months or so ago. I decline to provide them with a government I.D. to verify my existence, so I toddle along without a facebook account. Google+ has a (wrong) last name for me. Googling my first+last name produces a few amazon reviews and, in something I wasn't really expecting to find, my entire old address and phone number from when I volunteered to be a delegate for Obama in 2008. (Kiiiinda glad I don't live there anymore!) But that's it.

Is it wrong; am I acting contrary to the goal of building a community? Am I acting like I have something to hide? I hesitate to say any of those things, because it's so deeply ingrained in me. Perhaps it's a remnant of a different culture, a different time, but... it's not confined to the internet, for whatever that's worth. I feel weird about and generally avoid giving people I meet off-line my last name, since it's uniquely identifiable and traceable. Why do we allow all this information to be disseminated to friends-of-friends-of-friends or random one-time classmates who could easily be violent or untrustworthy?

I "hide" (not surpassingly well, thanks to some mistakes I made when I was younger, but well enough) my full name and address and everything else linked to that because that's what I do. I believe I have the right to control, to an extent, who knows me well enough to show up at my door. If anything, the idea that anyone might be expected to give out this information to strangers who have no guaranteed good intentions is alarming and worrisome, rather than working towards building a community.
posted by saveyoursanity at 5:29 AM on December 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yeah, now that they can connect everything to you, I'm just waiting for a client to ask me about my mother's dressing habits.

saveyoursanity, that's it exactly innit? (gosh, has it been 17 years already) There's an ïnternet user "generation gap" in thinking about these things.
posted by infini at 2:49 PM on December 12, 2012


infini, I'm not sure that's true. I'm 24, and I like my privacy as much as anyone older does. I just over-share as Rustic Etruscan and not as [nice try].
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 3:11 PM on December 12, 2012


You have a point. I guess I've just been hearing so much "get used to it, we live in a privacy less world bla bla" from the young men (mostly developers, designers etc in their 20s) that I've tended to lump it as a generational gap.
posted by infini at 3:43 PM on December 12, 2012


the last such occurrence with the founder of a 'hot new' startup got me a date with the cute older man next to him though since this statement had us rolling eyes at each other about "kids these days"... forgive me? ;p
posted by infini at 3:49 PM on December 12, 2012


"Get used to it, we live in a privacy less world"

And yet, if policemen at his door had said this -
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 4:14 PM on December 12, 2012


Yeah, I'm in my early 20s and I think of the Silicon Valley bravado about being in a post-privacy world as little more than privileged twaddle with a dash of corporate data greed. Super that Zuckerberg wants to herald us all into the age of transparency, but he likely doesn't have to worry about racial/homophobic/transphobic hate crimes targeted at him, political or religious persecution or harassment, employability, insurance concerns, etc. I'll believe in post-privacy when peoe stop giving each other shit over absolutely everything.

I've made it easy for people to find me online, but I'd never dream of suggesting that others ought to do the same.
posted by Phire at 7:29 PM on December 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


d.z. wang, this is exactly why my MeFi handle is my name. I know that everything I say on here can be traced back to me, so I don't do the internet equivalent of bad karaoke while wearing a lampshade. Might my comments and faves exclude me from employment by a conservative think-tank someday? Gosh I hope so.
posted by katya.lysander at 1:45 PM on December 14, 2012


I can see this working well if your identity, beliefs, social circles, etc. are already very stable and well-defined. It works less well if you change, and over timescales like a lifetime you probably will change.
posted by d. z. wang at 9:52 PM on December 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


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