MeFi interferring with real life? November 15, 2004 9:48 PM   Subscribe

How many of you (if any) have had issues with MeFi interferring with real life? I use a pseudonym because way back in the dark ages of BBS's, I regularly indulged in flamewars and I ended up getting prankcalls at all hours and such. Now, I try not to get sucked into flamewars, but I have a feeling I'm still kind of a dick online, so I hang on to a pseudonym. How about you?
posted by keswick to MetaFilter-Related at 9:48 PM (54 comments total)

Yeah, I used to get sucked in a lot more on old BB's I used to frequent -- passionate flamewars about everything from politics to screenwriting to basketball. (By the way, keswick, perhaps this is a good place to say that I'm sorry for being a little snippy-snappy at you in your post re: the White House.) This was accompanied in "real life" by being a really hardcore political activist for many years. I was really commited to the cause(s) (and there are contributions to accomplishments that I'm genuinely proud to have been a part of), but the price I paid was feeling agitated (and often downright angry) nearly all of the time.

Gradually, it started to dawn on me that for all the fights I was always getting into, I was very rarely happy about much of anything -- whether I won or lost. So I started pulling back. I started to ask what was really at stake if I entered into a particular fight or not. (And no, "the revolution" or "justice" or various other abstractions were no longer good enough answers.) I made the conscious effort not to argue all of the time -- to start to choose my battles, as they say.

In real life, I stopped having to argue politics or music or writing or what-the-fuck-ever all the time -- let someone else pick the restaurant! Who cares if my mom likes a mediocre movie? So what that my boyfriend doesn't get starry-eyed over discussing the issues facing the labor movement? These days, I'm less inclined to take the bait all the time (both online and in my face-to-face interactions) -- hell, I'm less inclined to see bait everywhere I turn. And I've discovered a much calmer, even-handed way of being in the world. I still have my opinions, I still feel passionately about many issues -- in short, I still feel that I speak my mind about who I am and what I believe -- but without all the attendant mess that always seemed to come with that in the past.
posted by scody at 10:25 PM on November 15, 2004

My dad--for some reason--told me once never to write something down that I'd be embarassed to say out loud. I stick to that, and it works for me.
posted by interrobang at 10:38 PM on November 15, 2004

I come from a long tradition of trolling and cheap sniping, and as such, very rarely care about what I have to say. I am mean (and also childish) on the internet just because it makes me laugh.
posted by kavasa at 11:27 PM on November 15, 2004

kavasa, some day, this will all be yours...
posted by namespan at 11:46 PM on November 15, 2004

Interesting - my first "online" experience was on a BBS where the sysop made everyone use their real name - if you didn't choose a verifyable name when you signed up, your account was deleted.

The result was one of the most civil, accountable and cool online scenarios I've ever been involved in. Maybe because you were talking to a "real name", you realised that you were talking to a real, live person with feelings. Maybe because it would be relatively simple for people to find out where you live and come to smash your kneecaps if you pissed someone off.

Strangely, though, Metafilter is the closest online experience to that BBS I've ever seen, despite the lack of real names. I can't explain that, though. Interestingly, as I climbed the sysop ranks, I felt I had more freedom to be rude and nasty - perhaps a good reason to advocate there being only one "number one" around here.
posted by Jimbob at 12:00 AM on November 16, 2004

MeFi has never interferred with my "real life" but I also go out of my way to avoid MeFi outside of my home (don't go to meetups, etc.). One of my online projects interferred with my life plenty, though. At first it was interesting and then it got annoying and then it got scary and then I killed it. I'm much more careful now. Not with what I say online from a, um, "manners"/opinion angle but I just don't mention places I hang out or specific clothes I wear and things like that. I also got rid of the post office box even though it was neat getting stuff in the mail from strangers. Things are a lot more boring as a result of all these precautions but I also feel much more safe and unfortunately, that seems to be important to me. I find my online personality causes people to either "love" me or hate me and I don't know which type of person I fear more. I've gotten some very odd letters from people who claim to "know me."
posted by dobbs at 12:05 AM on November 16, 2004

MeFi has never interferred with my "real life" but I also go out of my way to avoid MeFi outside of my home (don't go to meetups, etc.).

I seem to recall some sort of movie night. Am I dreaming?

My real name is in my profile and I joyously await the day it comes back to bite me tenderly in the behind.
posted by The God Complex at 12:35 AM on November 16, 2004

MeFi has severely impacted my real life. After watching the greater part of MeFi's humorless contingent freak out over my defense of rape haikus, my wife and I began laughing for literally days straight.

At first this sounds like a bit of a happy shared moment between an eccentric couple - but you only think that because you've never considered the physical impact laughing for days straight has on the body. She didn't survive, I'm only just now out of the hospital.

posted by Ryvar at 4:13 AM on November 16, 2004

what's this "real life" thing you guys keep talking about?
posted by matteo at 4:19 AM on November 16, 2004

TGC -- a while ago, i had floated the idea of curating a "mefi movie night", in which i would show films i found on mefi ("barnyard porn", strindberg and helium, etc). dobbs had helped me recall some of the films that were posted here.

unfortunately, this was one of those great ideas that never got past the drawing board...
posted by pxe2000 at 4:20 AM on November 16, 2004

on one of my bloga:

"is this space coyote? if so you're a deuchbag (sic)"

Silly children. That's the only one though. And I do link there from here so it's not really much at all considering how deliberately unfriendly a lot of my arguing is.
posted by Space Coyote at 4:27 AM on November 16, 2004

I seem to recall a fight between quonsar and somebody else that resulted in some semi-serious death threats. If it had been me being threatened, I would have been worried.

Other than that, I am constantly getting grief from my wife about the amount of time I spend online hanging out at MeFi. She just doesn't get it, I guess.

(let it go, ryvar)
posted by ashbury at 5:16 AM on November 16, 2004

it's difficult, because you say stuff you later regret. but i tend to do that to people's faces too. so i think people i know see my obnoxious online persona as pretty much a continuation of my obnoxious real life persona. which avoids the problems you mention, but obviously introduces others.

on reflection: is it that hard, really? i say what i think, apologise when i'm wrong, and try not to make the same mistake twice (or, at least, not too often). i don't see how reasonable people can object to that. and i'm not that bothered about the unreasonable people.

(i've had one person 'phone me related to web stuff, and that was about immigration issues related to something i had on my site - it was weird, especially since they didn't explain how they knew me at first, but not particularly unpleasant).
posted by andrew cooke at 6:26 AM on November 16, 2004

I only use a pseudonym to make myself look cool.

It isn't working.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 6:35 AM on November 16, 2004

Well, you can forget that there are actual people on the other side of the pixels, and that can make you act far more vituperative than you would be in real life. But I still use my real name, basically because on some level I figure if I say something I should be prepared to accept the consequences of my statements.
posted by jonmc at 6:57 AM on November 16, 2004

I use a handle because it's shorter than my real name. But my real name is easily available to anybody who wants to find it. I've said things on the internet that would look bad in a political campaign, let's just say that, but very little I'm ashamed of having written, whether I still agree with it or not.

I've pissed off entire usenet groups, such that I guess I can't go back, ever.

The internet has never interfered with my real life, however it has made for some weird moments when people in real life knew something I didn't expect them to know about me because they'd read it online. It's a strange sort of intimacy that takes some getting used to. I bet popular bloggers have to deal with it all the time.
posted by Hildago at 7:10 AM on November 16, 2004

Dobbs, while of course I respect that you don't want to come to meetups, I can't help wishing you would! And I'm sure I'm not the only Toronto MeFite who would like to meet our only A-lister:-)

I don't make much effort to separate my MeFi life from my "real" life, perhaps because I see them both as equally real. My real name is on my user page. I use "Orange Swan" whenever I need a username, and plan to use it whenever I start the book review site I mean to launch one of these days. I figure it keeps me honest - and I nodded in agreement with Jonmc's last sentence.
posted by orange swan at 7:15 AM on November 16, 2004

I once sent another MeFi member a box of dog turds.
posted by y6y6y6 at 7:23 AM on November 16, 2004

They were delicious.
posted by ook at 7:27 AM on November 16, 2004

Those were mine, you poopthief!
posted by loquacious at 7:32 AM on November 16, 2004

Not sure that a lack of pseudonyms makes for polite and rational discourse. My first BBS-style experience was on a lucid dreaming newsgroup for where we had pseudonyms and the conversation was rarely heated. Contrariwise, I was on a listserv for animal issues where we all used our names and had vitriolic fights constantly. (Good times, good times.) So I'd say the content of the discussion has at least as much of an effect as the format of user identities.

(Also: what ashbury said)
posted by soyjoy at 7:49 AM on November 16, 2004

AskMe has a lot of relevance to some of my real-world librarianing but I sometimes refrain from linking to it on my library-related blog because I don't want people in my professional world going through all my old posts to assemble a dossier on me since I deal with quite enough "you are a pinko" hate mail as it is. I figure if people go looking for it, more power to them, but I at least try to keep them separate. I use my real name anywhere it isn't already taken because basically I lack imagination. Lack of anonymity has brought more good into my life than bad, much more.
posted by jessamyn at 8:05 AM on November 16, 2004

use my real name anywhere it isn't already taken because basically I lack imagination. Lack of anonymity has brought more good into my life than bad, much more.

Ditto ditto and more ditto. (And mine is never taken.)
posted by gleuschk at 8:12 AM on November 16, 2004

How many of you (if any) have had issues with MeFi interfering with real life?

Not MeFi itself, but certainly the internet itself. I got into some intense discussions with someone I met in a book chat room which led to us exchanging books in the mail which led to us meeting and now, this Dec. 31 we are getting married.

Confidential to PinkStainlessTail: I've always thought you have the best name, ever, which colors my perception of you as one cool guy.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 8:24 AM on November 16, 2004

Back when e-mail addys were visible to non-mefites I received an e-mail from a non-mefite wanting to purchase some tapes I had commented that I owned months before.
Wasn't really an interference, just decidedly odd. I did sell them to him though.
posted by DBAPaul at 9:18 AM on November 16, 2004

I would have went with a pseudonym but "BigSexE1" was already taken.

My username sucks, not because it's my real name but because its hard to say and spell; even for me. I've never feared using it because there are so many other ways to find me. If someone wants to bust my head or go get coffee, it's all good.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 9:21 AM on November 16, 2004

I seem to recall some sort of movie night. Am I dreaming?

No, you're not dreaming. I was way into doing this and then different stuff came up and I got delayed. Recently I started another writing project and as I did I've found that a flood of the bad memories of the last one meeting real life have immobilized me from sending out the invite. I recognize it's totally irrational, but still... I may reconsider. 2005 is coming and with it a big list of resolutions. Perhaps "Kick paranoia" will be one of them.

Orange Swan, thanks for the misplaced compliment! Heh. And there are plenty of Toronto MeFi's I'm curious about as well (the initial reason for movie night). I'm working on it.
posted by dobbs at 10:02 AM on November 16, 2004

I use my real name. No problems.
posted by Kwantsar at 10:13 AM on November 16, 2004

How many of you (if any) have had issues with MeFi interferring with real life?

Well, when the press unearthed some of my Mefi posts, it preemptively derailed my campaign for president...but other than that I can't even really imagine any possible such "issues." But then, I think the phrase "interfering with real life" makes some assumptions with which I don't agree.
posted by rushmc at 10:15 AM on November 16, 2004

I'd like to see a homunculus in person.
posted by four panels at 10:38 AM on November 16, 2004

posted by clavdivs at 10:50 AM on November 16, 2004

I've been online in one form or another for twenty years. And—although I'm not sure about the early days—I've pretty much used my real name, a variant, or have made my real identity easily available. I've never had any angry phone calls or anything at all like that. It always strikes me as strange when other people report that they have experienced such things. But I'm in total agreement with the "accountability" thing. I've mentioned it before, but this pseudonym I'm using here has been weird for me—I'm definitely "Ethereal Bligh", but that person is also distinct from me in a way that it woudln't have been had I used my typical "kmellis" or my real name. I don't really like it, actually. But I'm a very abnormally non-persona kind of personality. I'm pretty much the same person to everyone, all the time, and have no secrets. So this other identity thing feels very strange.

As for MeFi interferring with my real life...I have to fight depression anyway, and the few really bad flame-wars where I was really beaten up have upset me for several days each time. I'd like to say that it doesn't bother me, but it does. But it hasn't happened as much, lately, and I'm more calloused—which I sotra regret.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 10:54 AM on November 16, 2004

I've never had an interest in using my real name here. It's not a question of separation of MeFiLife and RealLife, and it's not a paranoia issue—I have RealLife friends who know I use this pseudonym, and if you look closely enough, you'll be able to identify me. It's not that; it's just never seemed appropriate to use a real name here. I think I tend to use my real name for serious things, and a pseudonym for fun things. MeFi is fun.

My first BBS was a real-name one too. It didn't really feature mature, intelligent conversation, but that had more to do with the fact that it was populated almost entirely by young high-school kids. Still, it lent an air of gravity to your comments, an air of committment. That's followed me since. It took me over a week (after registering) to post a comment here, and a year and a half to post a link. I still regularly write out comments and don't post 'em. I probably think far too much about each comment, given the amount of junk around here than went in someone's eyeballs and out their keyboard.

I don't see how this self-analysis relates to the original question, but it was fun to write.
posted by DrJohnEvans at 11:13 AM on November 16, 2004

I use a pseudonym for plausible denialibility. And because I like having a secret identity, even if my only superpower is ineffective blustering.

MeFi has had a positive impact on my real life, my wife and I often talk about subjects that have been posted here. And the recent Ask MeFi about baby music has been incredibly helpful to me and to my little boy.
posted by fenriq at 11:35 AM on November 16, 2004

I use my real name but I'm not important enough for anyone to contact me. Actually, now that I think about it, it's hard enough for people that I know to get in touch with me, let alone people i've never met before.
posted by bob sarabia at 11:40 AM on November 16, 2004

This is my real name. I had to make up the other one because the guv'mint was pissed I didn't have a middle initial.

During the BBS days I had to change phone numbers because I kicked some idiot off my board. I've gotten a few emails and some foul comments on my blog. I don't tend to say anything here or at my blog I wouldn't say offline.

I used to be more careful about keeping my online life and offline life separate. I've let them bleed together now that our stalker seems to have given up and moved on.
posted by ?! at 11:56 AM on November 16, 2004

I've not had a real problem with MeFi in my life. Well, my husband thinks I'm crazy about all the time I spend in one MeFi hangout or t'other. Does that count?

When I first started on the 'net, I used a nickname because I'd been warned that everyone here was crazy. I got over that in about a year or so. I use my real first name on MeFi, and elsewhere, and the rest of it wouldn't be hard to find.

I don't think I've posted anything that would get me in trouble with anyone. Except, maybe, my pro-prostitution rant, my rabid pro-gay rights stance, my belief that I should have control over my body...
posted by deborah at 1:27 PM on November 16, 2004

I heard kafkaesque got in trouble with his wife after the SF Meetup last week.
posted by bendy at 1:40 PM on November 16, 2004

I heard kafkaesque got in trouble with his wife after the SF Meetup last week.

Pish tosh! She should have come along, too, then! MeFi needs women!
posted by caitlinb at 1:48 PM on November 16, 2004

Metafilter is my real life.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 1:50 PM on November 16, 2004

And I'm sure I'm not the only Toronto MeFite who would like to meet our only A-lister:-)

huh...? that's weird... what makes someone an A lister...? (no offense dobbs, you're a fun poster, i enjoy your comments and personality a lot. uhm, even if i think you're a big dumbie-head on one particular topic, one that has created a divide between us that can never be surmounted!!! puts hand to brow, nearly faints) is it being written up in nat'l & international media...? because then that means i'm a GTA a-lister too...! it's pretty darn easy to be mentioned in the media if you have a high traffic domain. would i be allowed to swan around at the first t.o. meet up i go to, will there be any worship involved...? because i'm totally up for that.

oh, uhm, anyway... no, using metafilter has never caused me any strife in meat space. not yet at any rate, hehe.
posted by t r a c y at 2:50 PM on November 16, 2004

I'd like to see a homunculus in person.

We look like the characters in More, only shorter.
posted by homunculus at 2:52 PM on November 16, 2004

pseudonym? what pseudonym ?
posted by kamylyon at 2:59 PM on November 16, 2004

t r a c y, no offense taken. I've been called many things online but I think it's a first for that, which is what I meant by misplaced compliment. (I appreciate it, though, OS!) I haven't even had a "proper" blog since before the term was even coined.

t r a c y, if I ever do meet you, I promise a few minutes of worship before I throttle you for your thoughts on Canadian film (if not all the times I've cursed you for making me type the spaces between the letters in your username). I'm a man of my word.
posted by dobbs at 3:38 PM on November 16, 2004

Let me just add that Secret Life of Gravy my real name; my parents, Mr. & Mrs. Gravy, had a very strange sense of humor.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 3:39 PM on November 16, 2004

My dad--for some reason--told me once never to write something down that I'd be embarassed to say out loud. I stick to that, and it works for me.

I say a lot of things out loud to which I wouldn't want a potential employer 5 years from now to have push-button replay access.
posted by scarabic at 3:47 PM on November 16, 2004

slashdot, thrice. There I don't normally give out my real name, although I don't care anyways.

Here, never.

I don't worry too much. The chances of meeting up with someone who is willing to take a $300 - $3000 airplane ride to a nearby city, then take a $100 2 hour car ride, and pay another $200 to a cab to find my house in the middle of nowhere is really not likely. Then again, I try to avoid angering phrases like "Fuck off" or "ESAD", etc, etc.
posted by shepd at 4:36 PM on November 16, 2004

I'd just like to deny categorically that I got in trouble with my wife after the SF meetup. The two events were totally unrelated, and the trouble had more to do with the trading of two our three children for a handful of magic beans and snap-together model of an SS Camaro.
posted by Kafkaesque at 5:04 PM on November 16, 2004

There are 7 MetaFilter users near this user. And I don't really know you people that well, anyway. Couple that with my near-agoraphobia, and it's unlikely that anyone will ever see me at a meetup.

Metafilter has definitely been screwing with getting my work done. But here, I've avoided most of my more self-destructive obsessiveness; I got that out of the way on Plastic. Or that's what I like to tell myself. Some people have been insinuating to me that I spend time here when I should be spending it elsewhere, doing something they don't specify; it's easier to spend it here because none of you have any expectations from me; I could fade away tomorrow and it wouldn't make a real difference. Or that's what I like to tell myself. For the most part, no one in my non-virtual world has any connection to my virtual world, whatsoever. I kind of liked it that way.

Real life...virtual life... what's life? We over-valorize both: We privilege the real too much for being material, and we privilege the virtual too much for being new. And we privilege both too much for being spirtual.

As for nicks & "reality", I'm easy enough to track down: Follow one link to my website, look at the username there, and start googling. If you didn't know my name, address, and phone number within 60 seconds from first clicking "lodurr", I'd be very surprised. And "lodurr" isn't really that far from what I'm really like, aside from the fact that ... well, dammit, there really aren't many differences worth talking about. It's just a subset, is all. An extended subset, as my brother used to joke: Because (like anybody else here), after a while, "lodurr" becomes at least in part what other people make of him. I never become more than what I am, by definition; but lodurr can be lots of things that other people make him out to be.
posted by lodurr at 5:50 PM on November 16, 2004

I am always at odds with my username. It feels dishonest not to use my real name but I value my privacy. This is a small island and given that my first name has unusual spelling and my surname is rare, I thought it better to wear a mask online.

Metafilter enhances my life more than it interferes. I don't read quite so many books now, which is a shame and I start far too many conversations with "I read on Metafilter" but on the other hand I have learnt so many new things here. Metafilter widens your horizons... Oh and your bum!
posted by Tarrama at 6:40 PM on November 16, 2004

When I started posting online, I made a conscious decision to always use my real name so that a) I would only say things that I would be proud to stand behind and b) if I ever met any of the people I converse with online, they'd know who I was. Somewhere along the way growing up, I managed to lose most of my interest in playing any role other than myself.

To date, I haven't offended anyone sufficiently for them to come out this way and stalk me. :) About the most outside interaction I've gotten is the occasional e-mail complimenting me on one of my posts.
posted by tdismukes at 8:48 AM on November 17, 2004

But I really am a squirrel.
posted by squirrel at 6:31 PM on November 17, 2004

posted by jonmc at 7:15 PM on November 17, 2004

posted by squirrel at 8:06 PM on November 17, 2004

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