The geek forum Slashdot has an “Anonymous Cowards” designation for those who do not use a name. I always saw that title as a joke rather than a real claim of cowardice.
Many bloggers, as I do, use a nome de clavier. While such anonymity may not represent real cowardice, it does represent legitimate fears. This post is more of a discussion starter: What are those fears, and how much would it mean to lose that anonymity?
Two kinds of revelation
I see two kinds of “outing” possible:
The first is where your readers get to know your real world identity. That is where the readers of your blog (who you likely do not know in real life) find out details of your true name, locality, or occupation.
The second is where those that do know you, find out about your online identity.
Which one would be worse?
For me the second would be more embarrassing. I have used my presumed anonymity to discuss things I might not reveal in person. I suspect that nobody that reads this blog knows me in real-life, so the fact they could put a real name and location to my posts is less disturbing. In essence, I would remain to them an online entity, only with a different screen name.
[I realize that any link of your real name to a screen name it may leak back to real-world contacts]
Fear of what?
The second question asks why such revelation might be uncomfortable. For some it might be due to views expressed. Those views could be unpopular or impolite for your social group, the kind of thing you would not utter in undiluted form for fear of causing offence or ostracization) For some it might be due to personal stories shared. In those cases the stories may cause loss of respect or status amongst your social group.
For me it is the second type. I am careful when expressing views that might not be “acceptable” but do not completely hide them either. Prudence might mean I do not come out swinging but I will not hide in the corner either. My personal stories are not all ones of social success, and as such, I would be less likely to share them. I would worry that on reading this blog, anyone who knew me would move me from reserved/nice/quiet column to the weird/loser column. Such a loss of status would not be a good thing.
Friends or Family?
If such views or stories could cause you embarrassment or loss of status, amongst which group? Which is worse, your friends knowing, your family knowing, or your professional group knowing?
For me all three could cause problems. My views (HBD etc.) could be a problem with employers. Corporate liberalism is the blandest of all “ideologies.” It is not even an ideology but a list of things that may or may not be expressed.
While nobody (friends or family) that knows me would ever imagine me the cool player, I would prefer to not explicitly make clear to them just how uncool and playrish I am. As families, we like to think our kin reflects well on us, I would not like to bring embarrassment to my family. Likewise, we want to assume that our friends are similar to us and will not embarrass us. Uncool stories could also cause a form of de-selection amongst female member of the group (and their friends), and a man always likes to leave his options open.
Over to you.
Now it is your turn. Do you care about anonymity and why?