Scalzi posted today about the rather bizarre sockpuppetry of Scott Adams. (Go read there if you’re not familiar with the background on this one.)
Naturally, given that I just started this shiny, new blog as an alternative to my myriad other intarweebs presences, this does make me slightly uncomfortable. I would never do the kind of stupid sockpuppetry Adams did (creating an account for the primary purpose of fanboying oneself) but I do “hide” behind my relative anonymity in other spaces, and I spose that might make some folks think I’m inherently dishonest or something.
Zuckerberg went off about this a while back, implying that it’s dishonest to not share one’s entire online life with the whole world. He was basically implying that having different internet personae for different audiences is just as bad as carrying fake passports or something. Which… No. (Personally, I think he was just trying to avoid having to spend company money/effort on the work to allow people to filter FB content.)
Whether a given alternate identity is bad depends entirely on to what use one is putting it. If you’re using it, as Adams did, to blow up your own skirts, yeah, bad. Same with committing actual crimes of fraud or stalking or whatever. Misrepresenting yourself to gain people’s trust for nefarious purposes is, and will always be wrong no matter what format that misrepresentation takes.
But having a pseudonym for, say, gaming? No reason that should be a problem. Especially if you’re a woman and don’t want creepy gamer boyz to know who you really are, faking it is not just understandable, but the smart thing to do. Likewise for anyone who’s at risk of being stalked. People shouldn’t have to shut down their entire online lives in order to keep themselves safe from an abusive ex. Celebs who would like to have some online time in which they’re not besieged by the pestering public should have that chance, too.
Even beyond such obvious uses, there are plenty of other reasons for different usernames here and there. In my case, for instance, there’s a lot of not-appropriate-for-polite-company material attached to my primary handle, and that’s not necessarily something I want to put my professional name on. I’m not ashamed that I do fanfic and vids, but I’m not going to put them on my CV, either. Unless one would argue that Spielberg ought to list his home movies on IMDB, one shouldn’t argue that any professional should publicize all of his or her personal life activities.
Also, I seriously doubt everyone reading my cerebral spew here is going to want to read my bellyaching about personal issues, so I restrict such babble to spaces that are limited to people who do want to read such things. I seriously doubt my present or future boss wants to know the reason I’m having surgery in a few weeks, but my personal friends do, so I tell them in spaces restricted to them.
All of us have some skeletons in our closets that we don’t want to show the neighbors. Unless those skeletons have a direct bearing on what one does above board, there’s no reason to drag them out and dust them off for everyone who shows up on the doorstep. A “family values” politician hiring rentboys? Yeah, that’s some caginess that ought not to be approved. But some other politician who doesn’t campaign on morality shouldn’t have to discuss the gory details of what she gets up to in the bedroom with her husband. My senators are doing perfectly well representing me in government. I really don’t care if they roleplay Brangelina in their spare time.
In short, it’s not the deceptiveness or secrecy itself that’s a problem, but the reasons for it.
And now, my fic readers await my next sordid opus…