Posting with my real name

[I just wrote this over at The City Beat. I’m still working through some things.]

Ben T., Information Architects had some good things to say about posting comments with your real name.

I go back and forth on this, and I think it’s a really interesting topic. For one, I like knowing what I said, and now that Google has just about everything I’ve ever written on the Internet, if I always posted with my real name, I could go back and check up on it. So could other people, and this is what irks me about myself: do I want other people to be able to dredge up what I’ve said? A lot of it’s opinion, some of it’s having fun, and some of it reflects me having a bad day, or a bad year (I started blogging in high school, which means all sorts of “angry at the world” stuff.

What bothers me is that I have a problem with that. Shouldn’t I be able to stand behind everything I say, or everything I’ve ever said? I think I should, and yet I still post under a (normally transparent) pseudonym. I know that I want to be proud of everything I say, but it seems like things get blown way out of proportion online, compared to in person. If we met in person and I said “I’m just so pissed off, I’m never eating pickles again” (or something more serious), you could tell that I was momentarily pissed off, and that I probably would eat pickles again. Online, words have staying power, and no matter what you were thinking when you wrote them (“I hate you, I hope you die”), they can get dredged up by someone else and used against you.

This is possible to do in real life as well, but then when I say “I wasn’t serious, I was having a bad day,” how can you believe me, and how can I believe you when you say “I understand, we all have bad days sometimes”?

I’ve said some pretty stupid things in my life, online and off, and I’m trying to stop doing that (things like insulting people because they disagree with me). I’ve found that it’s immensely helpful to post under my real name, because it prevents me from going off half-cocked.

Another question is whether or not I want to have an online presence at all. For someone as opinionated and communicative (sometimes) as I am, that’s a simple question to answer, but things are much more difficult online than they are in person, because you’re interacting with a much larger number of people.

I also forgot to mention that it seems weird to me that people use “throwaway” identities rather than a standard alter ego. If I did that, I’d forget what I wrote if I went back and read something again. Maybe that’s another issue: I go back and read things again, while others seem to do drive-by postings, where they drop their opinion, run, and never look back to see if anyone had something to say in reply. Why post if you don’t want to hear what the other person has to say?

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