Pseudonyms and Social Networks

I’m a parent of a teenage daughter and a preteen boy – both of whom are online; I work in the internet industry; I’ve been a victim of a cyber-stalker (or two); I have carefully crafted my own online identity to protect my personal information, sometimes to the detriment of my career which revolves around people knowing who I am and being able to find me.

I was hesitant to put my personal info out on social networking sites, even those sites that attract a more professional crowd (like LinkedIn). Putting the information out there meant it was readily available for whosoever wanted to view it; a frightening concept to say the least. Especially considering my charming experiences with the world of cyber-stalkers. Call me paranoid, but I still haven’t decided to let go of my privacy. Add in the facts that much of my work is done under pseudonyms at the client’s request, and the rest of my pen-named work is out of self preservation (more on that in a moment) and it’s easy to see how any “online presence” of mine could be a fractured entity at best.

This topic came up at work not too long ago, when someone decided to Google me, and came up with a serious mess. Well, they searched my real name. Whoops. Since my first name is also synonymous with a certain college town, and my last is not exactly an uncommon word, literally hundreds of thousands of results, none having anything to do with me, come up. In other words, my given name is what we would call a “highly competitive” keyword. Unless you’re a college, ya aint’ likely to rank real high with it! Heck, Google didn’t even have me on their radar. Switch over to my two most common pseudonyms, or any one of my various cyber-names and you’ll find me. But want to prove that any of those individuals are related to Yours Truly? Or even to each other? Lots of luck!

Basically, I’m riding the edge of a sword – on the good side, my privacy is protected. On the bad, people have a hard time finding me, or associating me with anything of significance. Which sucks when you’re a writer.

However, it’s a chance I’ll take. Why?

Well, remember earlier when I said “More on that in a moment”? Yeah. Well, here’s the “more.”

Though I have a “day job” and have signed (and do not violate) my non-compete and non-disclosure agreements, I do still freelance. Sometimes, that freelancing pokes fun at the very industry in which I work. Who better to satirize something? Also, much of my work relies on humor and sarcasm, often at the expense of those I know (whose names are of course changed to protect the less than innocent). My friends and family are use to this and take it in stride, it’s the rest of my “circle of influence” that I’m not too sure about. How in the world could I possibly continue such behavior if everyone and their brother knew it was me? Why, I’d have to stop writing about a certain coworker who… and that client who… When anonymity is preserved, everyone can pretend it’s not them, and then they can laugh – and learn. Without that anonymity, they get offended instead. Funny how that works.

In short – that layer of distance allows me to continue both my day job and my freelance work, without offending either side. True, there are those who have seen more than one facet, and who know a bit more than most. There are even those who know everything. But they are few and far between. For the most part, my online self is, and shall continue to be, a study in multiple personalities.

This was never quite so apparent as when I asked a trusted friend for advice on my online portfolio. He has known me for years and I trust and value his opinion. Plus, as an educator, he’s uniquely qualified vet my resume as it were. After serious (and mostly positive) constructive criticism, he finally pointed out, “You might actually want to do more than one of these.” His point was well taken. In today’s polarized political climate, it’s easy to see how my wide ranging topics could give an impression of one who lacks passion for anything.

What really cracks me up, however, is that I have all of two photos that I use for any avatar, or icon, or writer’s bio, etc. One looks somewhat studious, the other anything but. It’s amazing how many people have seen both, and never realized they were one and the same person. Of course, most people aren’t expecting to find that the girl who wrote the scathing, and distinctly conservatively leaning piece about firearm rights is the same one who wrote an equally scathing piece of dartwork aimed for the heart of the “Religious Right.” Huh. Go figure.

Maybe one of these days, I’ll haul all of my various selves, personas (grata and non grata alike), characters, pseudonyms, noms de plume (or would it be guerre?), etc out of their proverbial closet and we’ll all have a coming out party. Until then… well… I’ll continue to lead my fractured existence.