Friday, 25 January 2008

Internet anonymity

I got my sister to pick an internet pseudonym the other day. My real sister, that is, not Tie. After I explained why it was important to me, she chose April. She doesn't have much of an internet presence at the moment, but I do, and I guess I'm doing it to protect her as well as me.

It's gradually become quite important to me to keep this identity separate from my name. I put a lot of myself into the angel Jean, and I've started really thinking about how to control the links between this and my real life.

Ideally, I want the flow to be one-way. I want my real name, address, place of work etc to be private, while this blog and my internet identity are completely public. And I'm happy for friends of mine to come here knowing who I am.

But I realise that you can't keep factual information secret, and so my personal information is probably out there on the Internet somewhere. There is probably a list or a web-page that links my name to my occupation and place of work. My address is on the Australian electoral roll. If you know my name, you could probably look up my phone number in the Yellow Pages. All of this information is available to people who don't know a thing about who I am. (I know this because I get telemarketers asking for me by name. :P)

What I really want to avoid is people going from my internet presence to my real life, without my control. I know for a fact that they can; a dear friend of ours that Smith and I know through the MUD once sent flowers to Smith's place of work - and as far as I know he hadn't told her where that was. Now, with her, I don't mind at all, but still ... it can be done. And all because she knows his full name and some facts about him.

And, as I've become aware over the years, if you put enough of your personality out there, you will engender dislike. I like to think of myself as inoffensiveness personified, but of course it's not true. You may also encounter envy, obsequiousness and stalker behaviour (I have). All of which make it a good idea to limit access to my personal details.

Part of this is because yes, I do, and always will put my personality out there. As the angel Jean, I talk to people I would never otherwise meet. While some people come from similar social backgrounds to mine, I have also talked to former street kids who are stealing internet access from their neighbours, working mothers both struggling and settled, members of military organisations, and people established in middle- and upper management of large corporations. I'm a story junkie, so I listen to everyone. When it comes to message board forums, I happily chat to strangers and express my views. And I link this blog. But I don't want all these people to know how to find me, and so, I take very good care not to use my name or my picture.

I also protect the identity of my friends, as well as those who might comment here. I can't really insist on pseudonyms, I guess, all I can do is encourage them, but I do try very hard not to use people's names. There's an extended rationale behind this, but it's somewhat questionable in itself and full of hypotheticals, so I'll just say for now that that's what I do.

Anyway, please be mindful of this concept at least, if you decide to post here, and maybe as you travel the internet. And I recommend the Internet itself - there are lots of stories to be had there!

the angel Jean

No comments:

Post a Comment

Glad to hear from you!

the angel Jean