In this post, I mentioned that I had decided to use a pseudonym online to put out my political and philosophical thoughts. The central reason for this was the fear of being cancelled and potentially hurting my career and employment. Recently I’ve been rethinking this and decided to abandon the pseudonym and use my real name instead, let me tell you why.
Why I’m Going to Use My Real Name
As I started rethinking the pseudonym decision, I wondered why people use anonymous accounts on the Internet. This article came up in the search results, where the journalist had the same curiosity, and she went out and interviewed some people who use a pseudonym on the Internet regularly. The principle reasons that came up were
- For awkward and socially inept teens who struggle to make friends, these alt accounts can be useful outlets; they can comfortably be themselves and be confident in their own skin.
- For some, the reasons are political; maybe they have some extreme political views, or maybe they just don’t want their friends and family to know their political viewpoints, and inadvertently ruin the relationships. Or it might be something more nefarious, such as sockpuppeting and astroturfing.
- For people struggling with mental health, sexual issues, or issues that have some stigma attached to it, an alt account can be a good medium to discuss these issues and explore these emotions.
- Sometimes people just want to vent, and they might not have a good enough support system in their life. For them, alt accounts can be space for venting and having someone to listen to.
- For people who have sensitive or public-facing jobs—such as government officials and political journalists—maintaining a professional image in their public social media accounts is a necessity. They can use anonymous accounts as an indulgence, for not-so-professional things.
But for most people, the motivations for using pseudonyms boil down to some mental health or personal crisis.
As I went through these, I realized that all of these are very valid reasons, but none of these applies to me. I knew that I had to clearly figure out my personal motivations for doing this whole thing—blogging, being online and putting out my thoughts out there—in the first place. Realizing that the above motivations don’t apply to me was definitely a start, because understanding what something is not can be one of the best ways to understand the thing itself. As I introspected a bit more, my motivations became clearer;
- I want to engage in discourses around political, philosophical or social issues; genuinely and authentically. I don’t want to hide behind layers of irony all the time. I’ll admit circle-jerking and trolling might be fun sometimes, but it doesn’t get us anywhere. Most of the anonymous political Twitter I’ve seen so far end up doing just that, and I don’t want to be a part of that.
- But I can do the above as an anon also, why use my real name? The answer is skin in the game, if I may borrow Dr. Taleb’s term. When someone puts his contrarian ideas out there using his real identity, he has his reputation—something genuine—to lose. He has his skin in the game. And that carries a certain weight, people tend to take him more seriously.
- I want to meet interesting people, get to know them, have interesting discussions, and so on. I don’t prefer the medium of the Internet for discussions, I prefer real-life conversations a lot more. The Internet is only a medium for my thoughts to be out there so that like-minded people can find me and reach out to me. And that won’t be possible if I hide behind an anonymous face.
- I want to make my online activities as less time-consuming as I can. Maintaining multiple personas seems to only take up more bandwidth, and eventually, it becomes a source of stress and anxiety.
- Most importantly, I want to build a sense of personal identity through all of these, these should be a process for me as well as others to get to know myself. I’m realizing that one of the main reasons I didn’t end up writing much in this blog because I subconsciously thought it was pointless, as it wasn’t getting attributed to the real me anyway.
Other than that, I mostly agree with everything Jacob Falkovich said tackling the same issue in this blog post.
I’m going to keep using my eponymous website sumit-ghosh.com for my portfolio as a software developer, and for my technical articles related to programming and computers. This blog, okrefusal.com, will be used as a catch-all space for more random musings; it’ll be more personal and human than the former one. I’ll also move the non-technical posts I have on sumit-ghosh.com to here.