Thursday, January 12, 2006

Why I use my real name

One of the first questions every aspiring blogger must ask themselves is, "Should I use my real name?" For about 90 percent, that question is quickly answered with "Oh, hell no!" Because frankly, blogging can be a risky proposition in terms of disseminating personal information and political views. Not to mention that most people lean toward paranoia anyway (or, at the very least, enjoy creating an alternate persona via a pseudonym). Indeed, pseudonyms are their own identity in a way; when I mention phizz, murph, oyster or Flamingo Jones, regular readers know that I refer to four distinct personalities with different outlooks. Some of my non-blogging friends comment occasionally; I leave my anonymous option open for that reason.

However, some users take this anonymity too far, as evidenced by this startling-on-its-face news item that, if upheld in the courts, would allow stiff penalties for anyone caught harassing or spamming others online without establishing an identity. Like with most new laws, there are about 4,000 things wrong with it, not the least of which is how an anonymous troll would be caught or what constitutes a troll in the first place. Which is just one reason why I'm not as paranoid about this law as other bloggers who have already commenced disclosing personal information.

So why, then, do I choose to offer my real name? Believe me, it isn't because the federal government wanted me to! In my case, I had several reasons for using my real name as my handle:

--I view this blog as a hangout for cool people to discuss pertinent (or not) issues of the day. As long as we're all friends here, I offer to you an accurate picture of who I am, and Ian McGibboney is my identity. For almost 26 years, I have been my own aesthetic; people have long said my name and nodded with recognition: "Oh, yeah, that guy" (and yes, that's deliberately ambiguous). I've had only one sustained nickname in my entire life, "Icon," which Nick still calls me; people tell me all the time that my real name is distinctive enough. I'm rarely mistaken for anyone else and have often been recognized on the spot by someone who hasn't seen me in a decade. For whatever reason, the things I do resonate with people and always have.

--For most of the past 10 years, I have been published regularly in a variety of media. I am long accustomed to having my name and picture attached to news and other provocative material. Consequently, I have also weathered the range of praise and criticism that comes with the territory. And whereas many bloggers do not specialize in the editorial field or otherwise work in fields where a blog might have an adverse effect on their employment, I offer mine as a digital portfolio to anyone who values such an effort (be they an employer or just an interested reader). I speak for no one but myself; consequently, I do speak my mind about the world.

Has using my real name had some negative consequences? Probably. But ultimately, I think that doing so was ultimately the right decision for me. And I believe that that decision should be remain a personal one, and should never be coerced by the government or other suppressing body. The potential suppression of free speech isn't worth it.

10 comments:

jenny said...

i'm sorry to say, but the phrase "land of the free" is getting more and more difficult to swallow.

and as for using ones own name; i agree totally with your conclusion. for me it has always been the right decision not to use my whole name (jenny is my real one). since i'm in teaching and kids do google their teachers' names. :)

Murph said...

Sometimes I wish I would just "come out", as it were, but now it has to be for some kind of reason, which will hopefully materialize someday.

Does it help that my nome de plume is older than my blog and established elsewhere on the internet?

Flamingo Jones said...

I'm with murph...my nickname pre-dates the blog as well and has been used for any number of things.

And, like jenny...i wouldn't want students (or parents) googling my name and freaking out. They freak out about far less important things than a blog, so you know it'd happen.

As it is, people probably know too much about me already, even with a pseudonym.

I don't like censorship. And I don't agree with this law at all. Although, I do believe that the increased anonymity the internet has provided has also led to a proportional increase in assholic behavior. People are a lot shittier to other people when there is no accountability. But I guess that's the price we pay.

One huge flaw I see right away (It's probably flaw #3479) is that it's meant to prevent cyberstalking, right? Well, couldn't it have the opposite outcome? If someone is forced to disclose their full name, a simple internet search can reveal addresses, phone numbers, employers, etc.

I totally respect your independent decision to use your full name. But personally, the day the government actually forces me to tag everything I post on the internet with my real name is the day I stop posting anything on the internet. Period. For now, I'm not going to worry about it because to my knowledge, I've not been harassing anyone. Use too broad of a definition of "annoying" though, and you might as well lock me up now.

Nick said...

Yeah, I think this new law is horseshit. Personally, anonymous comments do irritate me, but what can you do? I don't think you should be able to force people to reveal who they are. Plus, in situations for women like jenny and Flammingo, we have too many phycos in this world. If I was a girl I wouldn't use my full real name.

My fiance has this wierd habit of liking to Google her friends. So, after we went out on our first date, she googled me. She already knew that I ran track in college. However, she didn't know about my blog where I enjoyed posting my "crazy" ideas. Well, since I've used my full name once or twice on my blog, she got to find out. Different family members who like to google their last name, "Bouterie", also got to discover that I had another hobby than just running and fishing. Most of them have always at least held traditional views, so it didn't really make any of them upset. They don't ever like to comment though. They just read and ask me about it later.

Jester said...

And here we all thought it was because you were trying to get someone to hire you. Have you ever approached the possibility that your real name being on this site might be (at least) part of the reason you're unemployed? Just thinkin'.

Ian McGibboney said...

Jester, I think about that all the time. But here's the deal:

1) Any job worth striving for will want to see something like this. Why? Because I want to do stuff like this for a living. If an employer uses my blog against me, it means they're exercising prejudicial factors because I don't discuss work or previous bosses on here, only my opinions and satire on current events. I'm not any more or less opinionated than most people, just more able to own up to it. Smart people of any belief will respect that, and have numerous times in the past.

2) Companies such as IBM are encouraging blog use this way, because it allows the user to metaphorically "take back their name." Some people were having things they said years ago on various message boards biting them back on the ass, as well as others flaming them by name. They said they don't want to work against you, so get a blog or a site and drive the inflammatory stuff down the Google card.

3) I'm proud of my blog. I don't push it on anyone else, and I am forever mindful of the consequences thereof. You don't have to agree with it, but you have to admit that it represents a dedicated work ethic. The amount of correspondence I get (anonymous or otherwise) proves that.

4) When I started this blog, I was working four jobs. I wrote a liberal column for three years, even as I worked for legitimate newspapers. This output of mine was no secret to anybody, and was in fact more autobiographical than this blog has ever been. Most people I know in my position are having the same troubles as I am, without a blog or (gasp) unique political beliefs. I only began having trouble at the same time as everyone else.

5) It's too late to change it. If I went anonymous today, Google caches would still turn up forever. Hell, with moderate effort, you can still turn up older templates and banners. But like I said already, I'm not at all ashamed of anything on here. And I can't imagine that the mostly progressive gigs for which I've applied would have issues with it either.

Joe said...

I work for the state, and so I don't have the luxury of politiacal speech. You read that right. Since I am a state worker, I can't publically endorse candidates. I can't even have a yard sign or a bumper sticker. The government is very worried about corporate and incumbant freedom of speech issues, but they took it away from Louisiana state workers long ago.

Ian McGibboney said...

That's sad, Joe, though it doesn't surprise me. It's the same way with most reporters.

Hell, maybe this blog is really is subconscious attempt to narrow down my career options! I always was indecisive.

Jester said...

You DO realize that I'm just pulling your chain, Ian? You're making it too easy for me : P

PPM said...

you have guts to put your name in public blog. i might not do that