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Rated: 18+ · Column · Technology · #255006
discussion of the use of pseudonyms in everday life - writen under the pseudonym Sophos
The opinions expressed by Sophos are not necessarily the opinions of Sophos.<p>

This piece looks at how things change when you write, work or play under a pseudonym. Writers, to hide their true identity from others that may not appreciate their writings, or to avoid religious and political persecution typically used the pseudonym. That was long before technology came along. Mr. H. H. Munroe obviously new that his short story ‘The Cask of Amontillado’ was going to spark large packs of political subversives to burst into the streets in an effort to destabilize postal routes all over Belgium – thus publishing the story under the pseudonym of Saki. Nowadays pseudonyms or aliases are common everyday items. Most people probably have a dozen or so “identities” when it comes to the online – wired - world. <p>

I use the term ‘identities’ because, depending on what they are for, pseudonyms can take on their own personality within the individual. Something that exists internally, but lives and interacts in a mode totally separate from your real-life interactive avatar that people bump into out on the street. <p>

Computer games make this an even deeper schism with the adventurer character in a fantasy setting that you can name and assign vital statistics to. You can create an appearance for your character that either shows up on-screen while you are playing, or is seen by other creatures/NPCs/PCs in the game. This becomes an online avatar for you in the gaming environment. But in that game, to be ‘in character’ and a party to the adventure, you leverage those stats to actually mentally play as ‘Vlasic the Pickled Monk’. The more you play your character the more you define his persona in your mind as you increase levels, stats, abilities, and gain spells that set that character apart from other characters in the game and your own true self. <p>

In some cases the way that you interact with other characters in the game – be it a multiplayer or massively multiplayer environment – may be different than the way you might interact with that player if it was a real world face-to-face interaction. Usually you would have one of two scenarios. Playing an online game with people that you know in real-life and playing with people you’ve only met in the game. To address the first situation, interactions of your characters “in-game” will be different than how you interact with that person while having lunch at a restaurant. For personally unknown players, you’re more likely to voice your feelings based on their gaming aptitude, than you would be if they were taking 20 minutes in front of you to dig pennies out of the bottom of their purse for a convenience store clerk that doesn’t give a rats ass about ‘exact’ change. Fucking lug it bitch! It’s been floating around in your goddam purse for the last 8 months, why’d you have to pick today to jettison?!? <p>

Moving back to the writing aspect of pseudonyms, people do a lot more writing under pseudonyms as well. Whether it’s your ‘ideflowerchurchgirls@home.com’ e-mail address, or an online forum ID handing out hot stock tips or an online publishing pseudonym such as ‘Sophos’ we have drastically altered the number of planes of communication that people have available to them. People can now be as anonymous or as public about their identities when publishing ideas or opinions than ever before. Not to mention that it is a lot easier to find and create public venues for said ideas and opinions. The Internet provides an unparalleled capability for people to select how public or private their identity is independently of how public or private they want their ideas to be. <p>

“Hey sweetheart! Beelzebubsodomizer has a keen perspective on the possible methods that African warlords may be trading Cisco stock for armaments from modern Dutch slave lords. Apparently the use of whips by African warlords is up 37%.” Yes… well… it isn’t always useful information, but at least it’s out there. Perhaps.<p>

What I have found is that a regular pseudonym that you use to participate in a forum or online publishing venue, can create a personality of it’s own. The personality is either looser with expressing certain ideas and opinions, or that pseudonym amplifies them to a much more extreme level than that person may truly feel in real-life. They could even be the opposite of that person’s true feelings on the subject matter. <p>

As an example we have 4 people here at digiclair.com that are regular contributors to the front-page of the site. Ok, some more regular than others (I promised KARSH I wouldn’t mention any names here, so you can look at the posting histories for yourself – thanks to KARSH). All of us here use a pseudonym to represent ourselves to our reading public. Even though you can determine our real names if you dig deep enough into the website, we publish our articles AS our pseudonyms. Those articles then have a particular flavour or style that in some ways may be specific to that pseudonym. The author may not have written it the same way if it was being written for publication with their real name at the bottom. Take this article for instance. If I wasn’t writing under a pseudonym, a may not have written it at all! Ok, bad example. <p>

I realized an interesting fact recently with our own Digiclair.com site and the ‘personalities’ and the articles posted here. In some cases there is some friendly jibing between the editors within our feature columns (In other cases, we just assume it’s referring to us). The Digiclair staff also get together frequently in person to chat about different things, grab lunch or take in a movie. Yet the jibing and insulting that has been posted to Digiclair.com is rarely if ever mentioned. The digs that we put online as our digital personas are left to be refuted by our digital counterparts and are not taken on by our real selves. Not to say that we don’t jibe each other verbally in person, but it’s completely unrelated to the jibing of our online counterparts. <p>

So it comes down to this – in the digital world of rampant pseudonyms and aliased identities, beware what you read. The ideas and opinions of a person’s pseudonym persona may not match their true feelings and attitudes. Some people may carry many different online personas with their own identities online. In other cases, like our local editor Charon for instance, the online persona may manifest itself into the real person making it almost impossible to detect a difference between the online and offline personalities. So the next time you see a flame or a pseudonym based posting on the Internet, keep in mind that it may not reflect that person’s true feelings or opinions. <p>
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