Saturday, November 14, 2009

Masks, Hot or Not

“Why do you use your real name?”

Eventually most people who read my blog ask me this question. We all read other blogs written under pseudonyms, be they  a goddess or another fictional name. Many commenters also use pseudonyms. Working behind the veil of a screen name allows people to discuss things with candor; otherwise they might not feel free to open up for fear of reprisal or embarrassment.Venice carnival masks

Within my world of academic medicine, most bloggers hide their identity, at least to some degree. Some posts, although pseudonymous, include the author’s identity, or enough clues to figure it out. Others work hard to separate their real name from their blogosphere self.

Online identity is one of the first thing a new blogger decides. My own rationale for blogging came about because of my work. In starting a new magazine for the American Society of Nephrology, I needed to learn about social media and the role it could play with traditional media. The best way to learn this stuff is to jump in and do it. It did not make sense to have an anonymous online identity when I wanted these activities to compliment stuff I do offline under my real name.

Isis has posted her rules for pseudonymous blogging:

Anyone who could fire me/prevent my career advancement knows about my blog. I write with the knowledge that they may be reading it.  Some of them do.

I never, ever, ever write about my students.  Ever.

I never write about a colleague without their knowledge.  My immediate colleagues and collaborators know about my blog. 

I never write things about another scientist that I would not say to them openly and in public.

I don't divulge top secret MRU-related stuff.

These are good rules for any blogger no matter how they handle their identity, and ones to which I generally adhere. Given these rules, I feel completely comfortable being “out” on the web. Occasionally I get snarky, but not in a way that will cause irreparable harm to myself or my relationships.

I still remember the sense of freedom I felt when I turned 40. About that age I realized that other people really could not do that much to harm me. I bring that same attitude online now. Of course, I still have enough fear to give proper attribution to the photo-art supplier… cause FWDAOTI is cool, but stealing intellectual property is not.

Photo courtesy of PhotoXpress.

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