Sunday, November 22, 2009

Superheroes Aside, What's in a Secret Identity?

Ever since a friend asked me about why I chose anonymity with my blog, I have been thinking about the concept of identity inside the internet. Because users have multiple email accounts, and whatever idiosyncratic or impulsive pseudonyms, their public personae on websites are fractured. Consciously and unconsciously. With and without purpose. It is something I normally take for granted and participate in.

I added my name to my blog, basically on the faith that my friend sees more clearly than me. My well rationalized argument for anonymity, was in fact, easily defeated via the question why?

I would enjoy being read. And I sure wouldn’t mind growing the part of me that exists outside my fairly pointless job(which is not anonymous in face-to-face land). How ‘me’ is it, when I purposely set up buffers and walls? Why would I keep more important parts of me secret?

There is a feature in many websites, where when you comment, you are asked for your website. If you offer it, it ends up highlighted as a link attached to your pseudonym. So, now that my blog is explicitly attached to my name, linking my anonymous participation on another website to the blog, I am no longer anonymous. At first this presented me a conundrum. Thinking about the dilemma allowed me to see for the first time how absurd it was, and how pointless. How self-destructive. Destructive of the self.

[The only place I might wish anonymity(other than some lurid porn site), might be if I was communicating about something violent or revolutionary, somewhere that might get flagged. In that case, it’s not the casual reader following links that I am avoiding. I would need to mask my bandwidth trail—something I know nothing about. I have thought about it casually. Derrick Jensen(who I read thoughtfully) has a forum and people on it discuss ways to take down civilization. Mostly wanking, but do I want to be linked to it? ]

Otherwise, how am I served by voluntarily divorcing myself from my own discourse? In an alienated world, how am I served by deliberate isolation during the pseudosocial interactions of internet chatter?

Normally, when I express myself on the net, I am not saying anything I am afraid will be associated with me. Of course there is the question of someone building a profile based on all my activity. Were that I was so important to anyone. And again, if anyone cared to examine, those links are all under the shiny carpet regardless of my email or clever nom de plume.

So, this bold step of saying, ‘my name is Robert, this is what I think’, has brought back my senses about identity. Personal identity, not fractured technological meta-identity. And not really so bold a move. Our civilization excelled in fracturing our identities even before the internet came along. Do I really want to add to that psychosis?

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