Sunday, November 03, 2013

Multiple Interests and Social Networks

My Tungsten Hippo post this week is a housekeeping one: it is a description of the social networks on which I'm active as Tungsten Hippo. "Active"  is of course a relative term: there are only so many hours in the day, and I spend only a small fraction of them on social networks. However, I do post somewhat regularly on all the networks I list in my post, so if you're interested in books and reading-related things, you might be interested in the things I post as Tungsten Hippo on the various social networks. I cross-post and/or retweet only a very small number of them as Wandering Scientist, because I don't want to overwhelm the people who are following Wandering Scientist for the things I usually write about here, namely science, technology, improving how we work, parenting, and the interesting things that happen when you smash all of those things together.

One of the things that I find interesting about social networks is the way they allow us to either separate our interests or not. For a long time, I resisted the urge to separate the different aspects of me. The initial decision point came when I started reading both parenting and science blogs online. Would I have distinct identities on the two types of blogs, or just one? I decided to have just one, thinking that it might be useful for those two aspects of my online personality to mix.

Long time readers will remember that I set up a separate online identity once before, to discuss gun regulations. I kept that going for a little less than six months. I stopped using those accounts not because I stopped caring about gun-related issues, but because using those accounts was draining my energy and happiness away. There is a subset of gun fans who are just downright unpleasant people to interact with if you do not agree with them. I do not think this is a majority of people who enjoy guns, or even a majority of people who are adamantly opposed to any additional gun regulations. But this subset is out there, and they are incredibly unpleasant. Using the account I set up for discussing gun regulations, I was called names and belittled. I was subjected to emails that I can only describe as pure, distilled hatred. They certainly never listened to any ideas I expressed, just reacted to my refusal to agree with them. Thankfully, they never figured out I was a woman, or I am sure there would have been the usual expressions of online misogyny in there, too.

I have no idea if that account did any good for anyone else, but it was not doing me any good. Logging in to it made me feel nervous and sad. So I abandoned it. My original idea was to read the research and look for solutions. But the solutions in this case are actually pretty obvious (sorry, they are) and well-supported by evidence, and most countries in the world have already implemented them. What is needed in the US is advocacy to overcome the obstacles to implementing the solutions, and it quickly became clear to me that I am not the right person for that sort of work. I do still occasionally tweet out things about gun regulations as Wandering Scientist, so I guess this is a case where I tried to separate aspects of my identity and then ended up bringing them back together. However, I will almost certainly never engage with the gun fans as Wandering Scientist. I do not want that venom here, both because I do not want to pollute my happy little community here and because I am not anonymous enough here to feel safe in inviting the attention of those sorts of people, who seem a bit unhinged and are by definition armed.

Anyway, my point here is not to bash the minority of gun fans who are vicious and lacking in the ability to discuss things with people who disagree with them. It is to think about online identities, and when to keep them separate and when to let them merge.

Since Tungsten Hippo is a distinct project that I want to use to learn about various things, including online marketing, I've decided to keep it separate. Logging into my Tungsten Hippo accounts doesn't make me feel stressed or unhappy- quite the opposite, actually- so it is unlikely I will abandon them like I did the gun regulations discussion accounts. Maybe at some point in the future, I will reference my Wandering Scientist accounts from the Tungsten Hippo accounts, but for right now, I am keeping the references unidirectional and selective. It will be interesting to see what I decide to do in the future if when Tungsten Hippo finds its own legs.

I also find it interesting that while I now have an active online presence under two pseudonyms, I am not active at all under my real name. I don't even have a Facebook page, which is something that is hindering me a bit as I try to figure out how to use Facebook to promote Tungsten Hippo. I do have a LinkedIn account, but I just use it to store my professional history and network. I do not post there.

I am definitely more comfortable online under a pseudonym, although I do not go to great lengths to make it hard to connect my real life name with the pseudonym. As I've said before, if anyone who knows me in real life finds this blog, they'll recognize me in an instant. I always assume that my coworkers read everything I write (although as far as I know, they have not found my blog). I know my parents read my posts, and I like that. But still, I like the pseudonym, and doubt I will ever give it up.

I was intrigued by this tweet from @Seriouspony:




I am hoping she eventually writes one of her excellent but infrequent blog posts on the topic, because I'd love to read her thoughts on why a pseudonym is better. I can't explain it. Maybe she can.

Do you have multiple online identities? Why or why not? Do you use a pseudonym or your name? Talk to me about social media identities in the comments!

24 comments:

  1. Anonymous6:16 AM

    Hi Cloud, since I went offline I have been writing my blog just for myself. It is largely a mommy blog now where I chronicle my family's activities. I found it hard to maintain my Dr. Seuss pseudonom and after any length of time it is hard to stay anonymous. What I picked up from this post is the importance of surrounding oneself with a "happy community." Groups filled with discontentment, anger etc spread the unhappiness like a contagious disease. I tend to soak up the energy of the group and it puts me in a bad mood. So here's to happy little communities. - dr. s

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    1. Yes- it took me far too long to really understand that I do not have to listen to or hang out with people who disapprove of me and/or make me unhappy, even online.

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  2. I have a pseudonym that I use online for most of my commenting - I don't have my own blog. I started commenting on blog related to my profession (academia) and I wanted to be as anonymous as possible. So, as you may know, I comment at Nicole and Maggie's blog under my pseudonym because I found their blog via an academic blog where I use my pseudonym. I found your blog, in contrast, via Ask Moxie, where it always felt safe to use my relatively common first name. I don't do a ton of commenting though, because I am very fussy about my happy little communities, as @Dr. S describes. I don't want to engage in a nasty fight with anyone. If I ever started a blog, it would definitely be pseudonymous. People talk about the smallness of the internet, but I grew up in a tiny rural town (no stop lights!), where someone you knew was inevitably in the next aisle over in the food market as you were talking about her. So I am generally paranoid about surveillance culture. Small towns - The Original Big Brother.

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  3. We started off using Nicole and Maggie separately on our own pre-blog, but now we put them together to make it even more confusing, especially on the academic blogosphere.

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    1. I think you guys are the only shared identity I follow. That is an entirely different approach, and has its own set of interesting things to consider. I know some people are really interested in knowing which of you is writing, for instance.

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    2. Sometimes I can't tell who left a comment, except that I don't remember leaving it.

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    3. P.s. I'm the one who likes mushrooms.

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  4. I've always been myself online (sometimes you have to dig a layer or two to find out who that is, but not very far). I first set up a website in 1999 with my own name on it, so it's always seemed to me to be beside the point to have a pseudonym.

    I do have separate personal/professional blogs -- one the former I write essays about things that interest me; on the latter I write about things that have to do with librarianship. Back in 2005 having a blog was a big deal in the library world (or in some tiny subsection of it), and it seemed important to have a space that was just for that. There are very few pseudonymous library bloggers that I know of -- we're usually sharing ideas as part of our professional work, as we conceive it, and it we often want to point each other's work.

    I'm always slightly off put by pseudonyms, but, clearly, not so much that I don't read blogs that use them. :)

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    1. I can't speak for others who use pseudonyms, but one of the reasons I use one is that although the things I write about here should not have an impact on my hireability (yeah, I made up that word), in my male-dominated field, it is quite possible that they would. For instance, people who already know me know that I've stayed productive after having kids. A new potential employer who is googling me to see what he finds out might not assume that to be true.

      I find I care less about this as my kids get older (and I write less about them), but now my online identity is established, and I see no reason to change.

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  5. Alexicographer6:50 PM

    My story is similar to Erin's: I've posted under two pseudonyms, neither tremendously creative, on infertility and now mothering blogs (one preceded my current one). I think of yours as the latter and came here I think through Ask Moxie, though it may have been the Grumpies, certainly it's from Moxie that I first got to know you. So I use that name here. On blogs I arrived at and/or think of as PF blogs (including the Grumpies'), I use a different pseudonym. Ironically, the latter's more "impersonal" / less related to my actual identity, but it's also one that for reasons I won't spell out here but that are pretty obvious to anyone thinking through this is actually more readily linked to the real me (certainly not less readily linked).

    Doing this seems silly, at times, as the two worlds so clearly overlap. I want to post things like, "Like what I described over at ..." but then I don't want the identities more clearly linked, so I don't. But my commenting style and my life details are sufficiently recognizable that I assume it's obvious to anyone reading examples of both regularly (e.g. you, the Grumpies) that the two are linked (though this may suggest I think I am a greater source of interest than I in fact am. It's mostly the assumption that no one's much interested in me that leaves me not overly concerned, or even pensive, about all this).

    I tend to stay logged in to google now to access my calendar and gmail with my REAL real identity, not to be confused with either of the sets of pseudonyms I use for blogs, and it annoys me that because of the way google sets these things up, I have to remember NOT to comment using my actual full name on your blog or half a dozen others (i.e. not to comment with my "google account," though there is one linked to my name here, that's not my "real" one). I have occasionally messed that up (not here, I don't think), and it annoys me when I do, and that it's so easy to do.

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    1. You used to comment on us as a lexicographer!

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    2. Alexicographer7:05 AM

      Did I?! Not intentionally, I don't think, but I definitely sometimes autofill (or whatever) plugs something in. Or maybe I did that on purpose and have since forgotten. Darned personalities!

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    3. Yeah, from time to time I idly wondered whatever happened to her. :) (She used to give good comments)

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    4. Alexicographer6:10 PM

      Ha ... too bad that other lax commenter replaced her ;) .

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    5. I dunno, Debbie m might beat you out this year... It has been quiet!

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  6. @Erin, @Alexicographer- I find it interesting that you both are in both the Ask Moxie group and the Nicoleandmaggie group! And that you both have different identities in the two circles. Although, I guess I considered doing that at one point (see the linked posts above), so it isn't really surprising.

    I agree that it would be nice if Google let you more easily toggle between identities. The big media companies seem to think this is a "bad thing" to allow, but I think they are wrong and are missing something fundamental about how some people (maybe particularly women?) use online identities. I wonder, would they "get it" if they had more women in decision making positions? Or maybe there is a generational component, and the younger women aren't so into pseudonyms? Lots of interesting things to think about there...

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    1. Alexicographer8:28 PM

      Yeah, it's funny, because I also have two separate real identities, though I do not try to keep them separate (that is I don't make any effort at all to hide the existence or be discrete about the existence of both. One is my work identity, which is MyFirstName + MyMaidenName, and the other is my "social/family" identity, which is MyFirstName + MyHusband'sName (which is also my legal name, actually, though that was a dumb move logistically as it has flummoxed some, but not all, employers to have my paycheck issued to a name other than the name on my SS card). So I have two separate google accounts (they are linked, my bloggy one is not linked to either of those), two separate FB accounts, and so on. It makes my life simpler -- I need my FB work identity because I do sometimes have to use FB for work stuff or will choose to use it to communicate with a colleague who uses it (I am not a FB fan, but don't imagine I can overcome the borg, so...), and I use FB a bit to communicate with some casual friends and extended family. It's not that I want to hide my family identity from my work or vice versa but neither do I imagine that each is interested in the other, nor that it would be professional (in the work case) to have frequent updates about my son's activities. So I much prefer having the two separate, but if I didn't have two actually separate names, I think setting that up would be more complicated? Silly. IMHO!

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    2. Cloud, it is interesting! In my case, I didn't find the Grumpies via Moxie or via you - I can to the two sites through completely separate streams.

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    3. @Alexicographer- you are right, it would be nice to be able to have distinct accounts for personal and professional, even under your real name. There is an old joke that Facebook has never gotten anyone a job, but it has lost people jobs. I suspect that is changing now, but having sat in many, many hiring committee meetings, I think some hiring managers are really looking for reasons to exclude candidates, to make their decision easier.

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    4. Anonymous3:36 PM

      My husband works in something peripherally related and he says the multiple identity issue support is a combination of technical challenge and legal concerns about being open to lawsuits if something gets mislinked as a result of the technical challenges. I do wonder, though, whether having more women in tech would cause people to prioritize solving the challenges differently. I've thought about that with privacy and image tagging as well.

      I have two separate online identities because I perform in bawdy vaudeville shows. While I don't think it would take anyone who cared long at all to connect my real name to my stage name, I do occasional Google checks to make sure that it takes effort. I don't want my stage life to cost me a job, which it totally could. As I do more performance wise, this is becoming more of a difficult balancing act, which is frustrating. I have a love/hate relationship with social networking due to all of this.

      Miriam

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  7. I've been commenting everywhere as hush for several years now. Wanting to be myself with a bunch of strangers but wanting to avoid embarrassing my family and friends in the process seemed like a good reason for anonymity. "Be brave enough to tell your own truth but be kind enough not to tell someone else's" and all that.

    For folks who want to put their name and face all over a blog, consider it as marketing. It is therefore not a place to vent, speculate about sensitive stuff, or make enemies. It is an extension of you, your brand, or your business. Laura Vanderkam is one of the few real name bloggers who gets this right.

    If you go anonymous you have more latitude to be critical of customers, or to get things wrong, to talk about things outside your professional interest or expertise, to try a different persona, or to just be straight up unprofessional as I have been known to be um, many, many times. It would be a mistake to think that if you pique people's interest or ire significantly that you could stay anonymous so blowback on your professional reputation still matters - and it sounds like you intuited that perfectly when you chose to use a new identity under which to discuss guns - so you have great instincts!

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    1. Yeah, I was more careful to keep the gun regulations account truly anonymous. But it was still me reading the garbage that came back at me, so in the end, it wasn't worth it.

      There are definitely things I don't write about here because I am not anonymous enough, but I can live with that.

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  8. This post and comments have been very interesting to read. When I started blogging in 2005, it didn't even occur to me to use a pseudonym. IRL and online, I'm pretty open, and my main use of social media is actually to keep in touch with my real-life friends, rather than make new online ones, so it just made more sense for me to use my real name.

    I totally get wanting to keep work completely separate, and I've thought about that a bit, so I don't write anything anywhere I wouldn't say in person. In fact I am Facebook "friends" with several of my past managers, even while I was working for them.

    My opinion is that if something I wrote is going to convince someone not to hire me, I probably wouldn't be happy working there anyway. If/when I get desperate for a job, I'll rethink this :)

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  9. I comment with a pseudonym on work/life/parenting/women-in-science blogs. I twitter as myself about work. I don't have a blog, but have been thinking about starting one. I hadn't occurred to me to blog under a pseudonym, because part of the reason I would blog would be to talk about work, and it makes sense that it be linked to me. But I think the idea of being myself on a blog holds me back from actually starting it. As hush said, when you make a mistake, it's immediately linked to you. Perhaps a pseudonym is a good way to start. A way to find your voice and refine your 'brand' and learn that making mistakes either is a big deal or it isn't.

    For the issue of the Google/Facebook automatic login, I use different browsers to log in to different accounts. Safari for regular browsing. Firefox for Facebook. Chrome for Google (calendars and Google docs). Then FB or Google can't track my browsing history as easily either. This works pretty well for me and my semi-paranoid, but not as paranoid as they should be, privacy concerns. Admittedly I still have FB and Google accounts and search with Google. I need to switch over to Duck Duck Go for search at least.

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