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
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:
Having experienced social media as both "real name" and now as a pseudonym, I've found far more differences than I'd have thought, all good
— Seriouspony (@seriouspony) November 1, 2013
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!