I don’t discuss my personal life online much. I might talk about paddling, for instance, and I hope to post a trip report from my January 09 trip to Cambodia and Thailand (with photos, if I can manage it), but mostly I consider my online persona to be -- well -- a persona. People who know me well can read between the lines; as for the rest, I would like to think of my blog as a friendly lanai where people can come hang out on the comfy sofas with maybe some drinks and pupus (appetizers and snacks; it’s the local Hawaiian term), but as I am a fairly reserved person it is not about the inside of my house.
And you know what? I can manage that for one thing because my online persona is a pen-name.
An anonymity, if you will.
If you really care about my real name, you can find it pretty easily--I mention it in my online bio on my web page--but I don’t require or even urge that you do (or urge that you don’t). Online I am the known entity, the writer Kate Elliott. People who know me know who is behind the writing name, and people who don’t know me but know the books know the writing name, which is as much "me" as any other name would be.
But there was a time, when the pen name was first getting launched, where I was sworn to secrecy because my new publisher did not want any association between my new name and my "old" one (I had published a couple of novels under another name; they hadn’t sold well; I was being given a new life as a new author with a new name). I even had to attend several sff conventions and PRETEND that my real name was Kate. In fact, one time, Josepha Sherman called "Kate!" across a table to get my attention and I answered automatically and as unthinkingly as if it were my real name. Weird. Actually, it made us all laugh (because everyone at that table was already in on the joke).
But I digress.
The point is, there was a time when it mattered professionally for me to keep my real name secret. The relaunching of authors under new names is still done, and sometimes writers can be open about it and sometimes publishers ask them to keep it quiet so that the chain bookstores will not order according to the numbers posted by their “old” auctorial names.
So out of my own personal experience, I feel strongly that there can be good reasons for seeking pseudonymity on the internet. Additionally, I admit I have come to prefer the step-back, the sense that I have a public persona and a private one. Is this cowardly of me? I dunno; maybe; so what? As an individual, I’ve always had a public persona and a part of me held aside; as I said, I’m a pretty reserved person although I hope I am friendly and kind.
On live journal many people use pseudonyms, and I totally respect that. I don’t care why they use them. That’s their business, not mine. I am "acquainted with" (online friendly with) people whose real names I don’t know but whose lj handles I do know. For me, that’s just like someone having a nickname. A name in that context still points to a person who is a known quantity, based on (in this case) an online presence I’ve interacted with or read through for months or even years.
I have cherished friends I met online before I met them "in the flesh"--and it doesn’t matter whether I met them online with a real name or with a pseudonymous nickname (which also begs the question: what is a “real” name, anyway, beyond the legal issues involved?). It doesn’t matter to me what name I come to know them under. If their preference is to remain known pseudonymously, then cool. And I say that having, on two awful occasions, inadvertently outed a pen name when I wasn’t supposed to (hopefully too briefly or in too small a venue for it to have any lasting effect); to this day, the memories of those two occasions still leave me curdling with shame.
I do draw the line at sock puppets or fly-by anonymous posting, but that’s the same as anywhere, of course. If I don’t know someone at all in any context and they come tearing through--no matter where--I’m likely to at best reserve judgment and more likely to discount or ignore them. But that’s not at all the same as pseudonymity with a regular handle, someone who you know where they hang out and you have a history with reading or interacting with them.
I am seriously against outing. I mean, srsly. Of course I am.