38 votes

How do you handle your different online identities versus your real life identity?

I've recently been trying to confront the fact that a lot of the things I want to do online work best if they've got some connection to my real life identity (or will eventually, almost by necessity, become connected). Things like working on open source software, writing, etc. almost always seem to lead back to other people knowing at the very least your real name and probably your email address.

I know that my threat model for people going after my identity is a lot different from someone with nation-state level adversaries like Ed Snowden or various activists, but I still find it hard to decide what gets to be connected to what. Do I put my real name on my GitHub account? Do I post things on my GitHub blog to here? Should I have my real name on my Twitter account? What about the fact that some of my usernames resemble each other?

I'm not necessarily looking for advice about my particular situation, but I would really like to hear how other people have dealt with such situations and what you generally think about things like identity compartmentalization.

51 comments

  1. [4]
    agentseven
    Link
    I have no online identity that is tied to my real identity. I've never posted or done anything public online that used my real identity. I have separate identities for everything I do online (if...

    I have no online identity that is tied to my real identity. I've never posted or done anything public online that used my real identity. I have separate identities for everything I do online (if you can call them that - it's nothing more exciting than made up usernames on sites like this), and in some cases out of necessity, they will be loosely tied to my real identity (ie: when I have to use a credit card). I don't use any social media, although I use Gmail and various other Google services.

    I don't have to worry that any prospective anybody will be able to look me up for any reason, because I simply don't really exist online. This gives me great peace of mind. It is inconvenient, when the whole world uses social media to connect almost exclusively. It is hard to maintain friendships. But it's how I choose to live my life.

    15 votes
    1. [3]
      chembliss
      Link Parent
      And how do you handle giving out some personal information when, for example, commenting about some personal experience or about your life situation? Do you think if someone you know IRL finds out...

      And how do you handle giving out some personal information when, for example, commenting about some personal experience or about your life situation? Do you think if someone you know IRL finds out your profile (here or elsewhere) they would realize it's you?

      1. [2]
        agentseven
        Link Parent
        You can always be found out by someone dedicated enough. I got doxxed once (over a decade ago) and they got pretty close to me. Since then, I tend to simply avoid conflict and in particular avoid...

        You can always be found out by someone dedicated enough. I got doxxed once (over a decade ago) and they got pretty close to me. Since then, I tend to simply avoid conflict and in particular avoid being in any position of authority online. Or in real life, frankly. Anything I give away, I try to give it away only generally. It also depends on the account. If someone found out who I was here, it doesn't really matter. I've not posted anything controversial or unusual. Even though in certain circles I would be considered a controversial person (if certain people knew my real opinions), this account does not directly link to those other accounts and I'm always aware of where I'm posting. So I could give away more here than I would there, is what I'm saying.

        I never, ever give away any straight-up identifying information, so this does limit what kinds of things I will give up about my personal life situation. When I see those "what's the worst thing you ever did" or "post your selfie" type threads, I just keep on moving. It's amusing, but I've been on the Internet since 1995 and I was the one trying to convince my parents that meeting people you only knew from a chat room was totally OK, and yet the way people feel so free to post everything about themselves on Facebook has always baffled me.

        2 votes
        1. chembliss
          Link Parent
          Thanks for sharing, I should think about planning that a little bit more for me. It seems a good idea overall. I started using the internet around 2000, and I remember my dad (he had been using...

          Thanks for sharing, I should think about planning that a little bit more for me. It seems a good idea overall.

          I started using the internet around 2000, and I remember my dad (he had been using internet since the 80s) telling me not to give any personal information, regardless how unimportant it might seem. He was right then and even more right now.

  2. [7]
    Algernon_Asimov
    Link
    I compartmentalise a lot. I've got my real-life identity, but that's very restricted online. Basically the only place I use my real name online is Facebook. Everything else is a pseudonym in one...

    I compartmentalise a lot.

    I've got my real-life identity, but that's very restricted online. Basically the only place I use my real name online is Facebook. Everything else is a pseudonym in one way or another.

    I started with this "Algernon" identity, which I created for Reddit, and then expanded elsewhere. "Algernon" is most of me, but with some crucial parts omitted, due to the negativity I encountered while moderating:

    • When I was moderating political subreddits, I decided to keep my political opinions away from "Algernon". I created another account through which I posted my overtly political opinions. "Algernon" has my intellectual interests in the process of politics and government; my other account was where I let loose and got passionate about what I believe. Therefore, "Algernon" could never be accused of political bias (although, I have been accused of being both a Nazi sympathiser and a left-wing supporter by people who were pissed off by my moderation).

    • I also learned not to reveal my location, for obvious reasons. So I created another account to post in my geographical subreddits and talk about local matters.

    • And then I created another account for my X-rated interests.

    When it came to creating an online identity for my career, I was already well-versed in the art of compartmentalisation. I created a "brand" for myself. I used that branded name solely for career-related sites: LinkedIn, Twitter, my blog, industry-related forums. I even created a Reddit account for that branded name. Obviously, the branded name was still ultimately connected to my real name (I wanted to make connections and get jobs), but the branded name only ever talked about industry-related stuff. It was quite innocuous. Meanwhile, every other part of me was safely compartmentalised within their respective pseudonyms. (Just FYI: That career has since ended, and I no longer use that branded name. I've even deleted it from most sites it was used.)

    I have about half a dozen different online identities in various places, for various purposes. I have multiple personality disorder! And each identity has a very different name. They're not similar in any way. (But "Algernon" is my primary identity online; it has more of a presence online than even my real identity. I spend about three-quarters of my online time being "Algernon".)

    So, if I was in your situation, I would create a separate work-related identity to post about your work everywhere you want to discuss work. That way, noone connects "sqew" with your work-related identity or your work-related identity with "sqew".

    12 votes
    1. [3]
      sqew
      Link Parent
      Thank you for the advice. It's along the lines of what I was thinking, and it definitely helps to have someone who's done something similar recommend that particular course of action. If you're...

      Thank you for the advice. It's along the lines of what I was thinking, and it definitely helps to have someone who's done something similar recommend that particular course of action.

      If you're willing to elaborate a bit (and I totally get it if you aren't), what's having multiple personality disorder like? I feel like it gets brought up a lot on TV, etc., but I've never heard someone who actually has it talk about it.

      1 vote
      1. [2]
        Algernon_Asimov
        Link Parent
        The reference to multiple personality disorder was intended to be a joke, to cast a humorous light on my practice of operating multiple online personas. I do not have Dissociative Identity...

        The reference to multiple personality disorder was intended to be a joke, to cast a humorous light on my practice of operating multiple online personas. I do not have Dissociative Identity Disorder (as it's now properly known).

        3 votes
        1. sqew
          Link Parent
          Aww, well, too bad for my curiosity. Thanks for all the rest of your advice!

          Aww, well, too bad for my curiosity. Thanks for all the rest of your advice!

    2. [3]
      chembliss
      Link Parent
      Could you elaborate a bit on the brand aspect (obviously without giving any concrete details)? Specially regarding LinkedIn. Is it possible to effectively use there something other than your real...

      Could you elaborate a bit on the brand aspect (obviously without giving any concrete details)? Specially regarding LinkedIn. Is it possible to effectively use there something other than your real name?

      1. [2]
        Algernon_Asimov
        Link Parent
        No, you can't use something other than your real name on LinkedIn. That's not what I did. I created a "brand" around my name, and used that everywhere else, which then directed people to my...

        No, you can't use something other than your real name on LinkedIn.

        That's not what I did. I created a "brand" around my name, and used that everywhere else, which then directed people to my LinkedIn profile - which itself included the "brand", so that if someone searched for the "brand", they would find my LinkedIn profile. (I even used the branded name in my customised URL on LinkedIn, which you can do.)

        1. chembliss
          Link Parent
          Ah, I get it now. That seems like a good idea, it could be a little late for me to do that, but maybe with some "right to forget" GDPR requests I could delete my previous, not very good online...

          Ah, I get it now. That seems like a good idea, it could be a little late for me to do that, but maybe with some "right to forget" GDPR requests I could delete my previous, not very good online presence. I'll look into it, thanks for the info!

          1 vote
  3. [3]
    GnomeChompski
    Link
    I've compartmentalized my thoughts only to the small point that it doesn't get in the way of my relationship with my clients and making money. I have to make money and live, but with that said......

    I've compartmentalized my thoughts only to the small point that it doesn't get in the way of my relationship with my clients and making money. I have to make money and live, but with that said... I've even let my ethics get in the way of that from time to time. I honestly couldn't give a single flying fuck sometimes when face to face with a person that is trying to cheat the system or people, bring someone down, or just plain so self centered that I can barely stand it until I leave their presence. I have no problem being who I am anymore. I believe in my guiding principles and stand behind the selfless and caring lifestyle I've chosen. I don't shy from the truth anymore. I embrace it, pleasant or unpleasant. I just want to be better every day and that means I've made mistakes. No more shame in who I am. I know the direction I'm going.

    But I should also say there is a need to be forgotten. The internet doesn't allow for that as much as life used to allow. For those of whom reflect and try to grow from their mistakes, this is an ugly barrier and I speculate people might be putting up a bigger facade than ever before. Anyone sense that too?

    7 votes
    1. [2]
      tempestoftruth
      Link Parent
      Really well said! I feel like I'm trying to do the same, so it's inspiring to see others who are successful in trying to cut through all the bullshit. I get what you're saying right before this,...

      I don't shy from the truth anymore. I embrace it, pleasant or unpleasant. I just want to be better every day and that means I've made mistakes. No more shame in who I am. I know the direction I'm going.

      Really well said! I feel like I'm trying to do the same, so it's inspiring to see others who are successful in trying to cut through all the bullshit.

      I speculate people might be putting up a bigger facade than ever before

      I get what you're saying right before this, that the lack of a right to be forgotten impedes our ability to grow and move past our older selves, but could you elaborate on this specific bit? Bigger facade in what sense?

      1 vote
      1. GnomeChompski
        Link Parent
        I was saying that society seems like it's becoming more and more mentally compartmentalized. As in we are putting on different masks at times. The internet, through social media platforms, has...

        I was saying that society seems like it's becoming more and more mentally compartmentalized. As in we are putting on different masks at times.

        The internet, through social media platforms, has started to give us liberties to say things that we wouldn't say in public because of anonymity, or in the other cases of identity based platforms, some are creating personas that are increasingly different from their true selves, and others are increasingly holding back and showing less (or none) of their true selves out of realization that "the internet does not forget".

        It used to be that people would grow up in a small community while young and develop their outward persona as they grew up. It wouldn't really change, sometimes never change all their lives. Some would leave their small social groups and go off to college and there they would be given the chance to grow and develop into a different person quite easily. The chances of changing your outward identity were far fewer and harder to come by than we have now. And all of this is relatively new, maybe not even two decades.

        I guess, now looking back on this idea, even I may seem like I have a different online identity. I don't get to talk about these things to very many people, and on this site in particular, I might be seen as a different person. I hope I come across as genuine as I think I'm being.

        2 votes
  4. [2]
    MimicSquid
    Link
    I think that in a world of such openness you only want to connect to your name the things that will show you in the best light. Your public persona is the person who you would be comfortable with...

    I think that in a world of such openness you only want to connect to your name the things that will show you in the best light. Your public persona is the person who you would be comfortable with your boss and your grandma seeing. I can see how having your GitHub account and discussions about programming could benefit your career, but you probably wouldn't benefit from having those accounts be connected to your persona that argues about politics online or anything else that you might want to contribute to but not have publicly seen.

    I personally have my work presence that's tied to my given name (not a lot of online activity, given my profession), general online persona (this one has lasted me 8-ish years, I think), but also have distinctly different user names for other modes of interaction (for instance, I have a different user name for gaming that is consistent across a number of platforms). Unless you're wanting to draw a solid thread of personhood between your activities in various sites, there's no benefit to having the same user name. Anonymity should be the default except when it explicitly benefits you to give it up.

    None of this changes who I am behind the name, but there's no point in giving up anonymity unintentionally.

    7 votes
    1. sqew
      Link Parent
      I absolutely agree with you. As I said in another reply, I think what I'm going to end up going for is a general persona of "professional things" where I know that I have to keep my head on...

      I absolutely agree with you. As I said in another reply, I think what I'm going to end up going for is a general persona of "professional things" where I know that I have to keep my head on straight and not do anything dumb, and a much more fragmented "me" who exists as different usernames and alts on different sites around the web.

      At this point in the development of our society, I'm not sure there's any other good way to do it. Many of us, especially in tech, have to have online personas that are attached to our real identities, but we can't have them all be that way because sometimes we say stupid things that we don't want linked back to our real selves.

      4 votes
  5. [3]
    zlsa
    Link
    This is something I've had problems with as well. I have a (relatively populated) GitHub profile, a website for my online identity, projects with my online pseudonym... but when I've done contract...

    This is something I've had problems with as well. I have a (relatively populated) GitHub profile, a website for my online identity, projects with my online pseudonym... but when I've done contract work, there's always that awkward moment when I say "oh yeah, make those checks to <real name>." I started all of this because I wanted to avoid using my real name online (and still do). I even have a Gmail account as my pseudonym, which I use for most of my online non-finance activities. My pseudonym and real-life identity are so disconnected that it should be virtually impossible for a normal person to connect the two.

    That said, I'm considering transitioning my online presence to my real name. It's much more unique (which is why I started using a pseudonym in the first place), so people will be able to google my name and get results unique to me. But there are always crazies, and I don't want them to find out my real name or (god forbid) my home address. I know of somebody who was accused of plagiarism in their online work, and the accuser had sent the "proof" to their real-life employer, in the hope of getting them kicked out.

    So while I do want to improve my online presence, it's a one-way operation. So I'm holding off for now.

    6 votes
    1. sqew
      Link Parent
      The crazies are honestly what scare me, too. Unlike Ed Snowden (to use an obvious example), those seem like a more realistic threat model for someone like me, and, in general, for most of the...

      The crazies are honestly what scare me, too. Unlike Ed Snowden (to use an obvious example), those seem like a more realistic threat model for someone like me, and, in general, for most of the people on the internet.

      Knowing there's people like that out there makes me want to compartmentalize my online presence into two general areas: sites like Tildes and reddit, where I'm just a username, and sites like GitHub, a personal blog, email, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. where I know that things are traceable back to me and I can be more careful.

      4 votes
    2. KernelPanic
      Link Parent
      Just a thought, but you could open a buisiness account in a bank under your psudonym, and then ask them to write the checks out to that?

      Just a thought, but you could open a buisiness account in a bank under your psudonym, and then ask them to write the checks out to that?

  6. [11]
    chas
    (edited )
    Link
    The correct advice (which sadly I am guilty of not following) is this: All your identities will be tied to your legal name and publicly searchable within the next decade, so act accordingly....

    The correct advice (which sadly I am guilty of not following) is this: All your identities will be tied to your legal name and publicly searchable within the next decade, so act accordingly.

    Technology advances; all the data on the internet today will eventually fit on a $5 pocket device. Computers will search and analyze large volumes of data far more quickly than today, and use better algorithms to identify anonymous accounts. Not to mention, hackers will continue to hack private data and release torrents of it.

    The smart thing to do, with that in mind, is never put anything online that you wish to remain private.

    6 votes
    1. [10]
      Algernon_Asimov
      Link Parent
      On what do you base this prediction?

      All your identities will be tied to your legal name and publicly searchable within the next decade

      On what do you base this prediction?

      2 votes
      1. Omnicrola
        Link Parent
        I don't necessarily agree with the prediction, but I recognize the sentiment. It started as prideful thing when I was younger (look at me!), but as I got older the mindset persisted: assume that...

        I don't necessarily agree with the prediction, but I recognize the sentiment. It started as prideful thing when I was younger (look at me!), but as I got older the mindset persisted: assume that everything you post online will eventually be tied to your real self and someone will ask you about it. Act accordingly.

        I've been fortunate that I've never attracted the focus of anyone seeking to dox me, so maybe I'm less cautious than I should be. I take basic precautions about what information is shared with what companies, what's public, etc. So there's a bit if compartmentalization, but I get the feeling from the rest of the comments here that a lot of folks are a lot more cautious than I am.

        2 votes
      2. [8]
        chas
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        The timeframe of a "decade" is based on nothing. It could be a bit sooner, or perhaps years later. Surely most of us will live to see it, at any rate. If you expect computers to continue to become...

        The timeframe of a "decade" is based on nothing. It could be a bit sooner, or perhaps years later. Surely most of us will live to see it, at any rate.

        If you expect computers to continue to become more capable, eventually a person could wind up transfering an entire-internet-circa-2019's worth of data to their wristwatch or eyeglasses as easily as a movie or mp3 today.

        The failure of moores law when it comes to clockspeed won't spare us here, because the problem of sifting through large amounts of data is suited perfectly for parallelization.

        I think it will be quite attractive, for example, to buy a pair of eyeglasses that sift through a huge db of facial data, culled from social networks.

        So you stop by a restaurant, the waiter walks over. When he turns to you, his glasses show him an overlay of your data. It searches its own cache of internet data, finds photos matched from Facebook, Instagram, etc. Posts from tildes or twitter with a 99% likelhood of being written by you. Why? Because, if tech keeps advancing, it will be sufficiently easy to get such data and data-mine it.

        I doubt it will be long, because the ability to do everything I mentioned is already possible, given enough time and powerful enough hardware. All that remains is faster hardware and miniaturization. Who would bet against that?

        1. [7]
          Algernon_Asimov
          Link Parent
          I'm not understanding something. I get the whole "data mining" aspect of your theory. I don't understand your statement that "all your identities will be tied to your legal name". How will my...

          I'm not understanding something. I get the whole "data mining" aspect of your theory.

          I don't understand your statement that "all your identities will be tied to your legal name". How will my comments as Algernon on Tildes or Reddit be linked to my real name?

          2 votes
          1. [6]
            chas
            Link Parent
            Given enough data, most of what a user does could be traced to a specific human by by looking for correlations between a user's peculiar word-choices and grammar, the time of day and week they are...

            Given enough data, most of what a user does could be traced to a specific human by by looking for correlations between a user's peculiar word-choices and grammar, the time of day and week they are active, location metadata in their photos, specific interests and hobbies, browser and computer metadata, etc etc. All it takes is once instance where one of the user's accounts mentioned his/her name, or a pinch of leaked data (and there's oodles of hacked data floating around the web from social networks and shopping carts, etc) and your private identity isn't private.

            Making connections between that data will be a lot easier in future, too. Of course, if machine learning continues to behave in its current effective, but inscrutable, manner, we might not know exactly how it manages to identify people, just that it does :)

            3 votes
            1. [5]
              Algernon_Asimov
              Link Parent
              But that would require correlating things that don't necessarily exist. As I pointed out elsewhere in this thread, I spend most of my online time as "Algernon". The only profile which uses my real...

              But that would require correlating things that don't necessarily exist.

              As I pointed out elsewhere in this thread, I spend most of my online time as "Algernon". The only profile which uses my real name is on Facebook, with privacy settings appropriately enabled so random passers-by can't just scrape my posts for data. And I rarely post on Facebook anyway. So it's going to be very difficult to correlate my activity times for those profiles. It'll also be difficult to get the necessary data to compare writing styles.

              And I have never ever ever mentioned my real name on this Algernon identity. Ever. Anywhere. I haven't even hinted at it. I even created an alternate email account to verify this account where necessary - so if someone hacks Tildes' or Reddit's database, they'll find an "Algernon_Asimov" email account attached to my account.

              Your prediction isn't quite as reliable as I first thought. That's good to know.

              1 vote
              1. [4]
                chas
                (edited )
                Link Parent
                There is no reason to have faith that your Facebook is private. Ignoring the fact that they already share user data with some partners, they can be, and probably already have been, hacked. I just...

                There is no reason to have faith that your Facebook is private. Ignoring the fact that they already share user data with some partners, they can be, and probably already have been, hacked.

                I just spent, at most, ten minutes browsing your "Algernon_Asimov" accounts here, and on Reddit. First thing I notice is your location, which limits the search area to a country of only 25 million people. From your posts, one finds: your gender, your approximate age (late 20s), your spiritual beliefs, possible social class of your parents (academic), interests, etc. Google also lists your account on a chat site (probably could mine its logs to get more info) and some stack-exchange sites.

                And that is just based on decisions you made. If you check https://haveibeenpwned.com you'll find you already have leaked data about you out there. How do I know that? Because everyone I have ever checked has had leaked account credentials. That might include your IP address, which - along with your other particulars - could be cross-referenced with data breaches from schools you attended, government servers, health records, stores you frequent, etc.

                I have no doubt someone could identify you, today, if they really wanted to. In future, more and more data about you will pile up, year after year.

                6 votes
                1. [3]
                  Algernon_Asimov
                  Link Parent
                  Out of 5 facts (country, gender, age, beliefs, class), you got 3 wrong (based on you calling my belief system "spiritual" instead of "atheistic" - and atheists aren't exactly a tiny minority in...

                  First thing I notice is your location, which limits the search area to a country of only 25 million people. From your posts, one finds: your gender, your approximate age (late 20s), your spiritual beliefs, possible social class of your parents (academic), interests, etc.

                  Out of 5 facts (country, gender, age, beliefs, class), you got 3 wrong (based on you calling my belief system "spiritual" instead of "atheistic" - and atheists aren't exactly a tiny minority in Australia).

                  Google also lists your account on a chat site (probably could mine its logs to get more info)

                  I don't say anything on a chat site as "Algernon" that I wouldn't say in public - and I carefully curate what I say in both situations.

                  and some stack-exchange sites.

                  I know. In fact, there's less personal information about me on StackExchange because of the nature of the website: it doesn't encourage personal interactions, only direct answers to questions posed.

                  If you check https://haveibeenpwned.com you'll find you already have leaked data about you out there.

                  For my Algernon email account: "Good news — no pwnage found!"

                  For my real-life email account, which I use to sign up to all sorts of crappy sites, and for receiving spam (and which is not connected to Algernon): "Pwned on 2 breached sites and found no pastes". One of those "breaches" is just the presence of my email address on a spam list. The other is for a minor website I must have signed up for, but never used.

                  Next?

                  2 votes
                  1. [2]
                    chas
                    (edited )
                    Link Parent
                    It wasn't my intent to doxx you, so I tried to be vague. The "spritual" info to which I was referring is the many "humanist" links I noticed on your Reddit. The age I guessed for you may have been...

                    It wasn't my intent to doxx you, so I tried to be vague.

                    The "spritual" info to which I was referring is the many "humanist" links I noticed on your Reddit.

                    The age I guessed for you may have been wrong, but it's likely close, based on your link about people "under 25" and your account ages (you didn't sign up to Reddit as a ten year old, presumably).

                    Since I see posts where you refer to your grammar, which I agree is excellent, I made a sketchy deduction that you grew up with academic parents. I might be making unseemly generalizations about the grammar of people who grow up in a lower/working class environment; I don't have any data on that.

                    If you're satisfied you aren't leaking sensitive data, who am I to keep arguing? I'm sure much of my tone here comes from my own worries. I worry that eventually my own data will be entirely public, and I do not want the world to know the past two decades of my internet comments, search history, bookmarks, photos, medical history, and so on.

                    4 votes
                    1. Algernon_Asimov
                      Link Parent
                      That's what I figured! ;)

                      I'm sure much of my tone here comes from my own worries.

                      That's what I figured! ;)

  7. gergir
    Link
    I was born this century, but thanks to my mother, who was a cryptography and security professional, there's not a single personal detail of mine online; and I plan to keep it that way, incl....

    I was born this century, but thanks to my mother, who was a cryptography and security professional, there's not a single personal detail of mine online; and I plan to keep it that way, incl. photos. I've a string of e-mail accounts under various aliases, and give them out based on my level of trust in the other person. Worked well so far.

    6 votes
  8. stromm
    Link
    Let me preface my comment with wisdom from my grandmother, "Never say, write or do anything you don't want someone else to find out". So, I only have my real identity online where my family and...

    Let me preface my comment with wisdom from my grandmother, "Never say, write or do anything you don't want someone else to find out".

    So, I only have my real identity online where my family and close friends can see content presented by it. And for financial and medical related things.

    Everything else is behind a multitude of aliases. I have a couple emails associated with purchasing tasks. A couple for different forum, depending on topic. One for direct-hire employment and a separate one for contract/consulting work.

    I have my own domain for official stuff and use google, yahoo, etc. for anonymous stuff.

    I don't have a LinkedIn account, never have, never will. I've had prospective employers tell me I need to get one or they won't hire me. Buh bye. I tell them no and move on.

    I do not and will not ever give my social media presence to any employer, background check service, etc. Not that I put anything on there that I don't expect everyone to see (I actually follow my grandma's wisdom), but them having that info is of zero benefit to me, so tough.

    I NEVER use my personal (real or aliased) accounts for any work. Nor my personal devices except my Internet connection. If they want to call me on a cell, provide me one. Want me to use a computer away from my office, provide me one. I've been successful in IT for 32 years and have never had a losing fight over this.

    Put simply, my stuff is my stuff and your stuff is your stuff.

    5 votes
  9. torekk
    Link
    I've been using this nickname for about 11 years now and never had any real problems, propably because I never put my surname anywhere public. But it's actually one of the reasons that stops me...

    I've been using this nickname for about 11 years now and never had any real problems, propably because I never put my surname anywhere public. But it's actually one of the reasons that stops me from creating a personal homepage for my online identity, as that'd require me to have an imprint(I live in germany, so any website that is available to the public and offers e.g. downloads needs this).

    But then even if someone would find out my surname, there's a few people living in my town who share the same name, good luck.

    2 votes
  10. Icarus
    Link
    My professional material online is all in my name: LinkedIn, GitHub, Professional Blog. Everything else, I choose a random item that happens to be near me or my desk at the time of account...

    My professional material online is all in my name: LinkedIn, GitHub, Professional Blog.

    Everything else, I choose a random item that happens to be near me or my desk at the time of account creation and use that as my identity. I probably started a new Reddit account every year, but before transitioning and deleting, re-writing all my comments with a script. Even then, I don't like to post too much about my personal life and the yearly scrub helps obfuscate that a bit.

    2 votes
  11. json
    Link
    My real identity is already associated with a handle that I use for almost everything (reddit, github, twitter, google, ...). Might as well at least own it and use that with the understanding that...

    My real identity is already associated with a handle that I use for almost everything (reddit, github, twitter, google, ...). Might as well at least own it and use that with the understanding that it is fully linked to my real life.

    But I do create new accounts that are unlinked from my real name. This account is not linked to my regular handle. Though I may have slipped up at some point.

    Most of the time I don't really care.

    2 votes
  12. vakieh
    Link
    I lie on the internet (you really think people would do that? Just go on the internet and LIE - you'd think right). Snippets of truth here and there blended in with a bunch of utter and total...

    I lie on the internet (you really think people would do that? Just go on the internet and LIE - you'd think right).

    Snippets of truth here and there blended in with a bunch of utter and total bullshit.

    It wouldn't really matter if someone had a link to my actual name, I have plausible deniability to the point it's more likely some other sucker who my lies line up better with would have to deal with the fallout of my constant shitposting.

    1 vote
  13. tomf
    Link
    I used to use my real name for certain things -- and still do for one community. It's common with the culture of that community, though. Currently for the others I have about three or four other...

    I used to use my real name for certain things -- and still do for one community. It's common with the culture of that community, though. Currently for the others I have about three or four other nicks.

    As for using your real name, using it with github and 'professional' sites does have a benefit, but often those benefits come after some sort of contact, in which you could give personal information.

    I've considered changing my name (legally) while still using my birth name for everything social (in person.) I'm not sure this is a good idea or if its paranoid overkill. It feels like everything today wants us to believe that we're brands and that every action is +/- for this brand... I just don't want to feed into that.

    This is what I wrestle with: What is the point of a username? I'm not out to be an influencer or to create some sort of brand on most sites -- so why give myself a common identification? Especially with password managers in the mix, using unique identification for each website is a breeze.

    1 vote
  14. lepigpen
    Link
    I actually have a very odd way of thinking about this which is, not only do I not want my "real info" out there for standard security reasons. I actually don't want real people in real life to...

    I actually have a very odd way of thinking about this which is, not only do I not want my "real info" out there for standard security reasons. I actually don't want real people in real life to know my name or build an identity for me. This doesn't necessarily mean I am fake to them and put on a character that I choose for them. It's more so that I enjoy the (arguably modern) ability for humans to be comfortable with an acquaintance. There are a lot of people who essentially know one thing about me, and it would sound something like this: "the guy who films at the skatepark and gives you the footage after" or "the guy who puts t-shirts on his chihuahua and goes to my starbucks" or "the guy who watches my neighbor's dog from time to time and is fun to talk to". These various strangers do not know my name, and know next to nothing about me. We always only talk about the current context at hand. The skatepark people discuss skating and only skating. The starbucks people discuss my dog and only my dog. My friend's neighbor discusses the area they live in with me and that's about it. Because I value those situations for what they are I don't want to slowly clutter them with unnecessary bloat, even so far as knowing names, which for some people you can't avoid so long as you want to be cordial.

    I think too many people are concerned about their self identity and what it means to them and how they can change it. I prefer the idea that even with all our unique traits, we aren't different enough from each other to warrant a personal identity. We should be a generic vessel that can become whatever another person needs at the time. And if you got this far you will probably notice some of this ideology is a bit like buddhist detachment from the self. I think Americans in particular have an insane self-absorption problem. And living in Los Angeles, this city is probably one of the worst in the world in those regards. People curate themselves down to the nanometer and then wonder why they have lingering insecurity issues. I think people should let go. Detach. Focus on what is currently being done and not what already happened or what could happen. For some work interferes with this, but as far as personal life goes, don't be "Mike, a left-leaning software engineer who likes to play guitar". Be a human being who definitely does particular things at particular times but is always ready to bend with the wind and flow with the tide.

    1 vote
  15. [8]
    ajslater
    (edited )
    Link
    The paranoia here sounds... vain. I don't have any online identities that aren't my real name and I make an effort to help people link all my different platform identities together by cross...

    The paranoia here sounds... vain. I don't have any online identities that aren't my real name and I make an effort to help people link all my different platform identities together by cross referencing them all on the various social media accounts and a helpful web page in the futile hope that someone from one platform might find me on another or even in real life. No one has ever done this. I have been doing this for about 15 years. No one cares. I am not special. No one is out to get me either. People think you're boring and don't care. All of them.

    Think about it. If you stood on a rooftop and shouted all day and all night for people check out your soundcloud, no one would. They'd want you to shut up. People have entire careers devoted to trying to get people to notice them and most people, even those trying their hardest, using multiple creative methods, in a professional capacity, still fail at this.

    If you wanna use an alias for something, fine. I enjoy the funny names on the internet. But I'm not sure what the people in this thread think they're hiding from.

    1 vote
    1. [2]
      Algernon_Asimov
      Link Parent
      I see from the helpful "Stalk AJ" section of your website that you moderate only one subreddit, with no activity. This explains why you don't know what we're hiding from. Moderators attract a lot...

      But I'm not sure what the people in this thread think they're hiding from.

      I see from the helpful "Stalk AJ" section of your website that you moderate only one subreddit, with no activity. This explains why you don't know what we're hiding from.

      Moderators attract a lot of attention. I used to get death threats when I moderated /r/AskHistorians and political discussion subreddits. I've read about other moderators who have had photos of their children and/or their homes sent to them, with direct threats being made.

      As a former moderator on Reddit, I can tell you that some people get very angry when you remove their racist or bigoted or Holocaust-denying posts. At the time I was getting death threats, I didn't realise I was dealing with some alt-right types, but I've since learned about the alt-right and how they work. And there is no fucking way I want those people to have any idea who I am or where to find me. They're scary enough when I'm anonymous and unable to be located. I don't want photos of my home being sent to me by the type of person who would actually commit violence because I removed their anti-Semitic post denying the existence of the Holocaust.

      That's what I'm hiding from.

      4 votes
      1. ajslater
        Link Parent
        That is a very good answer, I had not thought of that and its well outside my experience. Also, much respect for moderating /r/AskHistorians.

        That is a very good answer, I had not thought of that and its well outside my experience.

        Also, much respect for moderating /r/AskHistorians.

        2 votes
    2. [5]
      kfwyre
      Link Parent
      I think there's some healthiness to your perspective. It's easy to overvalue our own importance in this often nihilistic, self-centered world. We all want to believe that people care about us as...

      I think there's some healthiness to your perspective. It's easy to overvalue our own importance in this often nihilistic, self-centered world. We all want to believe that people care about us as deeply as we care about ourselves despite us never adequately returning that favor.

      And outside of that, you have a great point in that everyone on the internet seems to be clamoring for attention, with only a relative few actually succeeding in getting it. Who cares about us small time no-names, right? Who's going to notice someone doing the digital equivalent of keeping their head down?

      That's what I used to think, but I had two unfortunate and distressing experiences that changed my mind.

      On an old account I experienced a mild doxxing/stalking event from an individual who made advances at me that I did not reciprocate. Up to that point we'd been just regular internet buddies that chatted occasionally and played a few games together. When they first started bringing up romantic topics, I made it clear that I was already involved in a monogamous relationship and that I was uninterested in anything romantic with them. What followed was a protracted attempt on their behalf to test my boundaries which ended in me giving them an ultimatum: stop leaving me sexual messages or I will block you.

      Naturally, they didn't stop, so I followed through on my word. Rather than this ending the issue, it accelerated it. I started to get harassing messages from them on other accounts and platforms, and it was clear they were trying to piece together personal information about me to use against me. Thankfully, they were largely unsuccessful, most of which was because they were working alone. I actually found a forum post where they attempted to recruit people to work against me which was roundly ignored. Had the internet hate mob come for me on that account, however, there were enough breadcrumbs that they could have followed to figure out my real identity. With that information they could have done some serious damage.

      A hate mob, coincidentally enough, actually did come for me on a later account, in an event unrelated to my first. This other account was one that was free of all identifying information, including gender, and at one point in a somewhat heated thread I was assumed to be a woman simply because I spoke up in defense of one. Shortly after I posted to the thread, it got linked elsewhere and hostile commenters flooded in. I got all the entrees on the standard menu for harassment of women: rape threats, threats of violence, creepy sexualization of me, desexualiation of me (i.e. "frigid"), lewd pictures, sexist dismissals, patronizing and demeaning responses--the whole gamut. What was really sad was how uncontroversial my post was (or so I assumed). I had simply defended a woman in expressing her point of view.

      Unlike my first harassment issue that was limited to the one individual, I have no doubt that the group in this second one would have used any personal information they could find about me against me. People were already trawling my comment history and firing back things they thought counted as ammunition, but none of it was identifying. Instead they just made fun of the games I played and the books I read, but I worry what it would have looked like had they been able to figure out my name, address, or workplace.

      I cannot stress enough that I'm not a usual target. I'm not particularly controversial, and I try to be kind to everyone. I often stay away from polarizing topics, and when I do broach them I try to be thoughtful and inquisitive rather than obstinate or declarative. I don't get into a lot of arguments. I don't have positions of power online--I'm not a mod or an admin. I'm a low-level, everyday, worthless internet commenter, but I think it's worth noting that I've been unlucky enough to face two instances of acute personal harassment despite being a standard milquetoast internet nobody.

      So while I admire how forthcoming you are and think that an open life is often the healthiest, I also know that I won't ever put myself out there like that. Things got too real for me twice, and I'd like to keep a third time from ever happening.

      4 votes
      1. [4]
        ajslater
        Link Parent
        I'm a guy and I argue on the internet a lot. I realize now that when I wrote my post here I completely forgot about the way women are sometimes barraged, occasionally to an unsettling degree.

        I'm a guy and I argue on the internet a lot. I realize now that when I wrote my post here I completely forgot about the way women are sometimes barraged, occasionally to an unsettling degree.

        1 vote
        1. [2]
          kfwyre
          Link Parent
          Yeah, I think it's easy for us (I'm a guy too) to take some level of internet immunity for granted. I didn't truly know how bad it was for women online until I was assumed to be one! After it...

          Yeah, I think it's easy for us (I'm a guy too) to take some level of internet immunity for granted. I didn't truly know how bad it was for women online until I was assumed to be one!

          After it happened I texted my sister to apologize to her, as just a few months earlier she'd faced her own hate campaign over a reaction gif with a woman in it (again, that should NOT even be an issue!). At the time I downplayed her experience and brushed aside her feelings, trying to give her the "it's the internet; have a thick skin" talk we're all used to. Turns out I was sorely mistaken, as I did not realize just how bad it could be. The issue wasn't the thickness of her skin but the severity of the response she faced, which was completely disproportionate and unwarranted. And, like you identified, I doubt she would have had to face it had she been a man posting a reaction gif of a guy.

          4 votes
          1. ajslater
            Link Parent
            Most of the women in my life aren't extremely online. It took a similar incident with a woman from work to wake me up to this phenomenon.

            Most of the women in my life aren't extremely online. It took a similar incident with a woman from work to wake me up to this phenomenon.

            1 vote
        2. gergir
          Link Parent
          If you're female and fairly easy on the eyes you have to watch where you go both literally and physically starting around age 10/11. And then say nothing when those entirely unconcerned themselves...

          If you're female and fairly easy on the eyes you have to watch where you go both literally and physically starting around age 10/11. And then say nothing when those entirely unconcerned themselves hold forth about privacy and personal freedom, because "adults are talking". Even the biggest lipservice champions will treat any half-pint they meet as dumb teenieboppers. Only marginally related, so please excuse the derailment.

          2 votes
  16. DanBC
    Link
    I use Twitter for work. My work involves suicide prevention. My family follow me on Twitter. I've had a convo with them that I talk a lot about suicide on Twitter, including my own suicidality,...

    I use Twitter for work. My work involves suicide prevention. My family follow me on Twitter. I've had a convo with them that I talk a lot about suicide on Twitter, including my own suicidality, and that they may find it uncomfortable, and that the other networks (Facebook, Instagram, WhatsAp, MarcoPolo) are better for the family stuff.

    I've started having a soft tie to my real life name. It's not difficult to find out who I am from my screen names on Tildes or HN or similar. I've had mild amounts of harassment as a result of that. I fully support people's rights to chose whether to use their real name or to use a pseudonym.

    1 vote
  17. kavi
    (edited )
    Link
    Hi - this is an old topic, but I think this contributes. I tend to do this via isolation. Firefox Containers handle the cookie part, most of the rest is on me. Generally, different social media...

    Hi - this is an old topic, but I think this contributes.

    I tend to do this via isolation. Firefox Containers handle the cookie part, most of the rest is on me. Generally, different social media accounts of mine can be "chained" to a fair few others. My goal is to try and control the way they can be linked - as in - generally having 1 account that's actually me and a few alt accounts who do things I don't want people knowing about.

    Identity spoofing is a really nice way to help seperate my online identities. thispersondoesnotexist is really good for Facebook/LinkedIn, while just finding random profile pictures from something I know something about is better for social medias like Discord, or Reddit.

    This is a really good read on threat modelling in general. I don't have much reason to be as paranoid as I am, but I've been doxxed several times (one time intentionally, to try find my weaknesses), and have had a stalker, so I try to keep things isolated.

    Isolation also helps for when I go for job interviews. They can see all my highly wholesome social media, or the accounts that are really positive. The rest of the stuff stays with me.

    Sorry if this came off kind of ramble-y. :)

    EDIT: 1 thing I think is very important when isolating online identities is the way you type. Either, use something highly standard/common, or try and develop typing quirks that don't leak into other identities. The first is relatively easy (e.g formal, or no caps, no punctuation, etc.) while the second is probably better as far as isolating identities go.

    EDIT:

    Things like working on open source software, writing, etc. almost always seem to lead back to other people knowing at the very least your real name and probably your email address.

    I mean, while I haven't really contributed heavily to OSS or written much at all, I'm fairly sure for email addresses, you can just use disposable email services, or use a throwaway ProtonMail/Gmail if they whitelist emails that can be used. (For Gmail, proxy to Israel to make accounts without using a phone number.)

    For writing, I have no experience, don't have a clue and don't really know what you can do. Maybe use an alias? I'm not too sure.

    1 vote
  18. Staross
    Link
    Basically I have public and private accounts for most things. For example, I have a github with my name, and another one with a pseudo. I use whichever is most appropriate, and I try to keep them...

    Basically I have public and private accounts for most things. For example, I have a github with my name, and another one with a pseudo. I use whichever is most appropriate, and I try to keep them completely separate (don't open issues with you private account on your public one).

  19. knocklessmonster
    Link
    This handle is me. 50% memes, 50% serious discussion and help. I maintain a personality that is used to present my music, as well, but there's no real interaction on that part my online side.

    This handle is me. 50% memes, 50% serious discussion and help. I maintain a personality that is used to present my music, as well, but there's no real interaction on that part my online side.

  20. mftrhu
    Link
    It depends on what you mean by "identity compartmentalization" - by "identity", actually. Who we are known as, or how we act? In the second case, I do not compartmentalize my identity. What I...

    It depends on what you mean by "identity compartmentalization" - by "identity", actually. Who we are known as, or how we act?

    In the second case, I do not compartmentalize my identity. What I would say online I would also say offline, and vice-versa, no matter what the place or account. If I said it, I will stand by it, be it a rant or a bad pun, and be proud of it*.

    I'm not very concerned with, say, people who I know IRL stumbling across my accounts and connecting them to me. I might be irritated at being outed, but even that mostly because I don't want to be bothered by people asking me inane questions for the nth time.

    In the first case... I do not use my real name anywhere on the Internet. Hell, I don't even use it in meatspace - people know me by my necronym, and not many people know me in the first place. As such, my cyberspace and meatspace identities are completely separate, and even knowing my legal name you would struggle to find anything about me.

    And while I do have multiple, different Reddit accounts, a few of which originally made to compartmentalize my usage - to keep the posts made to my country's sub separate from those made to the LGBT+ subs, thanks to some unpleasantness I experienced - I couldn't be bothered to keep it up, and just moved all my posting to the new account.


    * Minus the inevitable "ugh, I used the wrong expression there", "I repeated myself, dammit", and "how many typos did I make yesterday‽" that crop up when going through my old writing.