Monday, August 6, 2007

Lead like the metal

Today my mind drifts towards pseudonyms. I think of Fake Steve Jobs and have to laugh; this guy has mad a cottage industry pretending to be someone who is venting his "real feelings" after pretending to be nice all day. Soon he'll be selling a book off of this "realistic" pseudonym.
Most everyone picks some fake name to jump onto the net with. This is firstly due to the nature of usernames(no spaces, restricted length, and small space of available, intelligible, and suitable alternatives). As soon as people picked names that weren't anywhere near their birth name, etymology forced the username to handle. It isn't the first time; CB and Ham operators altered names for similar reasons (namely the restriction of their media of communication). But it was this world that really breathed life back into the false identity and gave it a life of its own.
I chose my internet name to be an anagram of my real one; I felt that my internet presence would mean nothing if not at least tenuously attached to my persona. It couldn't be too closely attached; on the net one needs a firewall around their soul just as much as they do around their network. This correlates to the real hypocrisy surrounding blogs. No one signs on with their real name and yet they pretend to bare their soul. One cannot bare their soul unless their soul is attached. Even my own persona is a conceit behind the firewall of my username.
One thing that was funny about my pseudonym is that when I came up with it it was unattached to the net, but rather part of a scavenger hunt I put together during my more creative years. So I always spoke it. Leadhyena Inrandomtan, Lead as in paint and gasoline. It wasn't until I got online that people expected it to be Lead, like the head of a group.
The funny part about this is that anyone who's seen any nature show about Hyenas know that they are matriarchal, so the lead hyena would be female. After realizing this, this would make most heterosexual males choose a new pseudonym. Oddly enough, even after this possible misperception was pointed out, I still stuck with the name. I had too much persona invested in it to just change it. It's too much a part of me now.
That being said, I've been referred to on the phone as Leadhyena before. Even with the right pronunciation, it still sounds weird to me. I can only imagine the feelings that FSJ must be feeling now. Will people start calling him Steve? Will it get to him a little? Or will he be rolling in the dough too quickly to notice? Something must hurt if one of your personas, no matter how fake, is exposed and summarily sold. In a perverse way it reminds me of the horcruxes of Voldemort.
That being said, I have signed on some sites with my real name. I have an alumni address and my work email has my real name. I also have a different persona for Second Life (Inrandomtan wasn't an acceptable last name, so I shuffled together Thornn-Adenine Maladay, but I rarely use it). Some pseudonyms are obviously jokes, like WTFOMGBBQ or therapistfinder (read it twice if you don't get it), and are used for sites like Digg, Slashdot, Reddit, and Fark. I'd feel really uncomfortable under one of these pseudonyms because this seems too sharp a quartering of the personality to represent sanely (then again you don't post on Digg most of the time for sanity's sake). The really strange one is where someone will pick an entirely different yet human name, like John Sanders getting online and becoming Bruce Smith. It really happens, and you have to wonder if these people aren't criminally motivated what their angle must be. In fact I find that I have much less trust in a real name on the net (unless it's in the news or famous in the coding community somehow) than I do in at least a mutated one like billy13579 or Chr1st0ph3r.
It's an odd business, this projection of our false selves. I wonder if the effects have been good on society overall. Too late to change it now anyway. Or is it? Many places are asking for email addresses as logins now (they need email verification anyway), and some places I'll use my alumni address and others I'll use my gmail one. Will that become our next "real" internet name, once biometrics are attached to the login as well? Who knows. It's a deep subject and sleep is making me more and more shallow.

---No fake personas (except FSJ) were exploited in the writing of this blog post---

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