Monday, January 24, 2005

Many Me

 Paul asks why people use more than one screen name for the same person.  Is it "identity obfuscation," as Paul suggests? I can't speak for anyone else on this, but my reasons are more practical than mysterious.

When I set up my second screen name over a decade ago, it was not to hide anything, but rather to keep my email and other online activities sorted into categories.  The original screen name, KFB OF PQL, referred directly to my association with Quantum Leap fandom.  The second one originally referred to my being the vice president of United Whovians of Tucson, but with subsequent club elections I changed it to KFB UWOT.  One screen name for QL mail, one for Who mail.  Simple.  The QL one also got the family email and online registrations, and most of the spam.

The same principle applied to subsequent screen names and activities. I set one up for my L'Engle online bibliography and FAQ, another for eBay transactions. Each screen name gave me more FTP space, and a single place to put one compartment of my life--not that it's ever quite that simple. Sometimes I found it necessary to forward something from my Who-life to my PQL-life  Then I started Mavarin for writing-related stuff. Mavarin became the receptacle for all my school stuff and novel-writing and blogging, which aside from office and husband was pretty much my entire life. 

One interest, one screen name.  Simple.  It makes it easier to track down that email from two years ago that related to THIS part of your life. But once I went back to school, and especially once I started blogging, I found that I was checking the other screen names for email once every five weeks or so.  The Who club was mostly dead, and I played hooky from QL stuff as the show receded farther into the past.  I quit eBay cold turkey after one too many hassles, and I blocked the L'Engle screen name from receiving email because kids kept emailing me thinking I was L'Engle. Now I tend to ignore all the old parts of my life, and concentrate on the compartment for writing and blogging and school - Mavarin. The other screen names lie fallow for weeks or months or years. 

But, unlike many bloggers and others with online avatars, I am positively confessional in identifying myself, regardless of screen name. The same goes for the yahoo email account.  It bemuses me a little that some bloggers identify themselves only as "brian" or "MW" or "elkfhEKFD" (okay, I made that last one up).  In cyberspace, nobody knows you're a dog, as the New Yorker cartoon put it, but by and large, nobody cares, either. I've never hidden my identity online (after all, I'm trying to build a writing career here), and to date it's never been a problem.  Then again, I'm not very good overall at keeping my private life private, so I'm probably not the one to ask about the merits of screen name anonymity.

Oh, and another reason people change screen names and email addresses is to try to stay ahead of the spam.  This was more of a consideration before AOL and others implemented spam filters and such.

Karen Funk Blocher (see?)


ryanagi said...

LOL I'm with ya. I'm out there. No hiding. But I did have a screen name that I used for IVF and Endo support groups and research (wanted to keep that one spam free). I have one for my now mostly defunct home-based business. I've had a few for those times when I was someone's secret santa and I was posting hints on my board to my "buddy" to see if they could figure out who I was. Fun. And one screen name that I created on a dare that I keep for those occasions when I think a friend needs to lighten up...or for stealth. Like the time I helped an online friend catch her husband cheating on her. But I'm not sneaky very often. LOL Each SN serves a purpose. Oh and Tyler and John both have SNs under my master account. :-)

ondinemonet said...

Karen :)

I started my new screen name for my new photo journal becuase I kept running out of FTP space. LOL. I was hesitant at first to share too much about me, becuase I have had some personal "not-so-nice" stuff happen IRL, so I was protective in cyberlife. Now, most folks who read me on a regular basis know where I live, my name, my cat's name and of course Alan's now that he has his own blog. I had to tip my toe in the water before diving in. :)

Always, Carly :)

plittle said...

Of course, there are many practical reasons for using multiple screen names, as you have pointed out. But you know that's not what I was talking about. Also, if I want, I can store stuff on the ftp space of other screen names without ever overtly using them. The journal I am linking from doesn't have to be on the same screen name as where the files are stored.

shellys555 said...

I don't want my identity online, so I've never used my actual name. None of my screen names or other email addies use my real name. Maybe no one cares, but there are nuts out there. Even my blogs are kept fairly anonymous in that I never use real names of people in my life because I have family, friends, and co-workers who read them.

So, yes, in a way, I'm both compartmentalizing my life by using my many screen names for different thing (message boards under one name, shopping under another, personal mail under my main name, and even a couple of names I didn't tell anyone about so I can be online without folks I know knowing I'm online) and obfuscating my identity. Sometimes, I use a name only my best friend knows so no one else is likely to IM me, but she knows it so she can IM me if she needs to ask a question.

cneinhorn said...

I use a second screen name for my photo page, but mostly I use this one....I don't tend to change or switch or any of that!