Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Behind the Mask of Anonymity


By Tim Smith

“The difference between involvement and commitment is like an eggs and ham breakfast—the chicken was involved, but the pig was committed.”

That quote was credited to Anonymous. I don’t know who this Anonymous guy was, but he sure got around, judging from the number of quotes, stories and songs credited to him.  

The anonymous persona has been getting a workout lately, thanks to online social media such as Twitter. People like to get on there to rant and rave, but for some reason not many use their real name. They hide behind pseudonyms or cute tags, like EatMyShorts or NastyGirl69. You’ll find the same thing on most dating websites and chat boards.

Many people have finally figured out that potential employers, colleges and lending institutions use social media as a character reference. When I worked in civil service, I was very careful with my Facebook page. I didn’t “friend” anyone who was in a subordinate position. I didn’t use my real first name, the one that appeared in my personnel file. I used my middle name, the one by which my friends know me and which I publish under. And I listed my occupation as “writer/photographer,” working at “self-employed.” Nowhere on my page does it say which state agency I worked for. I set it up solely to promote my writing.

I took these extra measures because word came down that the good folks in Administrative Services were monitoring the online postings of state employees. Big Brother was compiling dossiers on the worker bees to see what they were up to. Did one of them post an unfavorable comment about the governor? Put a red checkmark next to their name. Did someone indicate sympathy for a radical organization? Better keep an eye on them. Did anyone endorse a candidate in the upcoming election? They are so screwed!

I think one of the reasons for this is the ongoing push for full disclosure from news organizations, especially those investigative teams that boast about “holding government accountable.” The Freedom of Information Act allows them access to the records of public employees. A few years ago, one such request resulted in a major metro newspaper publishing the name and salary of everyone employed by the state. Most of us looked at it to see how much our co-workers were being paid. The result was comments like “That slug is making how much more than me???”

There’s a site called Literotica.com, where semi-talented writers can post erotic fiction. Naturally, no one uses their real names. This anonymity allows their id to concoct outrageous fantasies on a variety of topics. I’ve read some of the posts and many of them weren’t half bad from a writing standpoint. Others, though, were so poorly written I hoped none of those folks pursued a publishing career. I made the same observation about some self-published erotica writers when I reviewed books online.

I have a good friend who has been writing erotic fiction for over 40 years. He began with “one-hand books” in the 1970’s and he’s still cranking them out, but in digital format now. He’s been hiding behind a pseudonym all this time, and the only time he used his real name was when he attempted a mainstream novel. It didn’t sell, so he went back to writing what I call porn with a plot. When I asked him about it, he explained “I write as this persona, and I sell books. I write as myself and nobody cares!”

There’s something to be said for anonymity.       

3 comments:

  1. A nice twist on the topic.

    I'd be in deep doodoo if my real identity were ever connected with my author identity. So I'm not on FB as an author at all. I use a totally different computer for my Lisabet work and email. And still, I worry, because software is getting really good at linking seemingly disparate bits of data.

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  2. I agree that software and the people who manipulate it are getting too smart for us mere mortals. I try to be careful online with posts and chatter. I don't do much online retail for this same reason. A friend tried to talk me into getting a new "smart TV" but when I found out that one of the "smart" functions was tracking and reporting your viewing habits, I took a pass. Not that I'm ordering adult pay-per-view, it was just the idea.

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  3. For better or worse, privacy seems to be shrinking. Luckily, I haven't had an obscene phone call since the 1970s. In those days, they couldn't be traced -- except by the experts at the telephone company.

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