Anonymous & Pseudonymous Posting

I am interested in the rationale behind the captioned phenomenon. Why do some (or most?) people disguise or hide their identities when posting opinions on Internet message boards. Will the same person alternate between signed/unsigned posting based on forum or content? If so, why?

When reading postings, is there any greater weight given to signed postings? Are there any differences in responding to these? And what if the posting (signed/unsigned) was critical of the poster’s views? And again, why?

I will be very interested in any responses.

They all must have something to hide.

Perhaps those of us with eponymous user names should start a club

I maintain my anonymity on the 'net for the same reason I don’t walk through the mall wearing a sign bearing my name and address.

Hell, more reason than that, actually. I don’t need Joe Nutball looking me up IRL. And, as I can think of two such people I’ve encountered at the SDMB alone who would have tried, I don’t think that’s a particularly outlandish concern.

Something to hide, Tyrrell? Yup. My real life from a half a billion total strangers.

Is it all that big a deal? Probably not. Am I different online than in person? I don’t think so, and I try not to be. Do I judge others by their handles? No. Are people less real or relevant to me without a name attached? Nope.

Did I cover everything?

I dunno, I use my real name…

So do I. In fact, I’m damned proud to attach my real name in some small way to the Straight Dope and one day I hope Cecil himself will invite me over so I can talk to him at length about how no-one appreciates me.

Thanks andros, I guess the only question I have regarding your opinion is the phrase “real life”. You indicate that you feel there is no such dichotomy (between your on-line and “live” activities) and also that you’re concerned, basically, about physical security. Am I trying to read too much into “real life”?

i use my real name… but if you must know my full name, it is
Mango Merlot Spumante Oh La La III. (not really but it is my given name when i used to be a waiter)

sorry… Mango Merlot Spumante Ooh La La (the) III
kinda like ‘Angelina Contessa Louisa Franchesca Banana Fana Bo Besca (the) III’

I am really private because there are so many people reading here and I don’t know them or anything about who they are other than what they reveal about themselves.

And how do we know what is true? I tend to be self effacing in real life but I figure if I came across that way on the net people would really think I was worse. (And I am an ok person, I think ;0)

I do think people can register and register and be different people to talk to themselves. (maybe they have prevented that now)

Also when people who have posted here over and over and you get a gut feeling that you know them, believe what they write, etc. then you do have a better idea of who they are. And how the others here relate to them.


Pseudonymity allows for not only a certain distance between the persona you use online and the one you use in real life, but it allows for a “reputation” with the escape-hatch of being able to discard said persona if you really bone things up. Those who use their real names online don’t have that advantage.

There’s no way of telling if the name someone’s using is in fact their real name. How do you know my name is Audrey K? This could be my mother’s, daughter’s, fifth grade teacher’s, dog’s, or neighbor’s name. It could be the name of a person I skimmed through the phone book to find. It could just be a name that popped into my head. So to use a person’s screen name as a test of authenticity, wisdom, experience, or sincerity is a pretty unwise thing to do.

I admit I take posters who have names like “Idiot” or “StupidMan” less seriously, but c’mon, it’s hard not to. Likewise, I’m more inclined to take offense at something posted by someone named “MadBitch” or “ihateu”. This might not be fair if the person truly meant no offense, but you have to admit that names like those do little more for others than put them on edge. And many, if not all, names make people develop preconceived notions about the people they belong to.

But beyond that, it’s just a name.

True, I don’t use my “real name” for the same reasons most people stated above. You never know who’s reading the web page, and there are just too many stories out there about “wierdos.” So, it’s essentially just a privacy issue. A litttle neurotic? Sure, but if doing something as easy as using a false name or a “handle” makes you feel even the slightest bit better, and it dosn’t hurt anyone, might as well go for it, I’d say.

Another reason, which no one really noticed, it’s kind of fun to have a “net identity.” Granted, I doubt many people are “in character” when online, and out of character while not on the computer. We might be a little less reserved, online, but our vocabulary will be more or less the same, and our demeanor will be similar to what it would be if being talked to face to face.

I’m not so sure about the “signed/unsigned” postings issue.

I completely agree with AudreyK, in that it’s hard to take someone with a handle like Idiotboy or MarilynMansonFan seriously. But, then again, it’s more than likely just a joke, and these people are just expressing themselves.

Interesteing topic, thanks for sharing your question.

I don’t exactly hide my real name (if anyone wants to look hard enough, they can find it), but I use SPOOFE pretty universally anyway, both online and off. So it pretty much comes out to about the same.

The thing is, while you’re online, you have very little control over who you’ll come into contact with… or, rather, who’ll come into contact with you. If you want to post on a message board somewhere, you may say something completely innocent, but someone with an ax to grind may see it and then start pestering you.

I pretty much keep my real life off the Internet, with the exception of a few bits and pieces here and there.

For those that need to know, SPOOFE’s real name is “Bo Diddley”.

Just so’s ya know.

Other than that: what’s so odd about wanting to retain some semblance of privacy? We get into some heated debates - who wants to be easily tracked down by any old psycho out there? I don’t go round handing out business cards to eveybody in the pub either.


Shouldn’t people instead drop their Ms/Mr Jane Doe guises in the “outside” world and reveal their true identities of Vader555 or BritneyGirl or OldHorny45 that they likely spend the majority of their waking hours existing as?

Of course, my real name is also several other people’s real name… but I don’t have a problem using it. Though, since pseudonyms are the dominant convention online, perhaps that makes me the Internet equivalent of a nudist.

I can understand people wanting to protect their privacy from online fruit-loops… I suppose it depends how much importance you assign to that issue. It doesn’t worry me much; I have a drably conventional lifestyle, so nothing to hide, and, since I try to be a nice guy both here and IRL, it’s unlikely I’m going to upset anyone enough to make them hunt me down.

I don’t use my real name for the same reason most people here already stated : to avoid being pestered by some random nutcase. I don’t think there’s a real risk of such a thing happening when I argue here about say, politics with people who live on the other side of the Atlantic, but for convenience, I use the same handle wherever I go on the net. And I wouldn’t like having some weirdo (or even some regular person) knocking at my door or calling at my workplace for whatever reason he thinks appropriate.
But I don’t consider I’ve an “on-line persona” different from my “real-life persona”.

Like SPOOFE, I use a single online pseudonym nearly exclusively. I don’t exactly consider this anonymity, as if someone finds anything by “fluiddruid” (one word), it’s very likely to be me (or, in recent years, someone who saw my name and liked it). This is simply my online persona. People who know me well know my screen name. With enough digging, I imagine someone could find out my real name. After all, I have been using this name since my BBS days, and I’m sure the information is out there.

Yet, I don’t intend to make it easy to connect my name and my screen name. Trust me, it’s a very bad idea to use your real name. It can pop up in real life and it’s an uncomfortable situation. What’s acceptable, even normal, online is not always considered so out there in the real world.

I don’t know about that. I’ve been using my real name in online postings on boards and on Usenet for years. It has yet to come back and bite me. In any event, I’ll stand by anything I say here, or cheerfully retract if proven wrong.

Zev Steinhardt

My real name is a little boring, frankly. It’s good name, but not particularly memorable or exciting. My screen name is a family nickname; when we were kids, my brother and I pretended to be rival superheroes named King Kumquat and Burundi the Magnificent. So my screen name has affection and history behind it, and it’s a name I chose for myself rather than one my parents gave me. Besides, in real life, there’s no way I could get folks to call me Burundi.