Disclaimer: This is NOT directed at anyone in particular. It is an issue that I have been thinking about for a long time. I'm also not going to pursue the academic theories around identity and a writer's right to have as many nom de plumes as they want, at least not here.
I am hopelessly old-fashioned. So old-fashioned that even in the whacked- out, surreal world of the internet, I still cling to quaint notions that people are who they say they are, especially when they have built a reputation over time of being authentic, caring members of a site. Of course I know that skulduggery, nastiness, bullying, duplicity and even criminal behavior abound online, but it's always a shock when it is revealed. At least to me.
I am not suggesting that members who have more than one identity on OS are guilty of any of those things, but I am taking issue with the argument that always comes up when multiple identities or misrespresentations are revealed. That argument consists of denying that there are real people behind computer screens who have real feelings about the writer and what they read, and real reactions to finding out that they have been fooled. The argument always goes like this: The internet is full of crazies so you're crazy too if you become emotionally invested or make friends with anyone online. My response to that is always: Huh? I am a fool for wanting to connect with another human being through their writing or personality just because I am "meeting" them virtually? That is to deny basic human nature to be social whatever the context.
I find that attitude insulting to the people to whom it is directed, but mostly I find it horribly, mind-numbingly cynical about the potential of the internet to build connections and effect social change. In essence, it reduces all the time that people spend online on sites such as OS to mere posturing and pretending to be something we're not. All relationships formed in such an environment are rendered false and meaningless because nobody really knows who anyone is. It's all a big joke.
A waste of human potential
There will always be pretenders online and in "real" life. Those of us who are honest and present parts of our true selves here are mocked by the idea that we're all phonies on the internet. Trust is considered "naive." Anyone who takes friendships or "emotionally invests" online is viewed as a sucker, an innocent, or deserving of what they get.
And I know what's coming next. I don't use my real name to post here -- although at times I have considered it -- so I am a fraud myself. I'm not buying it. Whatever I have written in the year or so that I've been here has been an honest reflection of myself. I haven't made up things, or embellished my life, or even thought about doing so. I choose what I reveal, that is my right as a person, but what is out there is me. Of course, you don't have to believe it, but it's true. I have written fiction and creative non-fiction and identified it as such. Anyone here who wants to know my real name needs only to PM me and I will be happy to provide it depending on my relationship with you. You can Google me to your heart's content and find out anything about me that you can.
I can't change what other people choose to think or do, but I am free to express my opinion on what I don't agree with, which is being labelled a dreamer or an idiot for not wanting social media sites and sites like OS to devolve into a mere collection of liars and losers who get off on pulling a fast one on anyone unfortunate enough to believe them. That reeks of power mongering to me. It's possible to write under a dual identity without also engaging as a member of an online community if you are already a prominent member of that community, or even if you aren't. Again, I don't think that many will agree with me but it's my blog so I will write what I want.
I read somewhere a while ago that the "internet is the greatest waste of human potential ever invented." I don't want to believe that. But attitudes like the one I've just discussed convince me that it is headed in that direction. Or maybe it's simply that some human beings prefer to think the worst of people, while the old-fashioned rejects like me want to take people at face value as much as possible. Only time will tell.