Secret Identities

I had one a few years back.

No, I'm not superwoman. And I don't mean I was using a pen name, because those of us using a pen name, well, that's for different reasons and could be a post of its own.

I mean, I lurked around the Internet pretending to be someone who didn't exist. Apparently, it's called a "handle" but it still feels like a secret identity to me, even if I know that nothing is really secret once you hit the virtual world.

I did it because I had no idea what was out there, this was a new world for me and I entered it with baby steps. I was cautious, checking things out. I write enough fantasies to know demons lurk everywhere.

So who was I? I travelled writing forums as one of the secondary characters from the Notebook Chronicles and I'd tell you who, but I noticed someone else is using that all too secret identity now. Hope that works out for her.

Got me thinking about the pros and cons of using my real name. This is what I noticed;

under my secret identity
  • People didn't take my secret identity serious. It was overlooked. I had no friends. On forums my comments were ignored and I felt like I wasn't moving. Was I really that stupid or was it the name I chose that scared people off? I know it works for some people, but it didn't for me. Maybe I should have spelled it right, that might have helped, (ya think?) but I was trying to be creative.
  • When I did post something useful under my secret identity, I didn't get credit. In fact, the new gal running around under that creatively spelled name might. (I think it's funny that she chose to misspell it too. We might have something in common.)
  • When I asked questions, I got poor answers, if any.
  • You can't build a platform if you don't exist and you trust no one. You can't talk to agents and expect them to know who you are if you don't say who you are.
under my real name
  • I was bombarded with friends, emails, recommendations, advice, stalkers, questions... almost instantly.
  • Over night, my writing improved, because I have to care about what I write, how I write. This is me, baby, I can't hide or change who I am. I can only say sorry when I goof.
  • People answer my question marathons. I even receive answers from experienced people who never think I'm nuts for asking how much money they made from self-publishing. (I mean, that is a personal question, isn't it?)
  • I exist. I am easy to find, my comments easy to track and everything I've done I can be proud of it. So far.  
  • I don't ignore people using handles. In fact, I find them revealing to who they really are.
Any of you try out secret identities? How did that work out for you?

I found this link very useful in listing the pros and cons: GUCKES.NET
Another great post on handles was:

Have fun out there and be safe!


Teresa Cypher said...

I can't believe the timing of this post! Just yesterday, I read another writer's post about changing her name for the sake of privacy. She'd established a humble following under the name she'd been using. It made me wonder. Right now, I use my real name. A couple of my accounts still have the secret identity name hyphenated after my real--because I'd already made a decent number of online contacts and didn't want to lose them. I was hanging on to the name recognition. But, after a year of serious networking with other writers, I've all but dropped the other name. I agree. People take me seriously now--okay, maybe not seriously, but at least they acknowledge that I might not be a bot, a lurker, or a stalker. :-) Still, I'm considering separating my friends and family from professional contacts--on facebook. I think about exposure for them--through my interaction with unknown people. I love my (unknown) online friends. And I'd invite 99% of them to dinner, to spend the night at my home if they were traveling through, or to spend a couple of days if they needed a get away. It's the 1% that nag at my mind. I don't want the 1% to have access to my family and friends' information that they may have (naively) left exposed on profiles. I might sound like a paranoid nut, lol, but like my old boss used to say, "Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean "they" really aren't out to get you." ;-) I digress. Back to the actual identity discussion. :-) Yep. I like it. It's who I am. I have no idea who-- among my friends, are using real names and pen names. But, people, I think, are more real in response to my openness. And, I'm on LinkedIn under my real name, listed with my profession that pays the bills. Oy! lol...not sure what my employer would think of Willowlive isolating cultures and doing product QC for them ;-) So, other than shifting one fb account to private for real world friends and family, I think I'm going to keep it this way. Yep, people might track me down. Hey, I have two dogs with a combined total weight of 180 pounds of rottweiler. My answering machine takes every call that comes into this house. Mostly because I despise the phone and don't spend time talking on it. If you want to talk to me, come visit. We can sit in the garden and drink tea and talk about everything under the sun. :-)

And, I have to add this. I can't recall how I found your blog, but do remember feeling at ease, welcome, and an instant connection with you. I credit all of that to your openness and willingness to expose the real you on your blog and in each and every post. :-)

Tanya Reimer said...

That is a very interesting look at privacy of our family. Being that we are so active in social media, our family should be made aware that if they choose to follow us or stalk us, that they are in fact, out there with us. Nothing says they can't go anonymous, right? Thanks Teresa!!! Great points.

The Golden Eagle said...

Interesting post. Obviously, I use a pseudonym for blogging; and my real name in full is not on the internet at all. I haven't really noticed any problems from using a handle, but that might just be because I've never used my name.

Kristy Shen said...

I'm with you on using your real name. Unless you're writing about something racy, people seem to connect with you a lot better if they have a name + picture to associate with you. Great blog!

Juliana L. Brandt said...

Huh- what an interesting post. I can definitely see the pros and cons of having a secret identity. I'm glad you're you though :)

Richard said...

I remember that handle: the moosejaw writer. (i've put in the capcha five times now trying to post this)

Tanya Reimer said...

In your case, Golden Eagle, you have friends I trust and I get why you need a handle!

Hi Kristy!

LOL Juliana! I am glad I'm me now too. Gets confusing.

Sorry Richard, I'll fix that. And I wasn't the moosejaw writer even though I like that one!

Charlie Rice said...

I started online under a made-up handle for similar reasons. I posted in music newsgroups mostly, and one guy in particular I eventually became friends with was a genius hacker-type. We chatted in AOL IMs one day about internet security. I dared him to "figure me out." He already new my real first name and that I lived in Staten Island, but that's it. Less than a minute later, he told me my SS#, where I bank and my account number, my birth date, my address, and he told me to "Enjoy Bermuda next month." He knew I had booked a cruise. This man could be dangerous if he chose to be, but he actually works for the government.

There's no lesson here except maybe that we're not always as anonymous as we think.

A. LaRoque said...

I don't have one!...:-)

Vicki Tremper said...

Well, you know my experience with multiple noms de plume and it's just too hard to keep up with. You're so right about not being taken seriously, and I never realized it before.

Love the new blog look!

Victoria Lindstrom said...

It has never occurred to me to use a secret identity, but now that you put the idea in my mind, it has possibilites. I'm thinking of hiding from those pesky relatives! HaHa! Thanks, Tanya.

Elizabeth Varadan aka Mrs. Seraphina said...

I've never tried a secret identity. I don't think I will, ever, either. I once toyed with the idea of a pseudonym for my grown up stories, so that I could keep them separate from my children's work, on the premise that I wouldn't get locked into one genre that way. But then I decided, nope, one name -- my real name -- for everything. Lot's of writers I admire write everything and do get published in more than one genre.

But I did hear a writer say, at a conference, that she used a made up handle to blog with teen-agers to see what their issues were. I guess she pretended to be a teenager. Apparently that yielded tons of information for her books. This was a few years ago. I don't know if she continues to do that now. And, since my notes are thrown away, I don't even remember who she was. But when I read YAs with lots of teen angst i do wonder if she's the author. :-)

Shallee said...

Interesting look at using your real name versus the secret identity! I've never gone incognito on the web, so it's interesting to see how that works (or doesn't) for someone else.

Tanya Reimer said...

Cripes Charlie, thanks for scaring the words right out of me!

Misha Gericke said...

Well... the reason why we writers blog is to build an online platform. So it's okay to use a pen name to protect your identity, but it would be counter-productive to use a name that isn't going to go on your book cover. :-)

J.L. Campbell said...

Worst thing I ever did was to use a pen name for a book contracted to a publisher. Now that book is out there like an orphan, though I try to link to it as best I can. At the time, I had books coming out somewhat close together from different publishers.

As to handles, I use one on a writing network, which works okay as the people who critique me know who I am anyway. :)