Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Nom de Plume

This post from the very non-anonymous Eric Grubbs at Theme Park Experience takes to task the vitriolic (and often barely literate) anonymous commenters on blogs but goes on to question why people feel the need to hide behind a mask when they write blogs. I stand guilty as charged. I am hiding behind a nom-de-plume at this moment. So I feel now is perhaps the time to have a think about why.

First up I should probably say that there is almost no-one who reads this rubbish who doesn't know who I am, but perhaps there are a few who stop by with whom I'm not personally acquainted. Hello. So why the pretence? Well I think it's two-fold, one part pragmatic and one part psychological.

The pragmatic part is very straight-forward. I work in an industry whose output is very public. Within that industry I am a little known, mostly due to having a website devoted to the work I do which is quite popular and also because I've been interviewed about a couple of blockbusters that I've worked on over recent time. Those interviews were done under the auspices of my employers at the time. I have a corporate responsibility to my employers, who are very well-known within the industry. Therefore my real identity is already taken up with and bound to a certain aspect of my life and if I wish to continue to discuss the work we do publicly (which I do) as well as representing the companies for whom I work I feel that I cannot also use that identity to discuss personal matters which may or may not pertain to the work I and they do. Google is very powerful and if the private-ish misgivings that I may discuss here were connected to my public persona there is the possibility of causing embarrassment in the future to my employers or their clients so I took the nom-de-plume, which is ironically, more akin to the "real me" than the site that bears my name, to avert that possibility.

My second reason for choosing a nom-de-plume is that when I began writing the blog I didn't know quite what I would write about; whether it would be a very personal, diaryish account of my life or something of perhaps more general interest. As it's turned out, it has been something of both, but when I started I didn't know whether I would be writing about things that I might get embarrassed about if they were known and connected to me personally. It is one of the beauties of the internet is that we can be very public in one sense and yet utterly anonymous in another. It offers us a freedom of expression which has never been available before. I can read what appear to be the innermost thoughts of people I will never meet and as such I feel I get a deeper insight into what it is be human and I don't need that person's real identity in order to connect. Obviously if a blog sets out to defame a named and identifiable third party and yet its author hides behind a pseudonym then that is cowardice yet most anonymous authors I read have pseudonyms for the people they write about as well as themselves.

Now that many of my friends know about this blog and because I don't try and court controversy I suppose that reason's not so valid, but I must admit that even so I find it quite liberating to write under a name that is not my own and to create this persona to which the rest of the world relates. Mr Atrocity is quite like me, though I certainly don't tell all here, and the real me uses far more good, solid Anglo-Saxon vernacular in his day-to-day dealings than your erstwhile host, but as long as the air of anonymity persists I can be much more candid than if it were written under my real name for both the practical reasons listed above and the emotional crutch reason I have just described. It is easier for me to be honest about myself and those about whom I write if our public identities remain concealed.

It isn't a question of avoiding libel or ducking out of responsibility for my actions or words; unkind comments would hurt the real me as much as they would Mr Atrocity, but the point is that whether we use our real names or not, when we write we create a persona, which may be very like us, but it isn't actually us. It's akin to a literary puppet, a character we control, into whose mouth we insert words and whose pain we feel, but ultimately we are not the same person and I like the defined differentiation between me and my pen-name as linked but not identical personalities.


Blogger Eric Grubbs said...

Thanks for the linkage and the plentiful explanation. Sure beats the standard "I don't want to offend anybody" line.

I didn't mean to direct my comments to what you do on this blog. Rather, my post was directly aimed at the people who post comments anonymously (as in, the username is 'anonymous'). That's even more anonymous than those that have aliases. There's a cowardly nature to leaving snide remarks in comment sections and I'm still wondering what the deal is.

1:58 am  
Blogger scruffylooking said...

I agree with both of you. I get nervous when I think that my employers or extended family may find my blog because mine can be more personal and inappropriate.

When leaving comments, I always give a link to my blog. Because if I'm telling someone they're full of shit, they should have the option to judge me as well. In general, I can't imagine leaving that kind of comment. If I don't like what someone is saying, I just don't read their blog.

4:16 pm  

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