Pseudonymity And Social Networking


Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of Ordinary Times. Relapsed Lawyer, admitted to practice law (under his real name) in California and Oregon. On Twitter, to his frequent regret, at @burtlikko. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.

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45 Responses

  1. Avatar E.C. Gach says:

    Burt I completely (or at least very much so) understand the conflict. 

    And even being as young as I am, and digitally raised like the rest of my generation, I find social networking to be exceedingly overrated.  Especially since I’ve taken to blogging and commenting extensively across web, I’ve found that traditional forms of communication remain, at least to me, superior to the Facebooks, Myspaces, etc.

    Obviously, I decided to forgo anonymity.  But there is still the question of how I will control my online persona.  Though I’m not nearly as scrupulous or dilligent as I’d like to believe, I tend to think of my online identity like a wax seal or letterhead.  It symbolizes the person that whomever is interacting with me is dealing with.  And trying to reconcile that with the “to close to home” interactions of something like Facebook is nearly impossible.  Some people try to incorporate their Facebook into their online brand, but it seems hopeless to me.

    It’s the difference between maintaing relations with colleagues, clients, and aquaintances and talking with family memebers in the house or friends at the pub.  And then there is the whole issue of privacy and aggregating past online social interactiosn (Facebook’s timelining and such) which makes the whole thing even more problematic.

    All this is to say that I think you’ve made the right choice in forgoing Facebook (Google+ I don’t know nearly enough about), and that there is something to be said for maintaing the barriers, however loosely, between different spheres of our lives.Report

  2. Avatar Snarky McSnarkSnark says:

    I think that pseudonymous blogging is dishonest.

    Mrs. McSnarkSnark and I condemn you in the  strongest possible terms.Report

  3. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    Who!…  Are!…  You!,…  Burt!… Likkooooo?!?!?!?!?!?Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko says:

      I promise you, the answer to that question is as useless as it is insipid.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        Oh.  Okay.  Well, in that case: *I don’t care*.  How d’you like that, “Burt Likko”? There goes your smug self-satisfaction at keeping me in the dark, hungering after knowledge of your true identity, right out the window.  I don’t care. So there.


  4. Avatar Jaybird says:

    I stay pseudonymous because I don’t want potential employers reading my stuff.

    They’ll figure out that I’m crazy in their own sweet time. I have no desire to make it easy for them.Report

    • Avatar Plinko says:

      I feel stupid running around with this moniker but I started with it plus I write things here often enough that my employer (not to mention potential future employers!) would not be happy with that I feel compelled to keep it.Report

    • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

      I don’t bother with it because I’d almost rather potential employers read my stuff.

      If I’m a bad culture fit, *I don’t wanna work there*.  I’ve been in bad culture fits before, and it’s not worth the stress increase.

      Admittedly, I’m less crazy than you are.  But probably not by much.Report

      • Avatar Plinko says:

        I think IT folks can get away with it more than those of us in regular corporate management.

        Actually, I’d probably really be OK if I could bring myself to stay out of the discussions of international trade and third-world labor, but I don’t think that will happen.Report

      • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

        That’s ultimately how I come down as well.Report

    • Avatar Dan Miller says:

      This is why I love my generic-ass name.  Even if this comes up when you google “Dan Miller”, there’s plausible deniability.Report

  5. Avatar James Hanley says:

    I began anonymously on blogs, then went with my real name as a way of disciplining myself online. But despite my real name, occupation, place of work, residence, contact information, etc., being out there and readily available, I have no interest in social networking. I have a facebook account that I never check, and that’s it. In these respects Mr. Likko (if that’s who he really is) and I apparently couldn’t be more different. He still seems like a decent fellow though (whoever he is).Report

  6. I’m a big fan of putting your name to what you write. If someone is not going to hire me because of something I say or write online, then odds are I don’t want to work for them. That is, I understand, a luxury that not everyone has and I did recently come across  a situation where my ability to be so strident with that principle was undermined. And I’m sure it will crop up again having gone into business for myself. So while I believe firmly in one side of the argument, I understand and empathize with the other side of the coin.

    But what I really wanted to note out of this was the micro-fracturing becoming apparent in various “new media” networks. The traditional bloggers (can we assign such a qualifier already?) often see social networks like Facebook and Twitter to be a waste of time for a variety of reasons in the same way that some traditional writers and journalists used to (and in some cases still do) see blogs as a waste of time.

    There’s no great analysis here. I just find this cycle amusing in a benign sort of way. Given my chosen business model, I’m not inclined to call networks like Facebook or Twitter a waste of time. But I do think we have a tendency to over-apply the useful of these networks. Each has its own strengths, weaknesses, and idiosyncrasies  and are ultimately best used when we bear those in mind vis-a-vis our chosen application.Report

  7. Avatar BSK says:

    I’m in a tough boat as a teacher.  Tougher still because I am politically and culturally divergent from the dominant school population.  And further compounded by the fact that I am young, male, and work in early childhod, each of which has their own unique difficulty when it comes to people’s perceptions of me.  If I am with colleagues and tell a story about drinking or going to a strip club, some people say, “But, you work with young children!”  It is as if inhabiting a world of young children for my professional day means I ought never dabble in the world of adults when I’m off the clock.  They do not necessarily think that I am going to start drinking in and hiring strippers for the class.  Rather, they think of my classroom as having a certain purity which I am expected to maintain at all times, even when I’m not in it.  I’m not seen as an individual or a man or a husband or a guy or a friend or whathaveyou.  I am a teacher.  And that is all.  So, if parents were to see what I post online, it is less that they’d be shocked about the specifics of my opinions or viewpoints, and more shocked that I have opinions.  “Why is he weighing in on abortion?  He’s a Pre-K teacher, for Christ’s sake!”  So, for me, better to leave well enough alone and not mix the two worlds.  Ultimately, it is better and easier that way for me.  I don’t like to shit where I eat.  And I have no interest in socializing with most of the people I interact with at work beyond exchanging pleasantries and having good, constructive working relationships.

    Facebook is fun and games.  I keep it as private as possible (which is increasingly hard), limit the number of friends I keep (not something I need to do actively in real life… the smell keeps most people away…), and know never to take it too seriously.  I have yet to have any “trouble” as a result of anything I’ve put on Facebook and the moment I do is the moment the account goes away.Report

    • Avatar Will H. says:

      I have professional expectations that I don’t necessarily comply with as well.
      I blog elsewhere with pseudonyms. This is the only place I use my real name.
      I don’t think the writing or comments are different because of it.
      If I’m a jackass, it’s because I’m naturally that way– no hint of pretense here.Report

  8. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    My first thought was to keep spammers from scraping my personal email.  It occurred to me also that there are some craaaaazy people out there, and I don’t really want to inadvertently create a personal contact with one of them.

    A side benefit is that it’s a lot easier to search for a handle than to search for a real name, because there are a lot of people with the same name as me, but nobody out there ever named their kid “DensityDuck”.


    Many people have (and will) tell me that a refusal to put my real name on my posts encourages uncivil behavior and makes them take me less seriously.  To which I say, the first is a matter of self-discipline.  If you’re worried about what you do when you’re wearing a mask, that’s a problem you need to solve, not dodge.  And to the second; congratulations, you’ve made an Argument From Authority, albeit in a sort of inverse manner.  Why should my “reputation” matter about anything?  Why should it lend credence to my words?  The substance of speech should be independent of the speaker.  Otherwise you’re just engaging in a cult of personality.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck says:

      Besides, identity means jack.  If ‘real names’ is what’s important then as far as the Internet is concerned I could be Jim Heffman, Sally Roberts, Albert McEllingston, Barack Obama.  Heck, maybe I’m three or four different commentors here already.  Only the IP address logs know for sure.Report

  9. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    I suspect that the whole Burt Likko bit a a long and well organized ruse to get out of paying for drinks in Vegas.

    “Thanks, you can set them down right there; and please bill these to Mr. Likko’s room.”Report

  10. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    I dunno.   I wrestle with BlaiseP.  He’s my alter ego.   I put up photographs under my own name but BlaiseP is a fun persona and I’ve been writing under this pseud for so long I’m not about to give him up.   Anyone who wanted to contact me, could.

    Just don’t make a big deal about how writing under one’s own name is morally preferable to a pseud, because it’s true and I don’t want to admit it.   I invented BlaiseP while I was doing gummint contracting and still don’t want my politics to make a dent on the first search.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck says:

      Ho, ho, ho.  If they cared, then they’d know.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        You’re probably right, in some limited cases.   From what I’ve seen, sitting over there on that bench at Ft Dix getting my last access card, the guys who constitute “They”  [spooky minor chord here] are not the sharpest knives in the drawer.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi says:

        … and that was why my good friend didn’t register an affiliation for the Longest Time. He finally realized that living in Pittsburgh, it just made good sense to be D (well, in 2008). Not that he’s allowed to vote in local elections… (Philly politics are pretty rough, huh?)Report

    • Avatar Snarky McSnarkSnark says:

      P is for “Pascal” ?Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:


        People are generally better persuaded by the reasons which they have themselves discovered than by those which have come in to the mind of others.Report

  11. Avatar Snertly says:

    I thoroughly agree on the value of having a pseudonymous identity online.  You can make use pseudonyms on Facebook and Google+, and they’ll last until they get particularly noticed, unless you’ve managed to accumulate a sufficient number of followers, or some other form of status, prior to getting noticed.Report

  12. Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

    Robert Cheeks is not my real name. He’s a fellow I greatly admire, however, for his much celebrated bonhomie, general good cheer, and bumptiousness. My real name is Louis Hernandez.Report

  13. Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

    Unprincipled behavior is strongly correlated to pseudoanonymity, in my view and in my experience.

    However, there are strong professional reasons to remain anonymous in this day and age.  My old blog had 3 published academics who felt obliged to hide their conservatism, for instance.  And I suppose there are fields where one’s leftism might have professional consequences.Report

    • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

      Regardless of politics, I can see how the practitioners of the trades of law and medicine, with their required discretion, have a strong incentive to use a pen name of some sort.

      It, itself, indicates discretion.Report

  14. Avatar wardsmith says:

    I feel horrible for cracking the code on Burt Likko’s real identity. You see the “r” just goes to the other side. But Likkor. Of course having a sobriquet like that has led to taunting behavior so he’s modified it. Don’t worry But, you’re secret’s safe with me! 🙂Report

  15. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    Oscar Wilde weighs in from 120 years ago:

    Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.”  The Critic As Artist, Pt. IIReport