Blogging, trust, and pseudonyms

Think carefully before attempting to create, and maintain, a fake identity online. The technology is making it much harder to do this.

I read an article the other day at CopyBlogger called Why James Chartrand Wears Women’s Underpants. Initially when I read the article I found inconsistencies with it (which I will explain later). I read the comments and thought I slipped into another world (and I became curious). Then I went to James’ site for the first time and browsed. This article will explain the conclusions I came to.

The inconsistencies with James’ explanation

James (which is a woman – remember that) starts with a heart breaking story of a woman that is unable to make ends meet for her family (single parent). Struggling as an author under her real name, she picked a male name to write under and instantly (her word, not mine) noticed a difference.

I was still bringing in work with the other business, the one I ran under my real name. I was still marketing it. I was still applying for jobs — sometimes for the same jobs that I applied for using my pen name.

I landed clients and got work under both names. But it was much easier to do when I used my pen name.

Next, the explanation that is okay using a male pseudonym citing others who did it because of discrimination. I have experienced discrimination and had opportunities disappear because of my gender so I’m not saying that discrimination does not exist. Inevitably, someone linked to her site and she received more exposure. Then the reason for the confession: someone threatened to tell her secret.

For three years, I’ve kept my true name and gender pretty tightly under wraps and only confided in a tiny handful of people I trusted.

In the United States, you can write under a pseudonym but you have to provide accurate information to the employer and report the income properly. When a writer picks a pen name for a book, the book is published with the pen name is on the cover but the publisher knows the real identity of the author. Many make a corporation around the identity so they can legally use it. Using an agent would also provide a layer of protection (the agent would collect income but that is an expensive option). James’ situation is different. The scenario she presented was being unable to get good gigs, meaning she’d have to present herself as a man to the people hiring her. Her audience, according to her entry, had little to do with her situation and why she decided to write as a man. Reading this on Brian’s site, I find it very hard to believe he was one that would have treated her differently as a female. Of course, there are communities like BlogHer that cater to women.

Then my real WTF moment came:

Oh, my real name? Well, I never really wanted that revealed, totally apart from the gender issue. I know better than most how quickly and profoundly revealing just a tiny bit of personal information can affect (and even destroy) people’s lives.

I have kids. I’m not interested in making myself vulnerable in that way.

If you scroll up, didn’t she just say she was initially marketing under her real name? She was doing this yet she NEVER wanted to reveal her real name? Which one is it? Seriously?

The comments: unreal

Overall people supported her decision. No one questioned who these unscrupulous companies were that treated her unfairly. Few were angry that she lied to her audience. At first I was puzzled because with my audience, if I said, “guess what, I’m a man” they would be pissed off. Of course, I can’t say that because I’ve had pictures online, done video streams, did voice chats, podcasts, videos, and met many of the people I interact with. These are things James cannot do because she has to maintain the lie (even though she’s told the truth – note she said to continue to call her James). Real-time activities are things to avoid when lying because of the extra care needed to maintain the lies.

Essentially, she has cockblocked her own growth. The more popular one becomes, the more people want to see and interact with the person. That’s when the invitations to speak, go to conferences, etc. come up. She’d have to reject them all. She also has to shy away from most social interactions because honestly, it would be idiotic to set up social network profiles (having friends) for “James Chartrand”. That’s asking to be busted, especially if there are other James Chartrands around.

The timing for her admission comes at an ironic time as, in the US, we have two high profiles situations going on around immoral acts. Tiger Woods cheating/lying to his wife and Facebook changing their privacy policies. In both cases, the actions are not illegal, they are immoral. However, people expressed their disgust, anger, frustration, etc. over these situations. They felt betrayed and misled. Tiger has this squeaky clean image that was a lie and Facebook changed features that attracted users. Why is James Chartrand getting no flack what-so-ever?

People don’t seriously care one way or the other.

Think about it. If someone you’ve come to respect lied to you, how would you take it? Especially if they continued the lie unnecessarily. James no longer needs to lie. People were more upset that Tiger lied/cheated and Facebook changed their policies. To me, that says a lot.

I am blessed to have an audience that cares about me. They’ve watched me grow communities, hung out with me online, trusted me enough to ask me for advice, drove me crazy (let’s not forget that – /hugs), prayed for me and my family, supported my projects…there is a bond with my readers. I know they want comments opened here and I’ve explained they will be once I finish getting the site in order (until I am sure I can import them, I don’t want to lose the data) but I make an effort to hurry up because I care that they care enough to want to interact with me and each other. I am wonderfully blessed to have people that love, trust and respect me (even if they never met me). If I betrayed their trust, it would hurt…as it should. Because they care.

There are too many successful female writers for this to be about gender alone. I am not saying there isn’t discrimination because there is, but I question why I’ve been able to over come it, other women overcame it, and she can’t? Who are these unscrupulous companies doing this? Let’s kick some ass and stop this once and for all. Don’t hold your breath for names to be exposed. It won’t happen.

Men With Pens…

I browsed Men With Pens and let’s just say I raised an eyebrow at some of the things said because, with the new knowledge of her using a fake identity, the meaning of her words change. Sometimes dramatically.

I cannot say, in all honesty, that I know what it’s like to be a work-at-home mother, though. But I’m a dad, and that’s close.

…Those blogs don’t make me feel like an outsider because I’m male. I’m not afraid to comment. I know my comments are read. I feel like if I toddle over to visit the blog, my balls won’t be lopped off and tossed to the wolves.
Online Personality: Avoiding the Mommy Blogger Stereotype

Of course she doesn’t feel afraid to comment because she’s a female single parent. As a male, she doesn’t know a damn thing.

My local community doesn’t make me feel guilty if I don’t contribute. No one comes to ask for my money or my time, either. They put an ad in the paper. Contribute or not, if you like the cause. I don’t have an obligation to fork out because I live in this town. I could ignore the whole idea completely, if I wanted.

And I’d still be seen as a fine, upstanding member of the community.Screw Community

Or, maybe she can’t contribute to a community because her alias would be busted.

Posting a photo is one way to achieve some credibility, and many people recommend putting your face up on your site. But posting a photo is an action that I don’t necessarily agree with, even though it’s highly recommended.Building Credibility with Personal Photos

Or, the real reason, James can’t post a photo without blowing her identity. See what I mean? These articles take on a completely different meaning when you know the facts. To me, they come off as excuses as to why she is not doing what everyone else does naturally. I never put a picture up for credibility. The thought never crossed my mind to put up a picture for credibility. Do people really do that? What about a picture makes you credible?

In the end…

I strongly suggest not taking her path and faking your identity if you live in the US. Not only does it cripple you legally, let alone the issue of copyright, it is challenging to become popular and maintain the identity. Look at all the people who tried and failed as they became popular. Being on the internet alone leaves a trail people can follow to find out pseudonym. Become popular enough, someone will become curious enough, and you will suffer the fate of the others…busted. Fortunately for those people, they didn’t have a secret.

If you do write with a pseudonym, make sure legally you have all the bases covered. The legal hassles aren’t worth it.

Good luck James…or whatever your name is. Hopefully many people will learn from your story.

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