Monday, March 24, 2008

Who are you online?

The question of anonymity on the Web seems to me a heated and
never-ending debate. Should we reveal our true identities online? Or
should we hide who we truly are and go around cyberspace as
anonymously as possible?

In favour of the first position, I've heard:

  • People like real names. It's much easier to trust content posted by someone you can track back in time, and this helps you get readers more realistic perception of the poster.
  • The more background information you give about yourself, the less likely your readers are to misinterpret your words.
  • For educators, addressing a group without introducing themselves seems unthinkable (at least in my culture). Conversely, I would personally refuse to teach someone who refused to identify themselves. Why would I do otherwise online?

Against revealing your true identity online, it's been said that:

  • The Web is the place for anonymity by excellence. (I do not support this view, I actually believe this idea goes against true communication)
  • You cannot control who has access to your information online. Therefore, it's wise to protect your privacy. (I do agree with this view to a point, though I guess it's time we started questioning how "private" our identity is even before we go online when so many sites can post about us!).

A solution reconciling all arguments (except perhaps the unlimited right to anonymity) could be the systematic use of aliases and an avatar instead of a photo.

In conclusion, I can certainly understand somebody's decision to use different aliases to post about their professional life from family news. What I find hard to deal with is somebody who asks for support from a community I belong to, and at the same time refuses to open any doors to collaboration with me by not revealing who they are.

In this video clip, Dick Clarence discusses Identity 2.0. Enjoy!


Can you add any arguments to the ones mentioned above? Would you like to share your views on our online identities? Post a comment below! (or write a post in your own blogs and trackback here).