Saturday, April 4, 2015

Why I use my real name online

Over the years, a handful of people have asked me why about why I use my real name online. I've been doing this for a few years now, so a decent explanation wouldn't fit in a tweet (Follow me on twitter!). I haven't published any blogs posts lately (though I have a surprising-to-me number of drafts) so the timing seems right to write. Please don't take this as me saying that everybody should use their real name online. This is my experience and your mileage may vary.

Let's go through some reasons to use an alias and why I don't heed the advice.

"I don't want future employers to know what I do online and hold it against me." For me, this is a positive. If a potential employer would otherwise hire me, but on the basis of my presence online, withhold an offer, I wouldn't want to work for that employer anyway. I am lucky enough to be in a position where finding employment is a non-issue for me. I recognize that others may not be so fortunate, and cannot be so picky in their choice of employer - "I'll work any job I can get." However, this is simply not the case for me.

"I don't want people in my real life to know what I do online." Why would I not want them to know? If I'm doing something online that I don't want people close to me to know about, then maybe I shouldn't be doing it in the first place (Please don't take this to mean that I don't believe people should have no privacy). I am one person, not two, so I should have one personality, not two. What you see is what you get, whether that be online or offline.

"I might be embarrassed by what people find online about me." I'm a human being. That means I make mistakes (If you don't believe me, read through some of my previous entries). I believe in forgiveness and in second chances. People change. People learn. People grow. "Human beings are works in progress that mistakenly think they're finished." Judge me on who I am today, not who I was ten years ago. If you're going to hold something I said when I was younger against me, that says more about you than it does about me.

With these out of the way, let's go into some reasons why one might want to use their real name online.

Simplicity. Every time I need to make a new account, I don't need to spend a few seconds thinking of an alias to use. Instead, I simply take a few minutes to remember what my name is and how to spell it. When I'm talking to people, I don't have to think about "Do I know this person well enough to let them know who I am online?" before giving away my twitter handle to show them my pictures of food.

Serendipity. I believe that people, by and large, are fundamentally good. Maybe you're going through something in your life, that somebody else has been through. If you tell the world your experience, someone you know might be able to give you advice or help out, or simply relate to you how they got through a particular situation. The more secrecy you have, the less likely these moments of serendipity are to happen. It can be good for professional reasons, too. If I didn't have my linkedin profile, I wouldn't be living in the US today and working at a job I enjoy.

Authenticity & Accountability. Anonymity can give you some freedom. I've done it before. I've found that when I can say whatever I want, without worrying about the repercussions of having my real name attached, I said a lot of things I wasn't proud of. If I could take them back, I would. It's better to consider what you're about to say and if it is truly something you want to say. If not, then don't say it. Besides, it's hard enough having one personality, than to complicate things by having multiple.

Just be yourself.

Sincerely (well, mostly),
Ryan Martin Braganza