Saturday, September 29, 2007

Pseudonymity and Identity

There is an implicit assumption underlying the belief that a person who is blogging under a pseudonym is either anonymous or masking their true identity. This assumption is false, and it resides in our definition of self and identity.

So, what is the self? I believe it is a social object, negotiated through interaction. It is also multifaceted, comprised of identities relating to our social roles ("sociology graduate student") our category memberships ("woman") and our differentiating characteristics ("delusions of grandeur").

But when asked "Who am I?" the answer is more than a random amalgamation of these various identities. Some are more central to my self-concept than others. My blogger identity - Anomie - remains distinct due to my naming it differently. It is highly salient in that I spend a fair portion of each day acting and interacting within the blogger role, and therefore the identity of Anomie. It is highly prominent in that I place a high importance on said identity. These two measures are intimately related. However, this does not mean that "Anomie" is a distinct entity. My blogger identity is also highly integrated into my other identities, such as "graduate student" and "sociologist." My pseudonym implies a false name, but it is fallacy to conclude that it also implies a false identity or a false self.

What do you gain by learning my given name? Utilize your network contacts, or the magic Google, and you learn what school I go to, who is my major professor, what publications I have, where I've presented, and what grants I've received. And, oddly, that I have a 30-boxes account. You get to place me within the structure of academia. You get to rank and categorize me according to relative status and position.

What do you get by knowing my pseudonym? Check out my profile page and you learn my graduate student status, gender, interests (academic and otherwise), favorite books, movies, and music, and - if you believe my self-portrait - that I'm a redhead with glasses and, perhaps, delusions of grandeur. Read my blog and you'll learn far more than many who interact with me only in terms of ^$@!#@$#.

This blog is a roadmap to the wicked, winding streets of my mind. And in some respects, Anomie is more "me" than ^$@!#@$# is. Because here I can speak relatively free of structural constraints. They still exist, because a pseudonym implies confidentiality, not anonymity. And the more I become embedded within this online network, interacting with others as Anomie, and developing more intensive and extensive ties via this identity, the more I have invested in it. Thus, the more prominent it becomes, and the more I do watch what I say.

In conclusion, I assert that I don't need to "come out" and reveal my true identity. This is my true identity. Anomie is me, just a me that is slightly less constrained by the other social roles I enact in my day-to-day existence.

Because a status does not an identity make.


kristina b said...

I adore this blog, and I suspect if I met you in real life I would also adore you :)

Recently, I've begun to understand the urge to blog pseudonymously. I chose not to before I was in academia. I may reverse that plan. This is a very different world than the one I came from.

Anomie said...

Aw, shucks...thanks!!! :$ I like your blog too. Especially the design.

It's ironic how it is when you leave the "real" world for academia that you begin to feel the need to leave your "real" identity behind when you blog.

mybackstage said...

Randomly found this post. Well, not so random as it was on the right side of your blog.

Just wanted to say, brilliant. I've been thinking many of these same things.

Anomie said...

Thanks! I think these issues will become increasingly important as people start to mesh their brick and mortar world with virtual existences. Change is afoot....