Real Names and the Internet

Recently, I have been thinking about my name. There’s a few reasons for this – namely (pun intended, honest) that my friend has had to remove a lot of the presence he enjoys on the internet to allow himself to get into the country of his birth. I am keeping his name from this post because I imagine he’d want me to I suppose, but I think that I’ve probably talked about him before. His worry is that his use of the internet might cause trouble when he wants to get into his country.

Another reason is that recently the geekworld’s been attacked by the makers of World of Warcraft Blizzard Entertainment deciding that their official forums for support and general chit chat will change to a RealID model. This is the model in which instead of hiding behind a nick name (username) you will have your real life™ name will appear instead. Their reasoning behind this is that it’s harder to “troll” or insult someone if you think that they are a real person rather than a fake username. Seeing Gordon Smith rather than geeklicker44 makes you less likely to rip into them is an obviously untested formula and might not even work, but it’s a point that might work.

You see, when Facebook introduced the “username” thing a while back there was a lot of confusion from some as the main point of Facebook was that you didn’t need this type of username because it was based all on your real name and your email address. This made it almost like your personal page online and I preferred it’s simplicity to the username bullshit and childish behaviour that was Bebo and Myspace.

Obviously, I am going to not be bothered by the use of real names on the internet – apart from the fact that this blog is hosted at “justanothersheeldz” I make no bones about this being my blog at all, referencing my name all over the place. Indeed, my internet “name” is just a silly phonetic spelling of my real name – sheeldz was convenient as it’s rarely used by any site anywhere other than myself. So yeah, if you see a “sheeldz” online it’s probably me.

But can using real names be a bad thing? For example, it was only until recently that I had made my Twitter and Facebook truly private. For a while I didn’t mind who found me and what they saw, but as I grown a little older I am a little worried about what artiefacts I have left behind on the internet. I have posted many times on several forums (Rollercoaster, Hitchhikers Guide, Music, Gaming, Roads and Mobile Phone sites mostly) and all are under similar aliases. I never used my real name until very recently, but putting two and two together I might have a problem I guess. Using the person finder site I enter my name and find that if, say, an employer were to do so they wouldn’t find my Facebook. They don’t find my blog either. They do find my Twitter but confusingly, and strangely, you find another Mark Shields from Glasgow who I’ve actually spoken to on Twitter. “thesheldon” is eerily like me in fact, posting on the same music website I post to. And there’s a reason for this.

I actually share my name with several people, and not just my doppelganger in Glasgow. No, there’s several real people that have a much more interesting online persona that shield me (pun intended again) from these kinds of searches. I am not hiding, but I am also not in plain view. The only thing I know is that, on this blog, everything I write can be taken as you read it and I have to exercise caution on it much like anyone would have to in a written publication in the media and that actually covers the whole of the internet. Real names are not a problem if you are being your real self and, for the most part, I am trying to be me.

Barack Obama