I recently read a blog post whose author was (pretty aggressively) calling out anyone and everyone that blogs under a pseudonym. A pen name. A nom de plume. A character. A nickname. An assumed identity. Basically, if you referred to yourself anywhere in your blog by anything other than your official, legal, government-ratified name, this author was accusing you of treachery, dishonesty, and (worst of all) not keeping it “real.” GASP!
This actually wasn’t the first time I have seen these sentiments expressed. As you know, I am dunce two. This is The Dunce Academy. I, dunce two, am writing this article. Is dunce two offended by blog posts like the ones I am referencing? Not at all. Is dunce two’s “actual identity” available even on this blog with just the tiniest bit of investigation? Yes it is. Does dunce two strongly suspect that 99.99% of the three people that actually read this blog know who he really is anyway? Yes, he does. Really, dunce two doesn’t see what the big deal is.
I write from my heart. The person you observe writing here is who I am, no matter what name or label I put on it. Would I mail hard copies of some of these articles directly to my grandma? Maybe not. But that does not mean that I am not me.
So why do I write with a pen name? Because that is how dunce one and I started the blog. That was our concept. Our primary motivation was fun, not secrecy. We are not hiding anything.
And I am certainly not going to lower myself to the level of making sweeping generalizations or short-sighted accusations. But, I will say, just very generally, that I believe in the possibility of keeping it a little bit too real.
As I said, I have encountered these “keep it real” advocates before. And at least with the ones I have seen, a lot of times they have obvious “issues.” And chips on their shoulders. A “keeping it real” complex, if you will. Their version of “keeping it real” is spewing every inane thought, feeling, and comment. An emotion dump. A perpetually and increasingly incoherent rant about every little thought or impulse that enters their brain. They have strong (and often misguided) opinions on EVERYTHING. They have no filters. No sense of propriety or decorum. And if you disagree or are offended with anything they say, the fault lies exclusively with you. And if you fall short of keeping it as “real” as they do, you are a fake and a phony and they are calling you out.
Again, without making any sweeping generalizations or accusations of my own, it appears that many of these champions of the “real” are actually intensely insecure. Not everyone that writes with a real name, of course (that would be silly), but several of those that act like there is something wrong with you if you don’t follow suit. In a strange way, it is almost like their “real” names and “real” identities become their disguises. They hide behind who they pretend they actually are.
Because the internet is anonymous. To a certain degree, the only thing out “there” is what you put out “there.” I guess that is true for life generally too. But on the internet or in person, you put your best foot forward. Or most of us do. Most people don’t lead with their dirty laundry or the skeletons in their closet. But some do, even in life. Are they better than the rest of us? More honest? More “real”? I don’t think so. To each his/her own, but I don’t think people should get extra points for excess candor with their flaws.
And there are probably as many reasons for pen names as there are pen names. Plenty of excellent writers have used them (ahem, Samuel Longhorne Clemens; don’t really feel like I need to elaborate any further than that, though I could).
I just don’t understand the hate. The angst. The combative compulsion. It’s not like I am pretending to be a 14-year-old girl or an 82-year-old man (not that there is anything wrong with being or pretending to be either of those things). I am not pretending to be anything. I am just writing. Why can’t everyone do the same?