I was reading some news and came apon this news article
about how Blizzard is going to reveal peoples real names on it’s WOW forums. I am not even sure how this caught my attention as I am not really a gamer, and have never played WOW, but the underlying topic of anonymity is one I have had on my “things to write about” list for quite a while. It may as well be now
Apparently, the reason they are going to release people’s real names is for security and to *help* people be nicer. You see, sometimes this online anonymity breeds supermen who talk like they are 10 feet tall, bulletproof and know everything. You know the kind, trolls. Supplying your real life name helps people be a bit more cautious about what they say and do online. It makes perfect sense to me.
One of my favorite passages from the Bible (1 Cor 13:11) says “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” That is some powerful stuff and wisdom to live by. Certainly that was the case with me.
Long ago before the birth of the internet, there were these things called BBS’ (Bulletin Board Systems). They were computers running software that would let you call into them with your computer through the phone line and game, chat and exchange data. Let me tell you, in it’s heyday, it was way cool. I ran several of these BBS’. I was the SysOp (System Operator). Anyhow, on many of these BBS’ you were encouraged to use a handle, like with a CB radio, to maintain your online presence. This had a practical purpose in that in those days bits weren’t as cheap to come by and someone’s handle normally would take up a lot less identifier space than their whole name. It was fun to have an alternate persona once in a while as well, I will admit.
The difference between those days and these days is there was always a local administrator with the pertinent information in case there was a problem. There is no such person anymore. It is almost impossible now to accurately moderate things on the internet. People of little conscience and wisdom use this flaw to hurt and abuse people with wild abandon.
Now I can see how having some avenue to anonymity has helped people as well. There are religious and political dissidents who have used this to be able to speak out against dictators, etc.. I, however, think that for the most part, using your real name should be whole heartedly encouraged. Don’t be afraid to stand up for what you think. Be brave enough to acknowledge the things that you have said and done.
I have had people, who I only know by their handle, ask me to refer them for jobs and other things. I just cannot do it. How do you tell a perspective employer that they really should give your online buddy “booger” or “captain bacon” a shot? How do you recommend someone like that? If it’s you, how do you point someone to your body of online work under that pseudonym and have them take you seriously?
Now we have even more than annoying flame-bait trolls, who we all wish would die in a fire. We have graduated to online cyber-bullying, where these bad people have used their evil to promote people getting hurt and even hurting themselves (remember that the pen is mightier than the sword).
Really, folks, it’s time for this to stop. Be who you are and be proud of it or use it as an opportunity to make yourself better! Who’s with me?