Recent posts by Ardwulf and Tobold in the aftermath of the RealID fiasco have gotten me thinking about why I maintain an online persona. I've been posting as Yeebo for quite a while, for years on various message boards before I even started blogging. I am certain that when I started out, it just seemed like a cool fun thing to do to make up a name and start posting under it. Much like being known by the name of various characters I've played in different MMOs, it seemed natural to pick a net handle and be known by it in digital space.
I like using this net handle for several reasons. First off, I want things that I write to be judged on what’s there, not who wrote it. Secondly, I use blogging as a way to take a break from the rest of my life. Somehow, having my net handle only weakly connected to my real name makes my blog travels seem like more of an escape. Finally Yeebo is good net index for my MMO writings. If I started blogging about poetry or pastries, I’d likely do it under a different handle. There aren’t a ton of Yeebos on the web, but there are roughly a jillion individuals with my RL name.
While I don't hide the fact that I game, I also have to admit that in the field I work in having a bunch of MMO writings come up before my professional work when you Google my name would not be such a hot idea. To prospective employers the best I can hope for is that the reaction would be neutral, and I know the culture of my field well enough to be certain that in some cases it would not.
Finally though, in the end, what it really comes down to is that I enjoy maintaining this persona. I have had a lot of fun building up his visibility in different online communities. Yeebo is almost like a person I’ve created in digital space. To reduce or elevate him to synonymy with my real persona would feel like a loss.
I do not by any of this mean to imply that there isn’t some crossover between the digital and physical realms. I’ve often had digital friends become RL friends, and vice versa. In fact, as I get older the distinction between the two seems to get fuzzier.