Why I Avoid Revealing My Full Identity

I am not alone in feeling leery about revealing too much about myself. When researching information about 15th century scholar Lorenzo Valla, I ran into the blog by Roger Pearse, at Tertullian.org. He speaks from experience:

About Roger Pearse

This page was written in 1999, when this website was new. It contained my photograph, my email address, and various personal, educational and professional details and so forth.

Little by little, it has grown shorter. The internet is not so small a place as it was in those days. A troll was merely a nuisance, not a brutal thug determined to use the compulsive element in social media to drive a vulnerable teenager to suicide, and to jeer at them afterwards on their memorial Facebook page. A spammer was merely an advertiser, not an internet criminal determined to steal your every shekel, and your identity with it. Privacy was taken for granted. None of this is true today.

My email address was the first to go. That change was forced upon me by the torrent of spam. I created a form — which the spammers soon learned to attack — but this stemmed much of the trouble.

Next to go was my photograph, once I found that the nastier people online sought out personal information in order to use it to inflict pain on their victims. Professional details went next, for the same reason.

Today I have decided to remove the rest. It is a wrench, it is true. But I see no alternative. If I were to join the internet today, I suspect that I would not use my own name at all, but a pen-name. Anything else puts you at risk from the criminal element online.

I myself feel uncomfortable writing online under any name but my own. Occasionally some forum software prevents me from using my own name; but it is a weird feeling. But I think it would be absurd for me to attempt to use a pseudonym at this time of day.

All the same, I cannot sensibly allow personal details to remain on the web when I can prevent this. Nor should you.

Mr. Pearse’s advice is taken to heart. I am sure that over time, the clues I will have offered here and there might allow for someone to guess who I am in “real life”, but I don’t plan to make it easy.

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