The Pros and Cons of Using an Alias for Your Online Persona

AlexisBonari
Alexis Bonari Researcher and Content Manager, College Scholarships

Posted on April 5th 2011

The publishing world has a long history of authors using pseudonyms for various reasons, some of which fit into a modern context and some which were products of their time. For example, in the years prior to Women’s Suffrage, it was common for female authors to publish under a male pseudonym. Although this isn’t the case today, there are still plenty of good reasons why one would want to use an alias when publishing on the web.

Certainly the medium of the web is a completely different phenomenon from the printed page. Everything from the process of how articles are written, to the format of the content, to the expectations of the readers, it is completely different. Blog posts are shorter, use titles and headers to greater effect, have a self-referential aspect in their research, and are often written by amateur writers. The level of transparency and feedback on the web wasn’t possible with the old technologies, and it open up a whole new dimension to the whole thing.

One must also take into account the inherent anonymity of the web. Nowhere is this more apparent than in online forums and blogs where comments can quickly degrade into an immature argument. A new lexicon has emerged to describe these types of actions, such as flame wars and trolling. It’s no wonder that so many people feel a need to disconnect their online personas from their personal lives.

What follows is a list of some of the pros and cons of using an alias for your online persona. Please feel free to share your own thoughts in our comments section, but no trolling please!

Pros of Using an Online Alias and Persona

  • Allows for a greater amount of separation between your personal and online life.
  • Gives you a sense of privacy, something that is becoming a bit of a commodity these days.
  • No need to worry about bosses and other work colleagues finding your work online.
  • You can create an online persona that is quite different from your real world self.
  • You can create multiple personas to cover different niche topics without having them interfere with each other.
  • Less of a need to worry about stalkers and other creeps butting into your offline life.

Cons of Using an Online Alias and Persona

  • If you’re looking to become a professional writer it can devalue your work.
  • Obviously fake pseudonyms can instantly stereotype you, which itself has both pros and cons.
  • Constantly working through a persona can add stress to your life, especially if it becomes popular and you then outgrow it.
  • It can be awkward to either reveal your real name if you do happen to meet an internet buddy offline, or if someone that knows you accidentally lets your real name slip out in a comment.

An online alias and persona can be used to hide sinister objectives, which can end up damaging your offline reputation or even landing you in legal trouble.

AlexisBonari

Alexis Bonari

Researcher and Content Manager, College Scholarships

Bio: Alexis Bonari is currently a resident blogger at College Scholarships, where recently she’s been researching the Best Buy scholarship as well as biochemistry scholarships. Whenever she gets some free time she enjoys doing yoga, cooking with the freshest organic in-season fare, and practicing the art of coupon clipping.
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Comments

hhutton
Posted on April 5th 2011 at 9:38PM

Excellent post from an author's perspective.

At the same time, as a manager of a new community, I've been thinking about whether I should even allow our users to create aliases or simply force them into the first name, last name associated with their business account. I've found that decisions such as these come down to understanding your audience and managing expectations. But, as another recent article indicates, it's important to make the right decision early in the game.

Henry

basebot
Posted on April 5th 2011 at 10:34PM

Alexis - nice post & well written. But I have to speak up against the use of aliases to hide behind.

The evolution of the social web necessitated aliases. I suspect there was a little of the CB radio/geek culture spirit behind this, allowing people to create a rebellious alter-ego online. But I believe that the widespread understanding and acceptance of social media these days makes this an anachronism. Many people are using social media to share information, to increase their own profile and to play a role in the wider community. So why hide behind aliases? Especially when online and offline merge so freely these days. Few employers will fail to make the connection between a Twitter username and real name, for example, when they check up on a candidate.

I'm not suggesting you are in favour of hiding in this way. In fact, you have chosen to publish under your own name and include a photo – which is something that all online writers should do if they are really trying to communicate with people.

Very thought-provoking – thanks for posting

John

[although I notice that my login ironically appears to be my twitter name!]

Posted on April 8th 2011 at 1:43AM

I use an Alias for commenting, but when visiting my blog or profile pages on social networks, you can easly find my real name and/or even my phone number.

K. Blake Cash
Posted on March 27th 2014 at 7:13AM

I have difficulty taking anything seriously from someone called "buzzkill777". While an alias may appear to be an actual name, the obvious alias seems to relieve the commenter of any responsibility to the truth.

If someone can't be honest about who they are, then they're less likely to be honest about what they are. Hiding behind an alias is like the fifth amendment, it's not supposed to make you look guilty, but it does.