I’m sure that I’m not the only one to be the member of an online forum. I’ve never really understood why people hide the fact that they interact online with other people – there’s no shame in doing so. And as long as it’s kept in proportion, and you don’t overinvest in complete strangers’ lives, by and large it can be a positive experience. I’ve written before about how I’ve made some true friends through talking online.
But one area I’m not keen on is sharing my user name with my ‘real life’ friends. It’s fine for people to know that I do it, but not the details of it. Even though I don’t share anything online that I wouldn’t with people in real life, and I’m not rude or dismissive or horrid about anyone, it still feels a bit wrong to share the details with them, and I don’t quite know why. It’s contrary to say it, but it’s not the same as my online contacts knowing my pseudonym even when they have gone on to become real life friends, for they knew me by my pseudonym first.
It’s no secret that I’ve been a member of Mumsnet for quite some time now – it was recommended to me for advice at a time in my life when I really needed some words of wisdom from someone who had been there, done that. If you look to the left you can see a nifty little widget that gives you their latest product reviews, so it wouldn’t take a supersleuth to figure it out!
Why did I join? I’m not a mum. Yet I didn’t know anyone in real life who had experienced the issue I was facing, and wouldn’t have thought of going on there if it hadn’t been for the recommendation. There, I got intelligent answers, honest opinions and was able to have a laugh at the same time. I’ve continued to use ‘MN’ and it’s been great. I’ve been flamed in Am I Being Unreasonable, learned about all manner of matters, discovered more than I ever thought imaginable and grown really rather fond of the nest of vipers who have at times given me a virtual slap, applauded my achievements, advised me well or told it to me straight.
But now, for the first time, I find myself with a quandary.
Because I have had to reveal my user name. It wasn’t tortured out of me, I gave it up willingly, in the knowledge and hope that it might help someone else. I’ve been ‘outed’, and it has left me feeling strangely vulnerable. I am absolutely sure that the friend who knows it will not pass it on, nor sit and read posts of mine asking for advice on tax returns, what to do when you’ve used the wrong type of flour by mistake, or having a giggle over – well, to be honest – almost anything.
So the time has come for me to change it. But I’ve become rather fond of it over the past couple of years. There’s something about being online that means total honesty is required, both with the issue at hand and with myself. And my nickname, whilst not widely known for I am not a prolific nor a well-known poster, is one that is part of my online persona.
It feels strangely sad to say goodbye to my pseudonym. She was fun, slightly batty and occasionally had flashes of wit. If rumours are to be believed she was a High Court Judge with a walk-in shoe wardrobe, size ten, and won the lottery on a weekly basis.
I’ll miss her. But now it’s time to come up with a new name. And substitute the walk-in shoe wardrobe with a wine cellar.