Unless you have a very good reason not to, or are publicly known anyway, there is really no need for you to use your real name or photo online.

Back in the 90s when i first discovered the internet, this was common knowledge. Nobody used their real name on forums or share personal information without considering the consequences. Those few who did were promptly told that's a bad idea.

It seems somehow we unlearned this, right when corporations started monetizing that information.

From some of the replies i've gotten, it seems that some think i want to tell people how they should present themselves online. This was never my intention.

It just worries me, that some social media sites (most notably facebook) seem to have been successful in normalizing everyone just using RL names and photos. This has been done not for the benefit of the community, but to make their business model possible.

@tauli Care to explain why it is a bad idea and which are the consequences?

@unixtippse consequences range from adults not getting a job because of some pictures someone posted from a party they were attending when they were teenagers to streamers who got shot by a swat team because some idiot thought it would be fun to convince the police that there was something dangerous going on at their address (

If you give up part of your privacy, you may want to give it some thought first.

@tauli In other contexts, those might be considered victim blaming.

@unixtippse It'd be victim blaming if i were to imply that victims were in some part responsible for what happened to them, of course they aren't. It's just good advice to tell people to take care of themselves.

If you want, for example, start streaming games online, that's totally fine. But it is good and common practice to talk to your local police first and make sure they are aware of swatting.

Telling people to put on seat belts is not disrespectful to car crash victims.

@tauli Seat belts protect against accidents with no bad intention by any of the involved parties. (They even won't help much against a suicidal driver in the wrong lane.) On the other hand, stalking HR people and swatters are intentionally unethical and malicious.

@tauli @unixtippse You lock your house door, same story there, your personal informations are parts of the key to a lock.
You won't give yourkeys to strangers, right ?

@unixtippse @tauli I’ll also toss in that stalkers are a real problem. I’ve had a few who, in the past, attempted to discover where I lived, but failed because I kept my identity a secret.

I can’t keep as secret as I used to, but I do try to keep certain accounts (gaming for example) separated from my real identity and use the real one for business only.

@KARiley40 @tauli My fear is that doxxers and stalkers might be especially thrilled by the prospect of breaking someone's anonymity, so I'm always prepared to give away my name&address, but that may be 200cm&130kg of male privilege speaking. My children have never been anything but anonymous on the net, because that's what all young people do. Gaming is the one domain where I also remain somewhat anonymous, but mainly because of my age and the things society really expects from a guy like me. 🧐

@unixtippse Yeah, I’m more concerned about people physically showing up.

You’d be surprised how little information it takes to find people too.

Like, your kids for example. If they said something like, ‘yeah my school mascot is a turtle, Steve Slider, and our football game was canceled today cause of rain and I play number 15’, they can be found. Each piece by itself isn’t enough, but all together is.

@unixtippse I had an IRL information script when online as a teen. So I never had to remember what information I had given to whom. And I never gave live updates of events or travel. Always a delay by a few days or weeks.

In general, this seemed to work, and it has fostered good habits now of keeping my IRL and my online from blending too much.

@grainloom @unixtippse And then imagine if you, as a person, become the objective of their obsession.

@KARiley40 @unixtippse Yup, see kiwifarms. (or rather, don't, because it's Very Unpleasant to read about them)

@drwho @unixtippse @tauli Ugh! Yes. I am so sorry, people are just horrible sometimes.

That brings up another point; beware of family! Creeps will find someone you are related to and contact them, asking for information. And they tell them! This is the reason I don’t let family follow me on Facebook. I can’t trust them to not be ‘helpful’.

@unixtippse @tauli @KARiley40 It just means they were bad at stalking, poor writing style analysis and incorrect leak database search.

@tauli Also questions about real name, age, location or nationality were considered rude and in some circles resulted in (temporary) bans. Those were the pre-socialmedia days when talking to others via the internet was a lot less about cultivating ones image and more about actual topics.

@amenthes In most of the places I hung out that would have been ignored or answered with some stupid joke. Instant types have been informed that it was a rude question or even worse "off topic". And it helped that we had very trigger-happy admins and mods who enjoyed banning annoying people.

@sebastian @tauli years ago when I helped moderate a forum with very wide age range (teens to 40s/50) this was discouraged, not only awkward but legally problematic (concerns about grooming and UK youth safeguarding laws, which can be quite strict) - as the site discusses raves and sometimes the drug culture, people respected this as no one wanted cops or even GCHQ all over the data (which is one reason why in UK they have such a foothold into corporate social networks popular with teens)

@tauli Facebook and LinkedIn take it even further, blocking access if they discover you *aren't* using your legal name on everything. Given how that effectively blocks any given person from a large portion of online social interaction, they've been very successful in programming us to think it's preferable and for a good reason.

@tauli this might be UK-specific, in some cases social network startups were marketed for corporate takeover.

Via datagathering, investors realised the userbase contained some teens/young adults of lower socioeonomic groups involved in risky/criminal behaviour (drugs, bad driving, gangs).

First they tried passing info to cops to "gentrify" the userbase, when that didn't work these networks were often just closed and all data/friends lost (even for the better behaved kids who used them)

@tauli @checkervest This would be good advice for most people.

But... I wouldn't give up the friends I made in the Internet and then met in real life. Many of them are very precious to me. Those friendships wouldn't have been possible without revealing things about myself. Cost of doing business, I guess.

Some paranoia is essential and necessary for survival, but the need to find ways to co-operate, the need to find our "tribe" -- I believe these are also central to our existence.

@sajith @tauli there are definitely some great internet friends that I've met and kept up with in real life, but all those friends were people I met through sites like this that weren't attached to public real-name associated profiles. They were people I got to know over a long period of time, who were vouched for by other people or who proved trustworthy with small things. And each time was a gamble, with the potential risks carefully weighed and considered against potential benefits.

@checkervest @tauli It must be also that I grew up in a "communal" eastern culture and not an "individualistic" western culture where expectations of social interactions are different.

(I think I came across that distinction in Robert Sapolsky's book, "Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst". Great book, by the way.)

My culture is pretty bad with personal boundaries, but I guess that is the price you pay for stronger bonds. I haven't been able to make as many friends in US. :-)

@sajith @tauli @checkervest I also started being on the internet at a time when so-called-real names were frowned upon, and met a number of people in person.

Even in the cases where I know the name that the state knows them under, I usually call them with the nickname they choose themselves, and in some cases I tend to be slightely perplexed when I hear people calling them with their other name.

@valhalla @tauli @checkervest That is interesting, because it worked the other way around for me!

When real-life friends signed up on various internet communities with various adopted nicknames, that was pretty amusing to me. But that could be also because I was too lazy to think of a nickname for myself. :-)

(And that was before Facebook etc, just to be clear.)

@tauli hard cosign, although I think one of the reasons we didn't share our real identities back then was this pervasive fear that we'd be stalked and killed for doing so, which it turns out wasn't really a threat, but in general I don't share the real me online because I don't want my opinions to impact my employment

@tauli there's also another more pragmatic factor for those who have a widely duplicated real name (which includes many Gen X Asians like myself, as well as good few Europeans) - people get you confused with others, especially if tech related hobbies are common amongst your ethnic group..

eg: Andrew "Bunnie" Huang the electronics engineer keeps his "pet" middle name to avoid confusion with the slightly younger Andrew Huang who plays electronic music..

@tauli this was drilled into me by my parents. Not because they were tech savvy, it was just readily apparent

@tauli It's a little bit different when you're a free software developer and your identity is a part of your personal brand and the general web of trust. Sure, you can grow to learn and even trust a software developer who is anonymous and uses a handle like xyzzy <>, but there's a noticeable difference between this and someone who puts their full name on display, like Linus Torvalds <>.

@tauli I blame FB pushing users to equate "social media" online with "socializing with people you know offline."

My online network really shrunk over that time as I went from regularly chatting with strangers in Europe, Asia and Latin America to only my local physical communities.

The pseudonymous era really encouraged a much more diverse mixing of the political, social, and global spectrum. People who otherwise wouldn't have been inclined to interact IRL.

@tauli Too late for me. But it was a conscious decision.

@tauli your experience of 90s internet, maybe. Mine was Usenet (real names and often employment info too) and then Wiki (the c2 wiki not wikipedia which came later) which actively encouraged real names in the belief it led to better behaviour. And anyone with a domain name had their IRL address in whois

@tauli not saying your advice doesn't make sense, esp (I suspect) if you're not white middle class cishet, but I think there was more than one internet "subculture" backbthem and not all had the same norms

@tauli I blame Facebook. They were the first major social media site that required you use your real name.

Before them, pretty much everyone used pseudonyms or handles. Some people would freely give their name, but it was considered optional.

Livejournal was one of the bigger pre-FB communities and you were just a username that could be anything.

@tauli Of course I've been using this handle so long that it *is* my real name, in the sense of being what I call myself. And will probably change my legal name to. Whoops.

@keiyakins @tauli You can figure out whether someone has known me since before 2011 based on which IRL nickname they give me

@keiyakins Ha! Me too (although probably not the name-change part, since it's already an IRL family name in france, whoops)

I think this was a deliberate change engineered by the purveyors of surveillance capitalism such as Google, Facebook, and 3-letter agencies. The flip from pseudonyms to real names happened when Facebook and Google+ pushed it.

@wakingrufus Honestly, yeah. It's much too convenient for governments for it to be a coincidence.

@tauli Replies have pointed to Facebook as the driving force and whilst true, they aren't solely responsible. We have to acknowledge it's what a lot of the population want to do.

I think it's a curious case as there are people who believe we should only ever use legal names. I don't agree but I can understand why they might come to the conclusion. Anonymity has its own downfalls, but we have to strike a balance between the extremes.

@tauli One argument I read for legal names (side note: I prefer the term legal name compared to "real name" which has negative implications) is that anonymity allows people to say things they wouldn't say face-to-face.

Considering the political climate, this seems fanciful and misguided, as people say plenty of awful stuff as it is with their legal names known.

@tauli OTOH, I started just using my real name online to remind me that it’s often easy to map online identities back to real IDs. Especially on social networks where you interact with RL friends and family, who may also share personal details/names.

I’d rather just consciously post things publicly than later worry about things I thought I said anonymously being uncovered.

(I do realize I am in a privileged position that lets me not worry about doxxers/stalkers/etc.)

@NfNitLoop good point. don't think that i would adopt that for myself, but that's certainly an interesting way of thinking about it.

@tauli Maybe my perception is skewed for using most things resembling online social networks since the 90s, but ...
Usenet and lots of MLs (at least in Germany) was using real names and you were sometimes kicked off for using pseudonyms (sure, you could be John Doe)
Forums and everything before FB (~00-07) was mostly non-real names.
Twitter/IG/... is half and half.

My point: real names online are not new, but maybe FB is so big you think it made it the norm?

@tauli Addendum: I use (well, mostly used in the past) FB exactly for people who I know (and who know me) only by realname, so it works exactly as expected.

@wink From what i remember, real names were the norm on everything that used email. esp. work or university related. But online forums, irc, instant messengers was all pseudonyms. Of course, experiences differ from person to person and from (real/virtual) place to place.

@tauli I chose to use a real looking name and picture for my account on purpose, as it's somehow linked to another community with the same info.
I have the idea the people will more easily recognize me this way.

But I agree, we do have a choice, and there's no force to use real info.
Using a pseudonym is a good default!

Thanks for reminding/bringing this to attention!

@tauli @HerraBRE This captures exactly what I've been trying to put my finger on for like 10 years. I think it was Facebook that unlearned us. Seemed like such a good idea at the time, I don't think I ever used my real name for shit before Facebook. I trusted Facebook to be semi-private, just school friends, how naive.

@tauli I feel this very hard. As a 31 year old who started internetting at 13, I post plenty of face photos and identifying info... but only locked to relatively trusted viewers. The thought of just throwing all my non-pseudonymous stuff out there is beyond me. I do have an "offline me" account in a couple places for professional purposes but there's no way I'm posting selfies here.

@tauli I blame facebook and the whole "influencer" thing for that

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