I recently made the move of switching my usernames on various websites to be my real name. Previously, many websites I went on used the name “Zagorath”, or some form of it, like LOTRzagorath which I used on YouTube. Most notably, I linked my YouTube with my Google+ so that it is now using my real name for comments and uploads, and I changed from @zagorath to @jimcullenaus on Twitter.
But why would I go to the effort of making the change, potentially losing recognition among the few people that have come to know me (a few smaller YouTubers, particularly, on whose videos I regularly comment), and gaining a longer Twitter name?
For me, the main reason is simply consistency. I have a Google+ account tied to my real name, and I wanted the benefits of linking my YouTube account to that. In addition, I liked the idea that people could see my real name on both, so it was immediately clear that they were the same person. This second reason is also part of the benefit of changing Twitter along with them. Previously many of my accounts online could be split into two categories: those where I used my real name, and those where I used the handle Zagorath (or some variation thereof). Facebook, email, and Google accounts were probably the only ones that fall into the former category, while most others used Zagorath. However, even for this latter group, it has always been easy to find out my real name because in many cases that same account had my real name entered into another field. The best example of this is my Twitter account, where my real name has always been visible along with the handle.
Other than that, I believe that by using my real name people will be able to trust in what I have to say. By knowing this is a real person attaching their real name to what they do, I believe people will be less inclined to subconsciously discount or devalue what I have to say because of my anonymity.
Over time, I’ll see about changing over what I haven’t already changed (this blog, for example—Wordpress does not allow you to change your username, although you can change the URL), but for the moment I’ve made the changes on the majority of the accounts that I use regularly that I would wish to change
After I had drafted most of this post, I realised that this was something journalist and advocate of openness Jeff Jarvis (who I know from the This Week in Google podcast he co-hosts weekly on the TWiT Network) probably had something to say about, so I did a quick search and it turns out he’s done a post with the exact same title. His post is a far better one at actually describing the general benefits of being public and open. It’s a brilliant read, based on a chapter from his book “Public Parts” which—from what little I’ve read about it—looks like a really enlightening book. That post brings up some great benefits to publicness in a more general sense, and talks about being public not necessarily (or, not only) with your name, but with sharing information and knowledge in a public and open way. It’s a sentiment I can definitely agree with.
I definitely see the advantage of anonymity. It can allow people to express unpopular viewpoints without fear of potential retribution—social, political, or otherwise—but for me personally I think the benefits of publicness outweigh the negatives.