Using your realname on the Internet - Pros and Cons

Why should you use your real name in messages on the Intenet? Why not use a fancy name (pseudonym)? Short answer: Using your realname is the common way, it is polite, and whatever you say is not worth to be said at all if you cannot put your name under it.

Of course there are situations when you do not want to use your real name, and that's usually when you do not want everyone to know that the message (or rather its content) is from you. (duh)

Reasons for hiding your real name

What reasons are there to hide your real name?

Well, there are good reasons and there are bad reasons. The following reasons certainly are quite doubtful:

BAD reasons for a fake name

A pseudonym might be shorter than your realname - but everyone else might use it, too. It is often better to shorten your name by using initials for your (middle) Christian names.

Some people think it is cool to use a fake name. They either want it because their real name is dull, gets misspelled often, or because it is longer than their fancy name. However, many people will look upon fancy names like "Supermouse" as if they were used by a kid and simply plonk them.

Criminals often use fake identities - and cryptography. This cannot be prevented, so we have to live with it. But even if you rule these out by creating some laws then you will take away cryptography and free speech from all people - and only the criminals will be using it.

People with pseudo names are often regarded as "wearing a mask". And most people do not trust people who wear a mask. Do you?

Multiple Personalities
It can certainly be nice to have a pseudonym that enables you to say things that you normally would not say at all, but some people do seem to have split personalities...

Spam aka Unsolicited Commercial Email (UCE)
Spams are annoying - but there seems to be no way to stamp them out. As a consequence people try to "hide" their identity by using a pseudonym. This, howevre, does not affect anything as only the *address* is used to send a message - the name of the receiver is completely irrelevant.
Btw, hiding your real *address* to avoid spam just makes it worse for humans to get in touch with you. So - please do not do this!
Hint: If your system runs qmail then you can receive all mails to "username-word", so you can use "myname-usenet" for your posts on Usenet and have these filtered out (or even deleted) automatically. Recommended!
Or get your own domain and use as many addresses as you like, eg one address for each Usenet post like usenet-yymmdd@domain. a good mail filter can deal with this easily.

The consequences of using a pseudonym

Messages from "pseudo identities" are often regarded as weird. Readers often ask these questions:

The result often is that messages from the fake person are completely ignored (mail filter, killfile, scoring).

Using your realname is not required by law and you may as well use a pseudonym. But if you want to be heard then it is *recommended* that you use your realname. Think about it!

Good reasons for a fake name

Many people sympathize with others who use a fake identity for these reasons:

You do not want your colleagues and boss to know about your discussion on work issues.

There are still a lot of states about which have draconic measures for whatever political thought.

Not many people can talk about intimate things in public. A fake name and address can make this easier.

How to hide your real name

Many mailers and newsreaders allow to configure the name and address ("changing the From: line"). So for most users you would be someone else.

However, the proctocols/programs that *transport* your messages add more lines to the header and therefore might reveal your true address or even identity. So do *not* rely on simply changing the From: line only!

For a true fake identity you should use *remailers*. Better yet, use several remailers to transport your messages in sequence. For more info see the Anonymous Remailer FAQ below.


Anonymous Remailer FAQ (German)

Mini-FAQ: Falsche E-Mail-Adressen (German) [2001-06-07, 2002-12-15] [obsolete]
Why using non-existing return addresses is a bad thing.
Author: Carsten Gerlach

Realnamekonflikt in Usenet (German) [2002-12-18]

Created:     Fri Jan 01 00:00:00 CET 1999
Send feedback on this page to
Sven Guckes