I've had troubles with pseud life -- Re: @PsycGrrrl

This is an open response to @PsycGrrrl's post on being a pseud for 10 years and how she has been slowly "found out" by people around her. The main question she asks is "How does my blog change if I am no longer safe under my pseudonym?"

I was very intrigued with pseuds and how much they were accepted by other scientists, both pseud or real name. So in the last year I've attempted a handful of different pseudonyms. To mixed degrees.

My first attempt was mostly successful because it was a themed account. It was hard getting followers -- and it still doesn't have as many followers as I would like it to have -- but after a little over a year, it is maybe my most stable and still un-outed pseud.

My second pseud attempt was a train wreck. This time I tried to be more of a personality and less of a themed account and wanted the freedom to talk and complain about things that would be too risque for my Nick Wan account. Sadly, as many people realized, I talked about extremely similar things (situations mostly) and was caught out by more than enough followers. As many didn't notice, once I was found out by a threshold of people I deleted the account. I was also bored of it -- strong reason to not keep something afloat.

My third pseud was probably the most successful -- more of a personality, less of a theme (similar to 2nd pseud) -- which was able to attract some 400 followers within a short amount of time. That was also very well protected and I was never outed on it. It is still going, but no longer in my possession.

The last pseud was strictly a themed account and that too gained popularity quite quickly. However, similar to my 2nd pseud, I was outed in days of it being active. And as time continues on, I am called out on it. Which is really funny to me, since it is a themed account and has little personality to it, in my opinion.

My reasoning for posting my experiences with different pseud accounts is two-fold: 1) having a strong personality that is communicated through the internet distinctly enough makes it hard to have multiple accounts -- themed or not themed -- especially when your real name account is a somewhat-popular one. It seems as though people acquire a taste for your verbage or demeanor or sense of humor fairly quickly if you let your guard down on your pseud account. I'm not exactly sure how that happens -- especially through only 140 characters -- but having been called out the amount of times I have been has deterred me from trying to make a "serious" pseudonym.

2) In terms of what to do when you are outed: I deleted my accounts. Well, really, the only account that I thought had a toxic taste to the content. As a young scientist, I would not want to be outed and have literally an entire timeline of bad mouthing whoever I was angry at during the time of the tweet or post or whatever. For someone like PsycGrrrl, who has been a pseud for ten years, that's pretty encouraging that although she has been found out by a few people she knows, it hasn't influenced her abilities to land a job or get work done. From reading her blog, being a pseud really gave her another dimension.

I have actually have comments from my department about my content here at True Brain and on my Twitter. I personally find my blog and my @nickwan account fairly light with the moments of advice or interesting thoughts but as some people in my department have said to me, "You are still a young scientist and it would be a shame to say something controversial and not be able to take it back." This is definitely a case against posting EVERYTHING I'd want to post, but as someone else in my department did say to me, "Everyone should embrace a bit of controversy."

I want to say I have decent balance in my opinions, but for the times I didn't under different names... I decided to side with the young scientist argument more than the embrace controversy argument.

I tried putting out some goals in terms of content before I started any of the four pseuds (and also when I transformed my @nickwan account from a music journalist POV to a cog neuro/grad student POV). This is ever-changing, but having some sort of tenants to fall back on has really helped me out. I would recommend thinking of creating another identity if you feel so compelled to side on more controversial posts or musings -- because as I experienced, losing the edge or the bite to posts or tweets because I was found out really takes a toll on my tenants and what I wanted out of an account.

There is no easy way to deal with an eroding pseud. Deleting an account is a bit harsh. "Toning it back" was against the tenants of an account. Making a new account was hard but sometimes it was a hit (other times, not). And continuing on with your same account may have been dangerous in terms of future endeavors. Out of these options, making a new account seemed like the safest with the most rewarding output if the account reaches a popularity threshold you seek.

But as the old punk in me thinks: stick with your original account and change nothing. If your content is rad and people who don't know (or don't care about) your real identity find your posts interesting or useful, then there are a lot more people you are slighting for "toning down" content than the ones you are afraid to offend. You can have respect for people outside of your pseud world, but they should also respect your pseud identity and the content you have created.

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