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It's not so much that I dislike my real name, but I have a few issues that make me uncomfortable with using it.

This is mainly due to the fact that it's quite unique, and while that is an advantage, it also means that it doesn't take long for people to find all of my comments, interests, group activity, forum participation, etc, etc.

It means that whenever I'm on a social network or public web page, as much as I want to comment on things and get involved, I see my name next to the comment box and refrain from posting anything - even if the comment is completely harmless or innocent.

So I decided that the best way to go about things is to write under a pen name or alias, and create social profiles / email addresses to suit that alias. But I have a few problems:

Primarlily, should my alias be completely unique from my real name, or should I have my first name + an alias surname?

The way I see it, having an alias online is great because nobody is going to meet you, but because of the nature of my writing, I aim to get myself out there and write about things I see and do, and people I meet.

Now if nobody knows me, a completely unique alias is fine, but if I'm going to be intorducing myself in places where people may actually know my real name, I'd prefer them to be able to shout over, "hey (name), what brings you here", without people who know me as my alias being confused.

Secondly, because I'm using my alias for all aspects of my life, as I would my own name, it's likely that sooner or later I'm going to become known as my alias, and therefore people searching for that alias online will find all of my comments, interests, group activity, forum participation, etc, etc - As in the beginning.

I guess aliasses are great if you have 2 or more main areas of expertise, like a childrens author who also writes erotic novels, or a garden/cooking blogger who also owns a mens magazine.

Any advice on how I should go about things?

  • What's your strategy for dealing with the backlash of people realizing that you are not truly who you say you are? I completely shunned an acquaintance that introduced herself with an alias, and still today I regard all that she said or did as false. – NofP Sep 3 at 10:27
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    I don't know. I don't think shunning someone is the right way to go about things, or to regard them as false. Would you shun Stephen King? – WFF Sep 3 at 10:54
  • I most definitively would if we met in person in a social context and they brought forward the pretense to be someone else. Conversely, would you trust a surgeon that uses an alias and has no intention of revealing their actual name? – NofP Sep 3 at 11:13
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    I don't think the two situations can be compared as easilly as that – WFF Sep 3 at 11:18
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    I'm glad they were helpful. In theory people should hold off answering until a question is ready for prime time, but they rarely do. When you have more rep you will be able to upvote posts. Please do upvote every answer you like. We ask though that you don't choose a "best answer" until a full 1-2 days have passed. Remember, the purpose of the site is to be a repository of questions and answers, not simply for you to get your question answered for yourself. There is no time limit for accepting an answer and you'll always get your two points. – Cyn says make Monica whole Sep 3 at 14:55
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If what you seek is a measure of anonymity, but not to actually hide who you are, you can use your first name and initial. You can be Lois L. or Clark K. Even if your name is highly unique, it is very unlikely you will be recognised by your first name alone. But when you do want to be recognised, you're right there. No trouble introducing yourself.

Another approach is to use something that is very obviously a pseudonym. If you call yourself Lois Lane or Clark Kent on social media, nobody would think that's your real name. That's just a handle you chose for yourself, that's perfectly fine, you're just a person who likes their privacy and is a fan of Superman. You want to introduce yourself in a situation with real people? You're [real name], who uses such-and-such nickname on social media. If you expect to become known by that alias, pick something that's more unique than "Lois Lane", but still unmistakably recognisable as a nickname rather than a real name. As an example, I'm sure nobody thinks my given name is Galastel. But I've been Galastel on social media since I was 14, and needed something to fit in on a Tolkien-fanclub site.

  • Thanks Galastel. Thinking about it, I do use my First Name and Initial on some social media profiles ( Name. Initial, @MyBlogName ). I guess the real problem is when it comes to FaceBook really. I try to steer clear of it because of the Real Name policy, but I know how important it is to have a profile on there and to communicate with people. Unfortunately, even though they let you create a Page using a pseudonym, you can't use that to participate in groups and on other apps. – WFF Sep 3 at 12:36
  • Same goes for emails. If you want to create yourself a professional looking email address using your name, how could this be done? My name.initial is taken. – WFF Sep 3 at 12:48
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    @WFF re: email - try initial.name. Or name.initial.writer. Or some such. Re: facebook - I'm staying away from this platform on moral grounds. Their "real name" policy has put many people's lives in danger when they enacted the policy and merged people's accounts. A platform like that isn't going to make money off me. So can't give you any advice there. – Galastel supports GoFundMonica Sep 3 at 13:02
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    I've had a bit of a play around with G-Mail and found a few ways of making this happen - Thanks. I completely agree with what you say about FaceBook, but it still stands that they are the biggest platform, and they are taking over apps like Instagram which are useful for people like myself. I guess for anyone interested, a workaround may be to call yourself Name Writer (an actual real surname), and put in your inital as a a middle name in the settings. – WFF Sep 3 at 13:10
  • @Galastel I avoid FB also. I was forced to have a profile (many years ago when I was a professor), but it has zero personal content other than my name, I never "sign in" to anything using FB, I have never posted anything not work-related on FB. I probably still have ten year old messages from students and replies to them laying around. I can't even remember my password. That said, I wonder how they check. Surely there must be a way to fake it. How do they find out if a kid is using a real name? Or is using their ancient neighbor's name that has no FB account? – Amadeus-Reinstate-Monica Sep 3 at 14:45
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Both J.K. Rowling and K.A. Applegate are examples of people who used simple pseudonyms to write for a target audience (middle school boys) who wouldn't initially pick up their books if they realized the author was a woman, which their given names strongly hinted at. Both women wrote the two most successful series for their target audience, and were aided in part by the reader not realizing they were written by women until after they were hooked (though I did buck the trend with Animorphs as my first book featured a female protagonist, but I picked it because the animal on the cover was an alligator, which was cool, more than anything).

Other writers do it to focus on a more memorable and marketable name, like Stanley Lieber, aka Stan "The Man" Lee, who's pen name is cool in that "Lee" not only is the first syllable of his last name, but also the last syllable of his first name. At the time, he was also playing down his ethnic Jewish name Lieber as he feared it might hurt his sales to mostly Christian Americans.

A fictional example I always loved, but in the show "Arthur" an in universe psuedonym was given to a writer of a popular series of horror anthology (ala the "Goosebumps" series) to the writer E. A. DePoe, which is both an allusion to the trend of women writers to mask their name while writing for boys, aligned with a male writer who authored the real world equivelent (R. L. Stein) and subtly payed homage to Edgar Allen Poe, an influential horror Author in American Literature.

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Picking an Alias, also for Picking a Character Name

One approach is to use a common name as your alias. This doesn't have to be Smith or Jones, Here is a list of the Most Common Surnames in North America by country, in the USA "Anderson" is the 12th most common surname, with over 750,000 instances.

The same goes for Most Common Male First Names and Most Common Female First Names.

Pick a combination of common first name and common surname. NOW, put that name into How Many of Me, which will tell you how many people (in the USA) have that same name.

For example, I picked Lisa (#11) Anderson (#12), at random. How Many of Me says there are 1,161,853 people in the USA with the first name Lisa, and 932,840 people with the last name Anderson, and 3,284 people with the name "Lisa Anderson".

That is a decent sized crowd of people to try and search through, so on a message board or something (without your photo) it would be difficult for anybody to claim a post signed by "Lisa Anderson" is definitely you, there are too many people to disambiguate. If you don't think 3000 is a big enough crowd to hide in, look for combinations that produce a bigger crowd.

Also, you should Google the name, in quotes, e.g. "Lisa Anderson". When I Google "Lisa Anderson" I get 1.3 million hits.

Now usually, these searches will produce some most-famous person(s) with that name, and you do need to check you aren't assuming a name that is already a published author (Just like I can't use as my alias J.K. Rowling or Stephen King), but if you skip forward by five or ten pages at a time, you will find "Lisa Anderson" in all kinds of professions, athletes, nurses, kids in college, real estate agent, and on and on.

However, when I Google author "Lisa Anderson" I find one of these famous people has written four books, under her own name, and I probably can't use that as an author alias. So if that is your plan for the future, that name is out, start over. Or, you could make your author alias something like "L.M. Anderson", that disambiguates you from the real "Lisa Anderson" that wrote "The Dating Manifesto" and other books.

But for message boards, facebook, etc, or as a character in a book, you could still use "Lisa Anderson". One real Lisa Anderson becoming an author doesn't give her exclusive rights to the name in public forums, to shut out 3200 other Lisa Andersons.

You still have to take care in choosing your alias, make sure you share it with a crowd, but also that you didn't choose a too famous name you couldn't use as an author alias.

  • This makes complete sense. The alias I chose is actually as unique as my own name, but I do like it. And the problem is also that I will be using my own photo in profiles as that's how people will identify/relate to me. I want to be seen as a real person on social media, not just WFF30201. – WFF Sep 3 at 11:02

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