This topic lends itself to being part of the privacy debate and related issues. However, I want to pull it away from that drama and place the emphasis on the business world. This article is aimed at business people as opposed to private individuals (although they may get something out of this as well).
Real Names Help With…
Personal Branding: We’ve entered an era where personal branding across the Internet has become a necessity for countless individuals looking for a job and others who wish to assert themselves as a topical expert. Branding yourself as an expert/authority/knowledgeable in your field has become a key aspect of remaining competitive.
Reputation Management: You want to be able to control the positive and negative information that’s out there using your name. If you do a Google search and nothing comes up for your name, it’s time to start. It takes just one bad review to get you into panic mode. Better to fill the first few search engine results pages with great things about yourself than the alternative.
Socialization: Despite the reality that the Internet provides an anonymous, virtual wall for trolls and spammers, not to mention people with good intentions but who are more private, using one’s real name online has finally caught up to the real world. In other words, it has become important for us to reveal who we are so we can socialize online. For example, imagine trying to use Facebook with a fake name. It doesn’t work because you wouldn’t be able to find your friends and they would have an equally difficult time identifying you. Similarly, using LinkedIn under an assumed name isn’t particularly intelligent either. A Halloween party where everyone wears masks won’t work if you have no idea who anyone is underneath the mask.
Recognition: The trend that I’ve noticed over the last 2-3 years or so, is that many people in the Internet marketing industry (in particular) who used to post on forums anonymously have started using their real names over the last couple of years. One of the main reasons for this change is that even though they may have posted great information, helped people on forums, and so on, they weren’t being recognized both figuratively and literally. By using their name moving forward, they’re able to show people who they are (and it’s helpful to brand their name).
I Should Know
In some weird way, I’m an authority on staying hidden. During the 1990s, my name was all over the Internet. Then I thought it through and came to the conclusion that there were real world consequences associated with publishing one’s personal ideas and private life details. Nothing bad had happened to me or anything like that but I was among the first (we’re talking 2002-ish) to realize that one’s online world and offline life choices were one and the same.
I am very much an “ideas guy” and I love to get them out there. I went on to write several hundred pieces (articles, blog posts, commentary, etc) anonymously and waited years before using my real name again (to a large extent because of the points I outlined above). Unfortunately, now that I don’t mind becoming known again, a lot of my work has been praised but no one knows that I was the creator. That’s a caveat to anyone who chooses to remain anonymous in our current social online world.
You could always use a fake “username” but in the business world, it makes for a more uphill battle toward becoming known. In the end, the decision is up to you.