I’m teaching two courses this summer, both good. In my creative nonfiction writing class, they are producing good work and writing along with them forced me to start on a memoir book project. That won’t show up here, becasue it is realy a book, not the episodic thing that would chunk out into column-like chapters. Oops. Anyway, that’s why my previous creative nonfiction write-along posts were so scattered. Ah well. The plan worked, but like many plans, not the way I thought it would.

‘The other class is called Writing for Social Change and it has a strong social media component built into it. I just finished assessing my students’ advocacy site, and it hit me that the same old questions that inspired me in the beginning of my scholarly career are still out there, floating around like an air-jellyfish, ready to sting the unwary. Yes, the public/private, self-named vs. pseudonym question is still valid. Here is the advice I gave to a student who tried Instagram, but was trying to make it do things it just won’t do and also hid herself so well it looked like a linked newspaper was the page owner, but not really. The need to hide from trolls may have been why, or maybe using a new-to-you social media site is not always intuitive. It is possible to be private, yet still have an identity.

So, back to that public/ private question for identity online. Here’s how it worked for me. When I started blogging back in 1999, I had to make a choice about this. Name or pseudonym? I went with a pseudonym then (Techsophist) because of all the misogyny and potential harassment. It was pretty wild and wooly then, maybe not more than now, but in a different way. The assumption then was that all blogs were personal, not professional, and the posts by women were basically unicorns, fairy dust, and what they had for breakfast. I switched  to a self-named site a few years later when it became clear that I needed to do that to solidify my public professional identity. Right now, I can see reasons you may want to use a pseudonym. Go ahead and do that if you like, but pick one that says something about you. Pick your superhero name! Wear it proudly.I sincerely hope you continue with this and that you do some good for the world.

Do they need to give their legal name to do this? Should they? These remain hard questions, ones that have very individual answers. The answer is clear for another student (not the one written to above) who has a legal nonprifit set up and multiple social media sites that assist each other. True-name absolutely works then. What then, for the female-identified feminist advocate? Will she get trolled? Will her address be published and at a minimum, her house egged? We all know of real-life cases where much worse has happened. The need for a psedonym has not gone away since 1999. The trolls have just got more organized.

So, I kind of hope this student picks a superhero name and continues to point out mysogyny and links good journalism on that and economic inequalty. Many, many people are needed to do this. My way has mainly been through my poems and other writings. Ha. Trolls don’t read poems. If you are not a poet, know that the previous statement was a poet joke about how very few people read poems, which means it was supposed to be both funny and sad at the same time. Layers. Identity is like that.

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