Batgirl and me, or, The disorder of multiple personalities

Batgirl’s alter ego, Barbara Gordon, was a librarian.

Batgirl in actionThis is a post about alter egos. It was inspired by this unmasking post by the Mongoose Librarian. She was having an identity crisis and I am having something similar.

I was very hesitant about taking part in 23 Things. I was very interested in learning about social media, trying out new Things and communicating with lots of other librarians in Cambridge. Great. However, over the last decade, I have carefully cultivated a completely anonymous online existence which I have been at pains to keep separate from my real identity.

I’m not an international spy. But I am very cautious about my online identity and my real name. I have worked on blogs (library and otherwise) using pseudonyms, much like Ms Mongoose describes. I tend not to use my work email to sign up for things online, even work-related. I have actually have 3 different email accounts that I regularly use for different things. I do actually think a degree of caution is warranted – it’s naive to think that the personal and professional can be kept separate without some effort on your own part. In this day and age, employers will google job applicants. There have been enough stories of people being fired over something they wrote in a blog or on Facebook that the phenomenon has coined a new verb.

Having decided to go ahead with 23 Things, I had to decide how anonymous to be. Many of the Cam23 bloggers are (to me at least) completely anonymous with no or little identifying information on their blog. Twitter this week is starting to reveal some true identities and match familiar faces to pseudonyms. With some effort, I could have tried to remain entirely anonymous throughout the process. I settled for a middle ground – I don’t use my full name here on Thing blogging or on my Twitter account. However, I’ve gone against my usual instincts and sign my posts with my first name (rendering me pretty much identifiable to anyone who really wants to know in Cambridge library terms). I chose to do this deliberately – I thought that removing the disguise (at least partially) would make me think hard about what I do and don’t say here and elsewhere during this process.

What I should have done, though, is be consistent in my identity. I already had a Google account. I already had a WordPress account. All with different email addresses and linked to different identities. If I had been more organised, I should have set up new accounts all linked to the same email address. I have tried to set up my identity when commenting on other blogs so that it displays both my blog name and my first name but I’ve noticed that this isn’t consistent – sometimes it will only have the blog name, others only my name. I spent a good 30 minutes trying to decide what to call myself on Twitter and which email to use for my registration. My carefully partitioned alter egos are starting to meld into each other a little bit. It makes me uncomfortable. If only donning a pair of glasses and a side parting were enough to disguise my true identity from everyone again – Barbara Gordon and Clark Kent don’t know how easy they had it.

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7 comments so far

  1. libchris on

    I’m with you on this – I have a few accounts for the same reason, and equally don’t use my work e-mail to sign up for things.

    My daughter uses a fairly unusual user name when she signs up for things, but has used the same one for many years – doing a quick google search for that brings up all sorts of things she has written to forums etc over the years – and long since forgotten about… so I think it right to be wary of giving to much away.

  2. Girl in the Moon on

    Thanks for writing about you choice to be anonymous, or mostly anonymous. I’ve been interested to read the views of some Cam23-ers suggesting that they’re uncomfortable with all the anons, so it’s nice to see other people’s reasoning, especially as it agrees with a lot of my own.

    Was going to write more here, but think I may turn it into a post at some point, once I’ve got Things 7 and 8 out the way…

  3. Céline on

    Yes, libchris, the permanence of some things online (comments, blogs, tweets) is one of the main reasons for my caution.

    Girl in the Moon – I do understand people being frustrated by anonymity (and I say, I’m not really properly anonymous, just trying to be search-engine-invisible kind of anonymous). It really does affect what I write though, knowing that it can be linked to my real identity.

    I look forward to reading your blog post. I need to blog Things 7 & 8 too… yikes. At least I’m only a week behind now, it was much more.

    Barbara Gordon… er, I mean, Celine

  4. TraineeMermaid on

    Yes I agree with you re the multiple identities, and I’ve got two of them in the professional sphere before I move on to my personal stuff.
    I guess we all have multiple identities in life anyway, this Web 2.0 stuff just “identifies” them in a somewhat stark way. I think it’s a good idea to have some anonymity with the blogs because they can be read by the world at large, not just Cambridge librarians. And I have real concerns about the need for privacy on the web in general.

  5. Books Make Noise on

    Really agree with you here. The permanence of things online makes it difficult for me to feel at ease with being completely “out”, even if total secrecy is a fiction. I also don’t really get why people would be uncomfortable with the anonymity. Don’t we all read, with pleasure, random blogs or articles by anonymous authors ? Hey, we could not even read the Economist/(insert other mag name here) at that rate. If personal experience is relevant to a post, I trust the blogger will mention it or discuss it. If it’s not, well, the hidden identity insures that it does not come in the way. Maybe that’s the difference between a blog, and, say Facebook : a blog is not meant to be only a social thing, but a reflexive (funny, informative, participative, and I can find more words in “ive”…)thing and that’s it ?

    Anyway, it was interesting to read posts by bloggers of a different opinion (also I now have to reveal my email to be able to comment and feel pretty bad about it, another blow to the total-anonymity-dream. Will my flimsy cover suddenly be busted here? The suspense is unbearable!)

  6. Céline on

    Thanks for your comments, Books make noise. I’m glad I’m not the only paranoid one!

    To deal with the email issue, what I do is have another email account (Google, hotmail, whatever) that I only use for signing up for things like comments or whatever. That way I don’t have even use my real name on the email account.

    Celine resumes Batgirl disguise…

  7. […] agonised about anonymity when starting this blog, something I talked about in  Batgirl & me. I’m glad that I didn’t aim for total anonymity because being identifiably me has made […]


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