Should you be?
I recently come across a rather interesting thread on a reading forum about the perception of people through their avatars and screen names. I’ve never been a huge fane of made-up screen-names. I want to talk to Gerry, to Suzan , or Paul, not ‘MegaRoboDeathPanda2500.’ A personal choice maybe, but the thread quickly grew a bit darker with many people sighting instances of on-line stalkers where people used their real names.
Now it’s just as easy to follow ‘MegaRoboDeathPanda2500’ from forum to forum that it is ‘Paul Smith.’ Although I suppose it is more difficult to know that ‘MegaRoboDeathPanda2500’ on one forum is ‘FluffyBunnyLove1900’ on another, where ‘Paul Smith.’ is still ‘Paul Smith.’
This does raise some questions when trying to promote through blogs, posts, and social-networking sites etc though. There are some people who paint the internet as a very dark place, full of shadowy figures just waiting to stumble upon their next victim. I can only say I have been using the internet since its text-only days… see I told you I was old… and have been fortune enough to never come across any of these virtual stalkers. My name has been out-there for a very long time, a lot of it in what is now, rather dramatically, called the dark-net. Sounds scary and a bit cloak-and-dagger, doesn’t it! Until you find out that this just refers to the sites that a normal surface-web crawler, like Google, doesn’t pick up. And contrary to popular belief there are a lot of very innocuous things Google doesn’t pick up!
So why mention this? Well, is it just me or has the internet gone all paranoid lately? After years of more-or-less happy use people seem to be getting frightened by the net. It will steal their identity, corrupt their children, and generally allow the crazies into their life and get stalked. Well… that’s what the voices told me anyway.
Seriously though as budding/beginning, or even mid-list, authors we are putting ourselves out-there, not only that but we are screaming ‘look at me, look at me, and see what I can do.’ So do we really need a crazy-filter? I, like many others, have been busy joining various sites and groups, posting of forums, putting myself out-there on blogs and social-networking sites, with the sole aim of getting my name recognises as easily as possible. Are the Nay-Sayers right in their paranoia? Is there really the danger that they perceive there to be? Personally I don’t think the danger is as prevalent or damaging as some make it out to be. Sure if someone takes it into their head to dislike you they can put up some nasty posts, so what? They can give some bad reviews, but chances are they won’t be recognised reviewers in whatever venue they are posting, and if it is defamatory you can always have it removed. Worse things happen with bogus-reviews and forum posting etc, both pro and anti the author, all the time. People generally trust who and what they trust, and are naturally sceptical of anything too glowing or too derogatory. So is it really a big-deal?
I think we, as writers, are scraping along the edge of the virtual-web-world and the real-world, so yes maybe these hypothetical net-stalkers could find it easier to follow us than the average forum-poster, but again if it stays on the web, so what. If it doesn’t that’s a whole new and very different thing. I don’t think I’ll ever be famous enough to have my own actual stalker!