Even your code-name?

I know the feeling.

The urge, the impulse, the compulsion to get back inside. To prove them wrong. To belong to the group again, even… or especially… when the group doesn’t want you.

At nearly every well populated blog I post comments to, I end up making myself unpopular. People begin responding to me with hostility. Eventually (quickly) they stop responding to me at all. Whoever’s in charge of the site may send me an email asking me to go away, or they may just start deleting my comments, or they may even block me from accessing their page entirely.

It’s the nature of the beast which we all carry within us to want to break into other people’s boundaries, to transgress, to overrule the limitations they are trying to set upon us, to go where we’re not supposed to. The forbidden sings to us. We wouldn’t be human if it didn’t.

So I’ve thought about it, sure. When Aaron Hawkins threw me off his blog for the dreadful crime of, you know, being smarter and funnier than he was, I considered the option. When Augury Hayden Frazier, or whatever the hell his name is, over at Grabbing Daylight, or whatever the hell that blog is called (Making Light? Maybe that’s it) advised me to ankle it, fast, I contemplated the alternative. Which is to say, I could have pretty easily just gone back into those particular communities and continued posting… under a different pseudonym. After all, on the Internet, we can be whoever we want to be, right?

I didn’t do it. There were many reasons I refrained, all tangled up together. For one, I dislike pretending to be something I’m not, especially for extended periods. Past that, it’s the one very commonplace, nearly universal, yet largely unforgivable sin out here in the strange land of the Internet. Nearly everyone has done it at one time or another… put on a cyber-mask, pulled an electronic hood over their face, tried to fool people who knew them under one name into thinking they were someone new… back in the day, AOL used to be crammed to the gunwales with folks who had poisoned a particular chat well under one sn sneaking back in under another. But when you get caught… and you nearly always do get caught, eventually… it’s humiliating and embarrassing and people hold a grudge forever over it. They never forget, and they won’t forgive, although, as I say, very few of us who have been out here for any amount of time are entirely innocent of the sin.

Past all that, I’m generally too stinkin’ proud to want to bother venturing back into a place where it’s been made clear to me that I’m not welcome. My feelings are, if someone doesn’t want me around, it’s their loss.

I want to be clear, here… I’m not talking about simply using a pseudonym on the Internet. I’ve used half a dozen, at least... you can’t blog with anything like real honesty, or even comment on other people’s blogs, under your own name these days without the risk of losing your job, at the very least, if the wrong set of eyes tracks across what you’ve written. I’m not even talking about the act of taking up a different psued simply for the purposes of dodging some trolls who seem to have no other purpose in life besides making yours as miserable as possible. That’s just self defense. What I’m talking about is entirely different… the act of creating a new identity so you can re-infiltrate a particular community where you have previously made yourself unwelcome.

Sometimes you may feel you have a good reason to do it… maybe you were treated poorly by some group and you don’t feel you deserved it. Or maybe you just want to start over again… there’s a lot of baggage attached to your previous sig, and you just want to shrug all that off and breathe free again… let people judge your work for the work’s own sake, and not based on a reputation you hope is spurious, or that, at least, you want to believe you’ve outgrown.

But sometimes… maybe most of the time… the reasons are shabbier than this. Maybe you just want to hang around with a crowd you think is cool, and you’re resentful that they have chosen to exclude you. Or maybe you get a sick little kick out of feeling like you’ve pulled the wool over somebody’s eyes… a kind of ‘ha ha, you tried to throw me out but now I’m back and you don’t even know’ kind of thing. Maybe you’re gloating… they thought they were so smart, but who’s the smart one now, huh? Or maybe you’re just some pitiful little fool with no self esteem at all, who can’t stand rejection and who has to keep pressing their nose up against the window, or sneaking in through any unlocked portal you can find, just to feel like you belong somewhere.

Good reasons, bad reasons… it’s not something I’ve done in a long time. I guess I like to feel as if I’ve outgrown the urge to shove myself in where I’m not wanted. I generally find that the people who get along without me just fine are folks I generally wouldn’t want to hang out with, anyway, when you look at it clearly. Maybe that’s a sour grapes attitude on my part. But honestly, if someone won’t be friends with you when you’re being yourself, why would you want to be friends with them as someone else?

From the other end… well, I’ve had any number of blogs and websites at this point, and over the past decade or so, I’ve had myself a few infiltrators… people I didn’t want to interact with for various reasons (sometimes they’re obnoxious, often they’re just boring) and who seem to think, if they just keep changing their names, I’ll suddenly decide they’re scintillating conversationalists, every one. It doesn’t work; whatever it is about a person that makes another person tend to dislike them, or find them annoying, generally comes through no matter what name they use.

When they persist, past all sense or reason, through pseudonym after pseudonym, even starting up new, spurious websites to try to lend verisimilitude to their latest sad and shabby sig, it starts to make me wonder just how badly damaged such a person may be. This kind of behavior seems to go beyond mere pathetic neediness, into some actual level of sociopathy. It can be worrisome, especially if one of these persistent pests is actually someone you have some kind of (however reluctant) real life relationship with. You have to wonder what kind of weird lizards such a person has living in their head, to be so apparently obsessed with you… or, at least, how stupid does this person think you are?


Agnosticuss said…
I've had a few people follow me around on the net, and it's never fun. I used to post everything under my real name -- and I've been on the net since the late 70's on BBS's and other world-wide web stuff.

But when people don't take no for an answer...when they follow you from site to to site, changing nicks and obnoxiously hounding you ... it just gets old.

I've even had people threaten me because they didn't like something I posted on a board or in a group. Until five or six years ago, I was open about who I was and where I lived until one guy promised to come to my house and hurt my family -- because I disagreed with him about the legalization of marijuana. (He was anonymous, btw.)

Suffice to say that I went anonymous after that. When I was a young buck, I was single and fair game. But I'm an old fart now, married with a kid.

So now, I'm just Agnosticuss.
Opus P. Penguin said…
Guess it's the anonymity thing. It's so changed the fabric of human discourse, not for the better, I feel. More people can air their lizards, but who wants them all in their living rooms?

Present company excluded, of course.
Highlander said…
I think this particular juxtaposition of comments shows that anonymity is, like most things, a double edged blade. Sometimes you need protection from detractors and attackers; the world is full of people who, upon losing an argument, or even having a viewpoint significantly challenged, will respond with violence, or threats of same.

On the other hand, the world is also full of malicious blowtards who, being generally frustrated, petty, powerless little turds in the real world, come out on the Internet and do their best to make as many other people as possible as miserable as they are. These people use anonymity as a coward's shelter.

Still, as I point out obliquely in my next post, anonymity is fast becoming an obsolete luxury on the Internet. I know my free blog tracker lets me determine a great deal of info about my commenters, and if I really needed to, I could make a few phone calls and pull a few favors and most likely find out who was behind a particular ISP. And I can't be the only one with that capacity. So nowadays, I'm very careful where I go and what I post, even behind the 'anonymity' of my not particularly anonymous blog handle.

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