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What’s in a name? – real names vs pseudonyms

Once upon a time, way back in the early age of the internet when computers were big, hard drives were small, and relative anonymity was the order of the day, I started a blog.

Yes, I really have been at it for that long!

As a matter of fact, it’ll be ten years this December since I set up my first LiveJournal account, dipped my toe into the wonderful world of blogging, and never looked back.

(P.S. – I’m working on ways to share my “Decade of Blogging” anniversary celebration with my readers when the time comes – watch this space!)

Back in those days, it seemed as though nicknames and pseudonyms were used almost exclusively, and finding someone who went by their “real” name online was a relative rarity. I was no exception. Early on I opted to use some variation of my middle name as my online handle, and ended up as dawn, dawni, dawnii, dawnie, or dawni1967, depending on what happened to be available on each individual site.

Then came Facebook.

friendsSuddenly, those of us who had always gone by a pseudonym online had a choice to make. If we wanted to retain our online privacy, we would be unable to carry our blogging friendships with us into the world of Facebook. But if we wanted our Facebook friends list to include all of our friends, not just those we knew in “real” life, we would have to out ourselves and reveal our real names.

Looking back it all seems a bit foreign now, but I remember it as being a real dilemma at the time.

Now, though, everything seems to be changing . Most of the bloggers I meet these days – especially the ones who have been blogging for only a year or two – have opted without question to use their real names. Even those well-known bloggers whose do use pseudonyms – The Bloggess, The Pioneer Woman, and Dooce, for example – certainly don’t make a secret of their real names (Jenny Lawson, Ree Drummond, and Heather Armstrong, respectively – and I didn’t even have to look those up!).

So, why am I talking about this?

Right from the time I started Alphabet Salad I have used my pseudonym – Dawn Storey – and up until recently, I’ve been perfectly fine with it. But when I started meeting blogging friends and associates in person (first at BlogHer ’12 and then BlogHer ’13), and also connecting with them on Facebook, having two names started to become a real pain in the neck.

The combination of my shyness with new people, PLUS using two different names, PLUS having a separate blog name (Alphabet Salad), has made face-to-face introductions an exercise in confusion and awkwardness… because while I’m perfectly comfortable being Dawn Storey in online circles, introducing myself and then answering to the name in person just doesn’t feel natural or authentic. I never quite know how to present myself, and usually end up blurting out something like, “My name is Dawn, but it’s really Laurel. I mean I blog as Dawn Storey, but I go by Laurel. I mean, you can call me Laurel, or you can call me Dawn. Oh, never mind, just call me whatever you want!” Meeting new people (a challenge to begin with) becomes a nightmare, and any productive talk of blogging or writing gets lost in the shuffle of my bewildering introduction.

So I’ve made a decision.

Drumroll, please!

bigideasGoing forward I’m going to be phasing out Dawn Storey as my online persona. She was lovely and useful when I needed her, but I’m sensing that if I want to take my writing and blogging to the next level – and I very much do – I will need to do so using the name I’m known by on a daily basis…

Laurel Regan

The Dawn Storey Publications Facebook Page will also be making a graceful exit… HOWEVER, I have set up a brand spanking new page with my new company name – Alphabet Salad Productions – and I would be overjoyed if you would visit and “Like” it!

So, that’s that. Welcome to the new era of Alphabet Salad.

Here’s to the next ten years of blogging goodness!

Do you blog under a pseudonym, or do you use your real name?
Please share!

(P.S. – this post was syndicated on BlogHer! Check it out!)

NaBloPoMo October 2013

Laurel Regan – Writer, tangler, iPhoneographer, cat herder, learner of French and Italian, crocheter, needle felter, Growlita, iFan, on-and-off politics junkie, 80s music trivia freak, ongoing work in progress.

{ 34 comments… add one }

  • Kathy F. October 10, 2013

    Most of my blog info refers to “KF” or “Kathy F.” On some sites, I’m KF-in-Georgia or Kathy-in-Georgia (the punctuation varies). “Kathy” is already a nickname. I don’t use my full first name and I don’t give my middle name or middle initial. Now that I’m no longer posting friends-only blog posts on Live Journal, I’m more discreet.

    I’m also reasonably cautious about giving full names for relatives. People who want to pose as me online will have their work cut out for them, guessing at my mother’s maiden name. (On the family genealogy website, information about living people is available only to people I know.) Both my nephews (and my niece-in-law) and some cousins are on my friends list on Facebook, but I haven’t identified any of them as relatives on that list of people.
    Kathy F. recently posted… The FairMy Profile

    • Laurel Regan
      Twitter:
      October 10, 2013

      That’s a very good point about relatives, Kathy! I actually have absolutely everything on my FB account locked down so that all anyone apart from my friends can see is my name/userpic/timeline cover photo. I know nothing is foolproof, especially on FB, but it’s as close as I can get!
      Laurel Regan recently posted… Autumn in an imageMy Profile

  • Lynda October 10, 2013

    I always worry about the creep faction lurking around the internet. But that’s just me, I guess, and what do I know.

    Seriously Laurel, you have a fabulous sense of humour. The part about, “My name is Dawn, but it’s really Laurel and …………….” Love that kind of situation as I am sure everyone can relate to it. It’s like the more you explain, the worse it seems to get.

    As I’ve said before, you certainly have a gift.

    Your blogging is really enjoyable and very interesting.

    • Laurel Regan
      Twitter:
      October 10, 2013

      You’re right, Lynda – there are always creeps! I guess that’s a risk you take when you put yourself out there. I’ve been fortunate so far, so let’s hope things stay that way! Thank you for the compliments… I’m so glad you enjoy my writing. :)
      Laurel Regan recently posted… Autumn in an imageMy Profile

  • Christina October 10, 2013

    I’ve always used my first name on my blog. It was when I was publishing books that I used a different name all together.
    Christina recently posted… Fallen In Love With MotherhoodMy Profile

  • Jenn October 11, 2013

    Congrats on “coming out.” I struggled with how much I should promote my real name. I am simply Jenn M. in many places, but I have started to share my full name more and more. I hope to meet the real Laurel someday. Beside, I like your real name much better. ;-)

  • Adela
    Twitter:
    October 11, 2013

    I have three last names. My maiden name, which I used professionally; A name from my first marriage, which I share with my children; A name I share with Loved-One. I know who I am in each context, but when it comes to reservations, look out. I have to ask my self, what personna did I use when I made this reservation. Most of the time ‘Adela’ is all I need. (Simplicity is the pathway to peace.)
    Adela recently posted… Between Clean Sheets: The Hampton Inn and SuitesMy Profile

  • Janie Emaus
    Twitter:
    October 11, 2013

    I opted for my real name when I started. Except on Twitter, which I’d like to change. But I love the name Alphabet Salad.

    • Laurel Regan
      Twitter:
      October 11, 2013

      Thank you! I had fun coming up with it – and (so far, at least) haven’t had any problem claiming the name on various sites – always a plus! Thanks for stopping by! :)
      Laurel Regan recently posted… Autumn in an imageMy Profile

  • Corinne Rodrigues
    Twitter:
    October 11, 2013

    I can see how it can get confusing, Laurel. My first name is Maria, although my family and friends know me as Corinne. When signing up for something blog related, I sometimes wonder if should use my first name or my second one! :)
    Good luck with new company!
    Corinne Rodrigues recently posted… Hers Is The Face I Can’t ForgetMy Profile

    • Laurel Regan
      Twitter:
      October 11, 2013

      Thank you, Corinne! I think what’s important is that a blogger goes with what feels more comfortable. Dawn Storey felt comfortable for a long time, but for me it’s just time to claim my other name!
      Laurel Regan recently posted… Autumn in an imageMy Profile

  • Lou Lou October 11, 2013

    Hello Laurel! Well you are braver than me! I’m sticking with my fake name, for now anyway…. how does it feel now that you have outed yourself after all these years. Congrat’s on 10 years by the way!

    • Laurel Regan
      Twitter:
      October 11, 2013

      *waves* Thanks for the good wishes! Can’t believe it’s been 10 years – rather incredible, really! And you know, I can totally see wanting to stick with a fake name – really, it’s all about whatever is most comfortable for each individual.
      Laurel Regan recently posted… Autumn in an imageMy Profile

  • Amanda October 11, 2013

    I never used a different name, but I did fly under the local radar for a long time…and then I didn’t. It all worked out. Congrats!

    PS I’ve always loved the name Laurel.
    Amanda recently posted… Home and BackMy Profile

  • Renae
    Twitter:
    October 12, 2013

    Nice to meet you, Laurel :) “Liked” as requested.
    Renae recently posted… Friday Night Picture Show: Sharing a frozen pizza with The Boy.My Profile

  • Life Breath Present October 12, 2013

    It’s interesting you wrote this post. Although I’m really pretty new, I’m also a rather private person. I started blogging consistently just a few months ago and struggled with my online pseudonym from before and my new blog name (Life Breath Present). I don’t use mine or Hun or Baby or family names on my blog.
    When I wanted to incorporate my Facebook account to try getting my blog out there a bit, I created a new page, but it was a discussion and debate within myself. Fortunately, I’ve always had my Facebook account “locked down”, so people can’t just randomly get to me.
    I don’t know that I’ll ever use Baby’s name online. Something about that just isn’t right to me. Hun, he has his trepidation for his reasons and his online ventures he’s working on, so….I guess time will tell. Probably we’ll keep our online names what they are, until we either absolutely need them to be different or we become comfortable being ‘outed’.
    Anyway, I’m really glad to hear that someone else has/does struggle with this issue, because it seemed to me that so many bloggers just go with their real name (or some version of it) and that’s *completely* uncomfortable to me :shrugs: I do suppose, though, that it’ll all work itself out eventually (or I’ll always debate and discuss this very issue) :)

    • Laurel Regan
      Twitter:
      October 12, 2013

      Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts – I really appreciate it! I think perhaps it’s different when family – especially children – come into the picture. I can totally see feeling the need for a different level of privacy when it comes to your children. Ultimately, it’s really just about your own comfort level – there are no real “rules” when it comes to blogging. Which is great! :)
      Laurel Regan recently posted… Gingerbread Pumpkin Pie, Take Two (or four!)My Profile

  • Gary Henderson
    Twitter:
    October 12, 2013

    I know exactly what you mean. I STRUGGLED with using my real name online. I had gotten so used to going by that other name, I actually answer to it in real life. Until one day, a coworker ran across my blog and started calling me “Kaa” at work.

    Uh, no. That’s when I decided it was time to just associate my real name with everything. :)

    I have been “Kaa” online for the longest time (it’s a long story). Before that, Otter. More recently, Philosophidian. But now that Google+ and YouTube and Blogger and Facebook seem gung ho about making sure everyone in the known universe knows who everyone else is, all the time, it has seemed easier to just admit who I am everywhere. So on LiveJournal, I’m kaasirpent (some Russian dude got ‘kaa’). Kaaserpent on YouTube. Philosophidian on Blogger. And my writing blog is called WriteWright.

    — Gary, or whoever I might be at any given moment. :)
    Gary Henderson recently posted… Hello, Old FriendMy Profile

    • Laurel Regan
      Twitter:
      October 12, 2013

      That’s the thing – all those sites really do seem to be conspiring to make everyone “out” themselves with their real name! Ah, well. It’s good to know there are others out there who have grappled with this issue as well… thanks for sharing!
      Laurel Regan recently posted… Gingerbread Pumpkin Pie, Take Two (or four!)My Profile

  • Schmutzie October 13, 2013

    I blogged under a pseudonym for 7.5 years before I decided to out myself publicly. It was a scary leap at the time, but it has made all the difference. Having a legal name to back you up lends you an authority in this space that a pseudonym does not, and my online work and creative pursuits have been much more successful since. I’m still Schmutzie to most, but everyone knows that I’m Elan Morgan and that I don’t create an artificial wall between off- and online life. It speaks to consistency and transparency.

    And I want to make it clear that I am not at all bashing anonymity. It is a powerful tool that the internet affords us, and it is anonymity that allowed me to flower and gain the creative confidence I have. It is a good tool when used for good :)
    Schmutzie recently posted… I’m Out, Again, For National Coming Out DayMy Profile

  • Britta Petrich October 24, 2013

    This is great, and I admire your confidence. I too struggled with “putting myself out there” when I first started blogging in 2011. I was also very reluctant to join Facebook, but eventually took the plunge in 2008. I blog a lot about my family and would not want to exploit my children in any way. This creates some tough decisions about what to share and what not to share. I’ve always used my real name and shared an amount of personal information and pictures I am comfortable – readers need to read real stories and my writing would suffers if you I tried to hide behind a false reality, but still, I am mindful of how I interact online. Thank you for writing this! You bring up important points, but it also is a realistic reminder of how the world works these days. Personal sharing and interactions online are a way of life.

  • melanie jean juneau
    Twitter:
    October 26, 2013

    smart move I have been adding my real name melanie jean juneau after a hyphen everytime motherofnine9 is used but maybe I need a complete overhaul

    • Laurel Regan
      Twitter:
      October 26, 2013

      I think it’s always good to review the situation now and then, as things in life change. Ultimately my main concern is to keep things clear for people, so hopefully these changes have made it a little more so!
      Laurel Regan recently posted… Filthy FelixMy Profile

  • Kristy O November 3, 2013

    I can so relate! I started my blog anonymously and now it’s not but in addition to being a mom blogger & photographer I work full time and don’t want my co-workers knowing every detail about my life. I’ve grappled with being just 1 person-online and in the flesh but for now I have 3 facebooks, 2 twitters, 2 blogs, 1 Instagram & 1 Pinterest and feel like I have multiple personality disorder!
    Kristy O recently posted… HalloweaningMy Profile

    • Laurel Regan
      Twitter:
      November 3, 2013

      I’m laughing a little, but WITH you, because I went through something very similar and can totally relate! The multiple Facebooks was what pushed me over the edge, I think. I must say, it’s awfully freeing to just be one person now! ;)
      Laurel Regan recently posted… Today’s Gratitude List – Linkup No. 5My Profile

  • Winnie November 8, 2013

    I have been meaning to write you as I noticed you signed your name on a comment about one of my cards. I had thought your name was Dawn. It didn’t register that is was a pen name. I love your name, and if I get lucky to meet you at Blogher one year, I will be addressing you correctly. Enjoy your journey! I haven’t been at this as long as you, but love this fun community!

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