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My start with computers came around 8th grade; back when you could still do stuff on a computer without the internet. Today, if there’s no internet, the computer isn’t even worth bothering with! I played some video games, signed up for some writing websites, and even experimented with my own websites, but hiding my identity was paramount. I always remember hearing people talk about how dangerous it is for people to know who you really are, where you really live, etc. I would say that’s true for kids, but maybe it was also more about the times.
In the early 2000’s, the internet was mostly static. You went to pages for information that other companies produced. Some user generated content was out there, but there weren’t many platforms to enable mass adoption. On anything I signed up for, even writing websites, I made sure to hide my identity because there were so many evil evil people. If anyone dare find out my first name and the city I lived in, that was the end of the world! Skip forward to today (2009, in case you forgot), and the internet is insane! A huge percentage of the internet is user-driven and user-created. Not only that, but the internet is an area for personal promotion. Blogs, Twitter, portfolios, websites, photo albums, video, and tons of other things are rampant. Don’t get me wrong, there are still bajillions of people who go by handles, but an ever increasing number of people are going around signing up for these services with their own names.
Since I am a developer (software, art, writing) whose career is centered around the computer and internet, I’ve started using my own name on these websites. Not only does it help make me #1 on the Google search for Kyle Tolle, but it allows me to create a consistent personality across all these services. My name’s Kyle Tolle and if you want to find me on Twitter, I’m kyletolle. 12seconds: kyletolle. Personal website: kyletolle.com. Goodreads: Kyle Tolle. You get the picture! It does really help when there are only maybe 3 Kyle Tolles across the whole USA. If you see a Kyle Tolle somewhere on the web, it’s quite likely me.
It still wasn’t too long ago when I hid behind other aliases, but I’m definitely moving away from that. Makes me sad when I can’t change my username on websites like Digg and Last.fm, but oh well. It feels good to establish myself on the web. I’m definitely me, and I am now making it known on the internets! Creating a consistent, recognizable presence across all these different services is a cool experience, especially when I’m known by my name instead of ChalkBoi980090288AJF87. Hello, webosphere, Kyle Tolle has arrived!
There are times when I’ll sign up with a pseudonym, but those instances are mostly relegated to one-off signups: to get some quick help, or see an article. If I’m not actively involved with a website, I’m just going in as anonymous. A side effect of using services with your real name is that you think more before posting. If you’re a douchebag online, people will be able to see that, and will rightly think you’re a douchebag in real life. Without that wall to hide behind, it’s more important to not be an idiot. Then again, the types of people who’re abusive on the internet aren’t likely the ones to be interested in developing anything of value in the first place. Oh burn!