Is It That Bad Using Your Real Name On The Internet?

Blizzard's decision to force posters on its forums to use their real name isn't exactly going down too well. But is posting on the internet as, well, yourself really all that bad?

I don't think it is. And I should know!

I mean, this is my real name. I've been using it here since I started. Everything I've ever said, ever written down on this site can be attributed not to some mysterious handle or anonymous avatar, but to me.

Before we go any further, yeah, I get paid to do this, which makes me a special case in many respects. Would I still use my real name if I didn't have to? I honestly don't know.

But I know that writing stuff on the internet - whether in an article or simply commenting - using my real name has a ton of advantages, both for me and for you. For one, it makes me more accountable for the things I say. I've said some stupid things on this website over the years, and as I'm human, will probably say some stupid stuff in the years to come (you may even think this is stupid!), but the fact it can all be held against my name and identity gives me pause every time my fingers hit the keyboard.

That's how things are in the real world when we're communicating, it's how things were when people sent letters, it's even how things work when (most) people send emails. When what you say can be held against your actual identity, real world sentiments like civility, manners and reason kick in, all things in sadly short supply online.

[Warning: This vid is NSFW]

When someone you were talking to ceased to be "Diablo117" and became "Jim Neighbour, from Ohio", would you be as likely to make a dirty slur? To wish death on their family? To make gags about sticking your balls in their mouth? I don't think (or at least, I'd like to hope) that many of you would.

This is a big reason behind Blizzard's push: that implementing real identities will cut back on some of the horrific conduct people engage in, and have to suffer through, simply for wanting to communicate on the internet.

It may not be the only reason; many sceptics point to some more nefarious motivations behind the move, if not from Blizzard then from Blizzard's parent company Vivendi. Others are also - rightly - concerned about privacy, when suddenly the veil is lifted and what were once avatars and handles become real people.

I'm not going to fully support the move, because I agree in some respects that privacy violations may well become an issue. But I do think that lots of people - especially those happy to have Facebook accounts - are using the "privacy" excuse as a smokescreen to cover up the real reason for their opposition to using real ID: that their days of trolling Blizzard's forums, of not being able to be held accountable for their actions, are coming to an end. And they don't like it.

But it's OK! I can tell you from experience that communicating on the internet without making vulgar jokes or insulting people's heritage is more fun that it sounds. You may even grow to enjoy the civil conduct. And if you don't agree? Well, at the very least having your real name up in lights should be enough to give you pause before trolling, and if that's the best Blizzard's forums get out of the move, then we've still come out ahead.


Comments

    this is my real name and I'd put my balls in your mouth, Luke Plunkett

      This would make an awesome epitaph.

    I'd like to see YouTube implement something similar to clean up their comments. It's simply vile what some of these people say through their anonymity and is something which needs to be addressed. I hate scrolling down to see opinions on a video to see flame wars and racial, sexist, derogatory remarks. Frankly I can't believe these people think them up in the first place.

    If people don't want to use their real names on the internet, don't make them. The internet is a free place.

    My name is Troy Thompson and I agree 100% with this article.

    Good job blizzard. Making internet stalking even easier. FFS They run a game which has caused the crazies that abound on the net to track down and kill each other in real life. Usually over a stupid slight. Why the hell would blizzard make real life harassment easier for those people?

    "I mean, this is my real name. I’ve been using it here since I started. Everything I’ve ever said, ever written down on this site can be attributed not to some mysterious handle or anonymous avatar, but to me."

    The difference is that you chose to share your real name, if you wanted to write under a pseudonym I'm assuming you could (some writers on here do). Comparing a professional role as a writer and someone posting on a forum are two entirely different thing, so I don't think the comparison is even valid to begin with.

    I don't want complete strangers to know my full name and location online anymore than I want to share that info with people at a bus stop or inline buying groceries.

    Blizzard suck for doing this.

    Although I use my alias 'warcroft' in the land of the interwebs and gaming Im still very careful of the way I present myself.
    I treat it as if it is my real name and not some alias to hide behind while I trash people.
    warcroft has been my gaming name for god knows how many years now (yes, well before World of Warcraft) and I dont want it tainted.

    Although if I used my real name I could be confused with a Queensland real estate agent or a police detective. . . but neither of those two have Facebook pages, lol.

    Heres a story. . .
    A few years ago I bought an item off Ebay, the seller (a teenager) tried to screw me and say I didnt send the money.
    I knew his real name and after five minutes of googling I found out who his parents were, what suburb he lived in, what school he went to, what sports team he played in.

    With the internet making it very easy for people to search you out Id rather not advertise my name everywhere. Id rather not make it easy for some random to find where I live, who my wife is, who my kids are, etc.

      I feel the same way. I almost always use a different name, but I always try to not be a total sh*thead. I just don't want my 'rep' to be ruined.

    The biggest reason I like to be anonymous online is so that I retain control of how much of my information is handed over to people I meet online, and to 'the System' in general - once your personal information gets out there, you simply cannot get it back and in my work in the IT industry I've heard some horror stories. Identity theft is a real problem, and a massive pain in the arse. Prevention is better than cure.

    When I meet someone on the street or in a bar I'm not required to immediately tell them my name, nor am I required to give them enough information to identify my interests and adjust their behaviour accordingly. These details are passed on when I feel comfortable with the relationship, and sites like Facebook are not there yet due to their appalling privacy records, so they get cutout e-mail addresses with fake data. By contrast, Kotaku (wh have never tried to sell me anything!) gets my real e-mail address containing my real name but a pseudonym for publicly viewable comments. That seems like a reasonable balance to me.

    I don't like this trend any more than I like how some pubs are now storing photos of your ID, ostensibly to help identify troublemakers. But doesn't this treat us ALL as troublemakers? How about policing the guilty, not all of us?

    Certainly it has some merit for potentially reducing the insane amount of hate flying around the interwebs - but there are still privacy concerns that make me wary. Not to mention that getting rid of anonymity completely would make it impossible for people to communicate (for example, whistle-blowing or exposing nastiness) without fear of reprisal.

    I'm opposed to the idea. First, because several of my female friends have been stalked by creeps, to the point of police being involved. All you need is a name and you can make somebody's life a living hell.

    Which leads to my second point;

    http://wowriot.gameriot.com/blogs/Americans-are-bad-at-games/Real-Names-on-the-Official-Forums-New-REAL-ID-function?gr_i_ni

    This Blizzard employee gave his real name, and people began to post his real details (family details, home address, telephone etc). One person even signed him up as an "abuser" on a "is this guy a good date or not" site. Again, if someone wants to, they can make your life miserable, especially if you're invested enough in the internet that you have your name involved.

    I use my regular gaming alias on some sites, but I have no problems with displaying my name over the internet, especialy here on Kotaku.

    But how is this holding people accountable? Who the hell is Steve Johnson? Could be any Steve Johnson. The 15 year old Steve Johnson who likes bongs, white power and Warcraft probably doesn't give a damn if his name is on his post. Steve Johnson who just applied for a job might not want some game coming up when his potential employeers Google him.

    Also, I'm not sure if you've ever written a FAQ or help thread, but people who read them don't always have the best sense of boundaries. I can see people going to Facebook and contacting guide authors for personal help not realising that they're crossing a line.
    I really do enjoy helping people and I'm willing to go out of my way for strangers, but I do like to keep the contact details at arms length just to have some breathing room.

    Then there's the matter of giving trolls a list of players to annoy out of the game. Like I said the other day, phonebook + forum full of players who take the game seriously = trolls wet dream.

    I don't know, I just don't see this being a huge deal for the trolls but I can see plenty of ways for it to annoy the legitimate users.

    I think there is a difference between being a journalist on a site such as this and posting on a open forum about competitive games.
    The fact that people like that frequent such forums in the first place would make me wary about giving out any personal info. Too easy for some creep to try and stalk some chick he met in game one time or some nut-job to seek revenge for that time you beat him.

    Link it to your Bnet account sure, with one persistent alias that can easily be traced to all your characters and posts or whatever.
    Same thing but without names - still has accountability but without privacy issues.

    Cause really, my real name means nothing to anyone on the internet by itself. It's effectively just an alias - until someone uses it to take in-game issues into my real life.

    The only reason I would use a handle is because it sounds better than my real name. But eh, we're a nice community here. This is my real name ^

      Indeed, but this is not happening on Kotaku, it's happening on a troll happy WoW forum.
      Trying to fix forum abuse with personal information is like trying fix schoolyard bullying by forcing all the children to write their phone number and address on their forehead.
      The bully won't care but you can be sure someone's going to wake up at 3am to 50 prank calls and an egged house.

    i agree with warcroft on this one for tales exactly like the one he describes. i also agree with luke that removing anonymity breaks Gabe's G.I.F.T.

    my final conclusion. the two balance out each other. a persons real name acts as both sword and shield.

    why would i troll people if everyone can see my name? and why would anyone come after me if i am not trolling them?

    and most important of all why would anyone use my name against me when i know their name as well. they are not the anonymous coward striking from the shadows in this situation people whine their having their name revealed but its everyone having their names revealed not just one.

    so if their name is in the open as much as mine anyone who attempted to greif me using my real name would quickly be repaid tenfold with police, lawyers and reporters. cyberstalking/bullying is the kind of thing journalists love, police hate and courts are itching to set precedents on.

    in other words its one thing for me to reveal my real name on here, its entirely another to be part of a community that removes annonimity entirely.

    oh, do Mods and GMs have their real names revealed as well? food for thought......

      For the 'they know me, but I know them' comment, you don't know them. Its not a two way street. If your real first and last name was Ryno, and I used that information to annoy you outside of Kotaku, how would you know its me? Hundreds of people have probably read your comment here.
      Even if you had to be logged into a Kotaku account to read the comments here, the best you could do is narrow the search down to everyone who viewed this page after your comment was posted.

      I'm still free to be an anonymous jerk, I just have to accept that its going to ruin my fine upstanding reputation if I do it in the comment section. No worries though, I can use Facebook, your work number, or whatever other venue I can dig up using your real name instead.

    I think people aren't giving themselves and other gamers enough cred on this issue.

    All these hypothetical stalking incidents are strongly hinting that we mentally portray each other as the same lascivious, neurotic, shut in's the mainstream is fond of painting us as. Just waiting for the opportunity to stalk all these hot chicks playing world of warcraft on the sly who don't know how to secure their facebook accounts.

    I think we're going to see a reduction in crappy and unfriendly behaviour long before you see a creepy cheeto fingered weirdo crouched at your sisters window.

      Hypothetical stalking incidents?
      11 million subscribers to WoW.
      All it takes is for one person to be tracked down and murdered because of this name policy and watch the shit hit the fan.

    "But I do think that lots of people – especially those happy to have Facebook accounts – are using the “privacy” excuse as a smokescreen to cover up the real reason..."

    No, that is not the damn reason. My Facebook page is there for me to communicate with my friends, and only my friends. It's for this reason that I don't use my Facebook here.
    I want to keep my personal life seperate from my gaming. I gave out a picture of myself for that competition, yes. But that's nothing. I have no fear of somebody recognising me on the street from a picture of me brushing my teeth.

    Having all the people I communicate with in an online RPG suddenly know my real name and becoming able to look me up is different. That's something concrete. Those are personal details. If I want to tell people my real name, I'll tell them myself, not because I don't have a choice.

    And you can bet your arse that it's going to result in a number of stalking cases. Just look at this:
    http://s294.photobucket.com/albums/mm101/kaplan23/?action=view&current=10sdgts.png

      Forgot to mention: As with Mr Waffle a few posts above, I've also had several female friends that have been stalked.
      One of them, who has been stalked repeatedly, and has also had to get police involved?
      The one who's an avid WoW player.
      Like hell I want to see this become even more of a problem for her just because of Blizzard's misguided attempts at stopping trolling.

    I don't like.

    Even my choice in name was because there was several others around.

    I don't get it. People are complaining that if they give out their real name people could track them on facebook, yet they have no problem with putting 3/4 of ALL their personal details on facebook? Get a grip. If you want privacy, then get off the internet.

      Dont spout that bullshit. People put that information on their facebook because they CHOSE to, not because some company decided it prudent to do it for you.

        You chose to stick your personal information on the internet, your asking for it. You can also choose to post on the forums with the conditions they set. Noone has a gun to your head. Don't like it? Go somewhere else with different rules. Everyone acts as if they don't have a choice. This is the same thing as the MW2 and L4D2 upset. Everyone whines about having choice taken from them. There is nothing taken from you. CHOOSE to not post and give out your real name. If you CHOOSE to, then the consequences are yours.

    I'd use my real name in things not to do with gaming. All it takes is for someone to get super pissed off for whatever reason, and they can cause all sort of real-life trouble for you. It's not really a case of "be nice and you won't have any trouble," because there are people who are flat out irrational.

    I said in one of the other comment stories that I've had peopel send me hate mail from stuff I wrote in local street press, and they found me on Facebook (with pretty much everything set to private).

    Blizzard's parent, who now? You mean Activision-Blizzard, right?

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