My name is Philip Newton. It says so on my userinfo page. It says so in the emails I send. It says so on the tooltip that pops up on some browsers when you mouse-over my userpic on comment pages.
I wonder why that is?
Or rather, consider this. A fair number of people I've met prefer not to have their name known, or reveal only their given name, or their middle name or nickname. Some will only tell their given name to friends; some try to conceal their real name from everyone on the Internet. I wonder why I don't mind it if people know my name?
Is it because I'm a guy? (Girls seem to be more reticent, in general, than guys to expose their identity; perhaps because they're sick of getting hit on by guys if they have an obviously female name.)
Is it because I'm older and am not as afraid of being stalked or something?
Or maybe because the Internet was simply different when I was younger? I have an idea that may play a fairly large part, mostly due to two things:
- When I first started on the Internet, it was "smaller" and the people on it tended to be more tech-savvy and less like your "average Joe". This also meant that people's image of it was probably less threatening than it is today; fewer stalkers and similar "evil guys", simply because that sort of person probably wouldn't have been interested in the Internet back then.
- When I was young, the Internet was not widely available. I had my first e-mail address reachable from the Internet (gated through a CompuServe service called "MHS"; our company's one "Internet-connected" computer dialled into a CompuServe machine every hour or so to pick up and send email) when I was 18. Nowadays, kids grow up with the Internet and so they're probably drilled on not giving out personal information (e.g. in chats) just as kids were told not to accept candy from strangers "in my day". When I was younger, that simply was not an issue since there was hardly no Internet in Germany when I was a young teenager (and the first Internet connectivity was e-mail only; FTP/WWW came later and chats/instant messenging quite a bit later). So maybe I never went through that phase.
(Incidentally, that may also be why I'm not a big user of instant messenging—it wasn't part of my Internet experience when I started out, so I never got "into it" much. I use AIM occasionally but forget to launch it more often than not. I have ICQ but my client has expired and I only used it twice or so anyway. I have no idea what my UIN is but it may be in my userinfo on LJ if I'm lucky. I also don't use a mobile phone and have rarely sent a text message to one.)
I don't know. I suppose everyone has reasons for keeping their name out of the public eye. But I think it never really occurred to me to hide my name—though occasionally I now wonder why this is.
I wonder which is the "natural" thing: having one's name open, or hiding it? Am I being weird, or they? Or neither? Or put a different way: did they make a conscious decision to hid their name? Or did I make a conscious decision to display mine? (It doesn't feel like that to me.) Or neither? Is the default for "new" Internet users "hide the name" and for old people "display the name"?
Hm... musing some more: people who've been on the Internet a long time also tend to use spamtrapped addresses a lot less, or so it seems to me. Instead, they filter aggressively, but they don't post their addresses as joeNOSPAM@example.com or joe@SPAMMERS-DIE.example.com or whatever. Perhaps this is part of the same thing? That "older" people are more open with their information, perhaps because the Internet used to be a friendlier place back then and that's the culture they grew up with?