This Thanksgiving, I have to admit that, among many other greater gifts, I am grateful for my first name and my last name.
Not that there’s anything particularly special about either Cameron or Sullivan, other than the fact that they’re both surnames, which some people may consider to be a red flag.
Gratitude for these names lies simply in my ability and willingness to use both of them (in combination, in order) for every and any form of communication, whether written, spoken, posted online or printed in ink.
Of course, I have other names, including Sweetie, Mrs. Sullivan, Hey, Motherness, Cam, Cami, Wampus Primeval, Stanley, and the word “Mom” spoken with up to six syllables.
But I reserve the use of those names for private family conversations, not for use on social media or local vent boards.
This practice doesn't work for everyone; it fact it's quite unpopular.
A Bay Area News Group article last week detailed the Nymwars debate (Twitter #nymwars), in which social media users assert that they should have control over how they are identified online. In contrast, companies like Facebook are vowing to crack down on their “real names only” policies and the Department of Justice has suggested that, in order to prevent crime, the government needs internet users to be more transparent with online IDs.
Reading the article, I grew concerned that that some of my newest Facebook friends may disappear.
I further waffled between worry and elation over whether some comments on Pleasanton Patch could disappear.
To begin with, some of my newer Facebook friends from Pleasanton include Nypizzapasta, who speaks English, Italian, Persian and Russian. Nypizzapasta’s last name is Pleasanton and he spends quite a bit of time on Main St.
By the looks of his profile, Nypizzapasta only eats at one restaurant.
Another Pleasanton friend request I sent this week went to the well-known Miracleautopaintandbodyrepair Pleasanton.
His name may be difficult to pronounce. But I hear Miracleautopaintandbodyrepair has, shall we say, a great body.
Another new friend, Cns, has an obsession with nutrition. Pusd posts several newsworthy topics a month about the menu offerings at Pleasanton Schools.
In addition to innocent Facebook aliases, however, is a growing population of anonymous participants in the comments section of Patch or Pleasanton Weekly.
On Pleasanton Patch, for example, we have the philosophical Lin, the intellectually sarcastic Gem, and the cleverly named Californicus.
There are also Sue, Rich, Evie, Tim, Jill, Roland, TMAX and many others without surnames.
Although comments sections and message boards are more entertaining when participants feel free to comment without fear of retribution, I can’t imagine wanting to hide a valid argument behind an alias.
Perhaps online conversations would be less spirited if identity were required. I agree; this would take half the fun out of the hobby of reading message boards.
But if I had to use an alias, the argument wouldn’t be worth making.
Perhaps some participants feel that aliases can protect them from online identity theft.
It's a safer bet, however, that people with well-phrased anonymous opinions are more likely to be victims of intellectual property theft than identity theft. If a writer backs up a comment with a verifiable identity, he or she owns that comment.
If I have an opinion to state or a fact to relate, I’ll stand behind it with my real name and take any verbal lashings that come my way.
To that end, on a particularly contentious article recently, I deleted one of my own comments when an anonymous poster attacked me for it. The hilarious result was that the angry, anonymous commenter appeared to be arguing with herself.
As someone who’s been writing opinion columns in newspapers and online for eight years, I’m too busy to get into shouting matches with people who aren’t willing to identify themselves or display simple decorum.
Finally, if you ever meet my new pals, Nypizzapasta and Miracleautopaintandbodyrepair, please tell that that before they lose their social media presence, they need to create a Facebook “page” for their businesseses, attached to a legitimate user with a verifiable identity.
If they need recommendations on Pleasanton-based professionals who can help them with this and their other PR needs, I know a few independent business owners in town who provide excellent professional communication services at fair prices.