Very direct about it, and yes, some people completely shut you out once you tell them, but vast majority don’t; while my opinion, those who do aren’t people I am interested in knowing. Very similar prior to me being largely anonymous, people would ask me what I did, I would respond saying I did nothing, which at the time was true and did not feel the need to make something up. Oddly, discovered their response almost immediately told me a lot about who they are as a person; they might think I am: cool, on-the-run, lying, nomad, spy, wealthy, homeless, etc.
As for making personas, long ago I tried that, though now it to me feels like lying, especially in context of establishing long term relationships. That said, with personas I created, other than generic names, I would keep them true to myself, though never complete representations of myself. In doing so discovered that the variety of personas rarely played a factor in people engaging me, but it did appear to make a difference if I just happened to contact them randomly in close proximity to them having free time.
All and all, being anonymous really is not that hard. Not even something at this point I spend lot of time thinking about.
All in an effort to further anonymize your text. The idea is that people have different, consistent grammatical habits and mistakes, writing, concision, etc. You create a "profile" for each identity you want, usually one per account.
1. Writing style change 2. Degree of extra/reduced fluff 3. Degree of typos 4. Typing style change (e.g. using semicolons a lot, misusing commas consistently, conventions like S.O.S vs. SOS)
Another interesting concept to explore is platform style. Have you ever noticed that everyone on Reddit sort of sounds the same? People on HN sort of sound the same. I think there's an emergent platform-based profile that top comments hover around, because adhering to this style is more likely to get upvotes. The hive mind is real!
Picking a new identity might be a good branding decision (especially if you can get NewName dot com!), but I'm also the kind of guy who looks at the message, not the messenger, so whether I focus on what you're saying or not has nothing to do with the online persona you've created for yourself.
This entire post/idea seems to be based on "you can't just make up an obviously anonymous avatar/username anymore (like BakedPotato138)" and I frankly don't see why not. It's been working fine for decades. The only people who are upset over this are authorities and corporations. And in those cases, making up a fake person is quite possibly criminal fraud.
Many others have tried and failed (though they often broke the law, so that might be the main distinguishing factor)
Essentially a marketplace where you can buy and sell prebuilt identities - complete with associated, aged, and populated social media accounts, email accounts, pictures, websites, etc.
I just like the idea of being different people online.
This approach will need a plan for dealing with Zoom. It has normalized, in a very short time, the video component of what used to be strictly audio - the phone call. If you don't display your face, people get mad.
Examples? A dozen years ago Facebook went on a purging mission to get rid of fake accounts. I had to prove to the people behind the algorithm that I was real, and had an online presence dating back to the turn of the century. The same thing happened with Google+ (remember that?): to overcome their objections I had to supply links to real-life documents that cited my name. It was annoying at the time, but I can smile about it now.
Same thing happens in real life. I've had people ask me if I changed my name by deed poll (answer: no). Some people have told me that when they heard my name they thought I must be some sort of wannabe rockstar (answer: no, but I do write poems). Sadly, a few people have confessed that they thought I was Black before they met me - I cannot even begin to understand the thought processes they used to reach that conclusion!
I don't believe my name has been a barrier to my advancement in life. It does offer me some anonymity (evidence: I'm not famous) while at the same time making it very easy for people to find me via Google.
 - Rik Roots
 - Okay, it's Richard Roots, but I shortened it when I was at school because people kept shortening it for me to 'Rick' and then asking me if I spelt my name with a silent 'P'
 - Turns out that the Roots surname has a pedigree dating back to the Norman conquest of England. The origins of the name come from the Old English word 'rot', which meant 'glad' or 'pleased'
 - See https://www.houseofnames.com/roots-family-crest - and yes, I was born in Kent.
PS for Australians: please don't tell me the Wombat Joke. I've heard it many times.
We live in such an insane, reactionary world these days and I find it very refreshing to hear from people who've clearly thought hard about what they're about to say/write.
Sometimes, I even wish HN worked this way. I wish the front page was about 10x as slow, and that we could discuss things for a week or two instead of a day or two. It'd be messier, but I think the fruits, separated from the weeds, would be juicier.
For example, if you see someone at dawn on the docks with a tackle box, a fishing pole, and dressed for fishing, you don’t think “spy come to take photos of ships.”
Providing a plausible identity is a good practice for hiding your identity.
I wouldn’t suggest the AI face though. Firstly, it makes the face picture unique in that you can’t (currently) get other pictures of the same “person.” If you have a single picture of yourself it looks weird. Facebook without any pictures? Instagram with nothing? No other pictures of yourself, ever? Definitely weird. Better to just avoid it and use the plausible identity as a layer behind your online handle. Then use an avatar, but don’t hide your name. George Howell, aka “17forty” ‘from college, when I used to drink a lot of 40s, 17 was my personal best lol. Just dumb stuff.’
He chose this to be boring but plausible and move the conversation on.
To me it seems like if you dodge the topic of employment some people will get curious and dig in. If you say what you do, they might be curious and nothing is more boring to me than talking about my job to “normies.”
I think there’s a concept of digitally hiding through being normal. Evading Google leaves a black hole around your activity. Making a digital “Bob” who just does boring, normal stuff creates an ad profile that no one cares about.
As someone who owns a popular website, I often receive guest writing inquiries (probably for links and SEO).
Most of the time it's either Indians or Eastern European guys. But for some reason they always use fake personas and names to sound/look more "western".
When I asked why do they do that, the answer was "it increases the conversion rates" among "western" publishers. Who also happen to be the most valuable prospects.
So, basically they exploit the conscious or subconscious xenophobic biases in people of western cultures towards people from other "foreign" cultures by creating fake personas. And it works! People are more likely to accept guest articles from someone who looks like them.
PS. You would be surprised to know how many contributors at Forbes, Inc, Entrepreneur, Tech Crunch, Mashable, etc are completely fake personas.
As the advertising and tracking arms race escalates, I wonder if there’s a burgeoning industry for personal persona management. So you can isolate your private life from your public life/lives.
Well due to how easy it is to create a fake identity on social media, knowing who someone /really/ is, is the real quest. I've experimented with creating completely false identities on social media, and populated the profiles with plausible information.
I went the extra mile and created fake domain names, under my alias, fake AI created profile pictures, fake family members, even fake boyfriends. I avoided anything that could be unraveled like saying I work at such and such a company, when there is no employee records under my name at that company (Fake LinkedIN profiles are a hard problem).
This may not matter for inconsequential things like the pen name for your SubStack or something. However, it definitely matters if you plan to engage in anything serious or do any business under that persona.
If you run into situations where you're forced to switch to your real identity (e.g. employment relationship, legal matters, or even an accidental leak) then you could lose a lot of credibility. People will naturally wonder if you were trying to hide something from them, regardless of your initial intentions.
"Oh, uh, ... that's my middle name."
Yes it's human nature to want things but, socially, one might learn to go without something if it's at odds with what someone else wants. If someone doesn't let me keep private things which I would prefer to keep private, unfortunately I will simply learn to avoid that person.
That's to say, "make a persona" is being offered as a panacea to when those around me don't allow for privacy but it is a panacea I would not choose.
this is why when you look up my dox or grep for my passwords, its not hard to find my fake social security number, address and password in the usual place.
in the future i want to build this into a server. What kind of server are you? Oh, I'm IIS running ASP (not rlly). send your ops down rabbit holes to nowhere instead of depriving them of the feedback they rely on. i love it.
It's now possible to:
- Create a believable phony organization "Meet the leadership team" page using deep fake images and ChatGPT bios.
In the near future, it will be possible to:
- Generate significant history social media trail with random posts and shares of fake content of all kinds, joining groups, and participation to build up legends to be sold to customers in the future.
If the original poster wants to chime in how he found this writer that would be of interest to me. Thanks for this post. Posts like this make the world a better place to live in.
Most people don't know who Kayodé Lycaon is. I'm quite literally a (painted) dog on the internet.
There're communities that create/change their personas to match how they perceive themselves, encourage their members to experiment with presented identities, and expect the society to respect and accept presented personas without questioning. I'm totally OK with that. How is this different from presenting oneself as an alter-ego though?
I personally have leaned into the latter framework.
>That’s a problem if you really want to be anonymous.
Large emphasis on really.
Stop conflating secrecy with privacy. The former is another pair of shoes entirely.
But I really don't get the point of being anonymous on social media.
I love that appraoch!
Anyone who wishes me harm, can figure out who I am, fairly easily. I own a home, and I'm not sure if people know how much that exposes folks.
I want people to know who I am. I don't think that I have much bad about me (although a number of folks think I'm a stuffy old boomer -they're probably right).
It also helps me to behave better. I was not always a stuffy old boomer, and I behaved ... not like an adult ... on the Internet.
I'm big on Responsibility and Accountability. I'd like to see more of it in others (but am frequently disappointed). I find that it's best for me to act like I'd like others to act; whether or not they do, is not my business.
I was told "We teach people how to treat us."
Some folks conflate them, but while they are related, they are not the same thing.
Sites like HN provide privacy through pseudonymity (which is, essentially, the "solution" prescribed by the author of the blog post), allowing those I interact with here to know that "I" am "Nobody9999".
Unsurprisingly, that's not the name on my passport. But on HN, you can be relatively sure (assuming I'm not also operating sock-puppet accounts as well) that my thoughts, ideas and expression are from the same person.
I preserve my privacy by not using my "legal" name here. The combination allows me to freely express myself without being tracked down, doxxed or otherwise abused by those who might disagree with me.
As for other places on the internet, I generally don't utilize sites that require verification of my personal details (an excellent example is ChatGPT, which requires not only an account, phone number verification as well), not because I'm engaged in evil/illegal/nasty behaviors, but because my business is my business and no one else's.
That's at least an attempt at preserving some semblance of privacy, but doesn't really provide anonymity.
While (as others have mentioned), my electricity provider, my landlord, my ISP, my mobile device service provider and my doctor all know who I am, where I live and an astonishing amount of information about my life, for the most part that's necessary to participating economically in society.
As such, especially given the lengths to which ISPs and mobile service providers go to to collect information about my activities, my privacy is significantly curtailed. That generally pisses me off, not because I really have anything to hide, but because (and I'll say it again), my business is my business and no one else's.
while I do understand the blog author's point of view, rather than creating an alternative persona online, I'm just me and mostly share my thoughts pseudonymously without trying to create an alternative backstory for those pseudonymous identities.
However, those who choose to use online resources that require verification of their identity, may need to take additional steps to preserve their privacy/pseudonymity. I choose not to engage in those forums and, as such, my privacy is improved a little.
Is that sufficient for me? No. Unfortunately, there's a limit to what I can do while still living "on the grid." And since I have no interest in squatting in a lean-to deep in the woods, I do have to give up some privacy.
I'd love to live in a world where collection of PII was the exception rather than the rule, but those my countrymen (with a very few exceptions) elect to legislate and execute such laws as are legislated don't seem to give a rat's ass about privacy, unless theirs is impacted.
And more's the pity.
Edit: Fixed typo.
This seems like a pretty straightforward mechanism for covert operatives, to generate a believable (and memorizable) cover that pulls attention away and maintains coherence.
That said, as someone who prizes ethical behavior, it's not possible to practice this and remain wholly honest without some sort of ethical loophole like "character work for entertainment only". A persona requires misrepresentation, which is not the same as de facto anonymity.
So, while I love the write-up, I don't think it's saying what they think it's saying.