Recently, I found myself in a situation that I (a) never thought I’d find myself in, and (b) couldn’t quite believe was happening because stuff like this only happens in books. In short, without all the gory details, I learned that I someone I had a close association with does not really exist; the person behind the screen name is not the gender s/he presented to the online world, and our years-long “friendship” was just an elaborate game.
I’m not going to spend any time here rehashing events, pointing fingers, or “outing” this person to the internet world, because that’s (a) not the purpose of this blog post, and (b) not my style. Instead, what I want to discuss today is honor in your online interactions. And I want to assure you that I am exactly who I’ve claimed to be all along: a writer,wife, mother, grandmother, cat herder, and state employee (obligatory disclaimer: this blog post was not written during work hours or using state equipment).
Do you owe your online associates the truth about yourself? Well, my personal opinion is that no one owes anyone anything, period. What we give to others in terms of truth and respect should be freely given because we want to, because we truly want to build relationships, but not because we’re obligated. What you’re damaging when you present a false façade is your own credibility. That’s not to say that we, as writers or artists, shouldn’t use pen names or interact with people as the characters of our novels (which I still find more than a little weird, but to each his own) – but you should be honest about it from the start. Otherwise it’s just deception and people don’t like to be deceived.
In this age of accessibility, the personality behind whatever name you use when interacting as yourself should always be yours. Your business associations and personal relationships happen because others find something mutually beneficial or something otherwise appealing in how you present yourself. Your interactions with your fans happen because they want to connect with the real you, and if you give them a cheap imitation, they aren’t going to be pleased or loyal.
Rest assured, when you talk with me, you’re getting the real deal (you’ll know by the swearing and the sarcasm). And I sincerely hope that you’ll honor me by giving me the real you.