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Brent: The Huffington Post, Trollish Blood, and the Anonymity of the Internet

5 Minute Read
Aug 26 2013

This is the 133rd article I’ve written for Bell of Lost Souls.  Weep, Trolls, weep!  Muh, ha, ha!

Stay with me a moment, Bell Faithful; that wasn’t just a pointless bit of fun.  I’ve been writing for Bell of Lost Souls for years, and I still maintain my own hobby blog, Strictly Average.  I’ve written for House of Paincakes, Blood of Kittens, and Blood Angels! by Jawaballs.

All using my real name, Brent.  The point?  I’m a trendsetter I am.

* * *

The Huffington Post announced they are doing away with anonymous comments.  Or, put another way, they’re attacking Trolls!

As of next month, Huffington Post users won’t be able to create anonymous accounts to post on the site; going forward, their identities will have to be verified internally. 

Jimmy Soni writes a piece explaining the move, invoking To Kill a Mockingbird right out the gate.  Grabbing the Harper-Lee-high-ground, as it were.  You can follow the link I embedded; another good resource is CNN:

The Trolls unite in their own defense.

Our own little corner of the Blogosphere has its problems with Trolls and hateful comments.  Blood of Kittens, referenced above, made the decision to remove comments from the site altogether.  Big Red and The Girl have to police Bell rather rigorously to keep the worst offenses from staining polite eyes.

With that in mind, and the Huffington Post decision in the news, this week’s Terrible Tuesday will touch on my reasons for using my real name in Blogging.  As always, this is my point of view but I welcome yours in the comments.

* * * 

I’ve been Blogging for a number of years now and it’s always been Brent.  (Except when it was Not Brent, but that’s a long story.)

It was a deliberate decision on my part.  Granted, at the time I started posting it sure didn’t seem like Internet Fame – such as it is – would grace my little section of the Blogosphere.  Strictly Average started the way many hobby blogs do; I had something to say.  I used to joke that only my mother was reading it.


Except she wasn’t.  Really, nobody was.

Despite that, it wasn’t lack of imagination that kept me from picking a nickname or handle; rather, it didn’t appeal to my personal sense morality.  For various reasons, I’ve always despised anonymity, the idea that someone could do or say something without a concern for personal repercussion.  It’s not hard to imagine how that could lead to a sense of entitlement.

For that reason, I stuck with my name.  I didn’t advertise my last name, but believe me, it’s not hard to figure out if you try.

Nor my profession.

Nor where I live.

Most of you use a nickname.  My choice has no bearing on your choice.  I don’t think I’m better than you, more morale or any of that rot.  It was my choice.  And while I’ve never regretted it…

…I also don’t have kids.

* * * 

I like using my real name.  I’ve never had an awkward conversation at a tournament.  None of the, “Hi, I’m Brent, but I go by Rocket Fuel Dude 69 online.”  I’ve personally got to witness any number of these slightly embarrassing conversations over the years – I’ve been spared that, at least.

I also have to own my decisions, both good and bad.  I’ve written some good articles.  I’ve written some real stinkers.  Since it’s my name, I’ve never created some All Knowing Internet Personality that’s supposed to be different somehow from my normal behavior.  Regarding the crap articles, it’s pretty hard to slink off and deny they exist.  I’ve had to own it…

…which isn’t always easy!  I wrote one half-assed piece of nonsense on guns that caused a lot of blowback.  It’s my name on the byline:  I chased the comments and apologized where appropriate.  I tried to own up to the thoughtlessness that really upset some folks.

I’ve done that personally, as well.  Years back I wrote an article about a game between two rather well-known tournament players.  I thought it was fairly even-handed, but one of the players approached me months later and we talked it over.  I was glad to do it, and I think he felt better about the perspective I offered than he had beforehand.

My general lack of anonymity has kept me from making really, really poor decisions.  I once wrote an argument for a differential diagnosis of another Blogger.  It was a shameful little piece of hate I banged out when angry, and to this day I’m glad I slept on it rather than posting it immediately.  I wonder if BillyJoe40K would have been as concerned.  I’d like to think so, but I don’t know.

* * * 

I worry about having used my real name.  I have career ambitions, and while I’m generally shame-free when it comes to my online footprint, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about it.  My Facebook photo is my mug holding up a mug of cold Shiner Bock.  (Lord, but I love Shiner Bock.  I pick places to eat based on where it’s served on tap.)  Now, my personal limit is one beer at a meal and I rarely drink at home…

…but would a prospective employer appreciate that or just jump to conclusions?  Seeing this site, would he or she judge me based on my hobby and assume I’m not a serious person?  Let’s not even mention videos of Goatboy humping a van or sharing a Sadness Doughnut with me!

Then there is iTunes keyword OffTopical Podcast… how exactly does one explain new media and creative outlets?  Or do potty words speak for themselves?

* * *

The way I understand it, The Huffington Post isn’t forcing anyone to post by their real name.  Rather, one has to provide their identity and set up an account to use.  I have no idea if that idea will fly.  Thoughts?  And would you support something similar here on Bell?  How does this issue effect you?  Had any thoughts about anonymity versus exposure?


Ultimately, I’ve chosen for myself.  I love the hobby, and the videos, and the Blogging and the Podcasting – it’s my stress relief and my personal expression.  In my life, I’ve decided I can accept the consequences if someone chooses to misunderstand my professional seriousness based on my Internet footprint.  I have chosen to avoid anonymity.

That said, I understand and respect those of you who embrace privacy.  After all, it’s a very tiny percentage of you that has any Trollish blood at all!

Thoughts?  Comments?  Hugs and gropings, between adults and with consent by all parties?

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