My social media secret
I have a secret but it will not be safe for long.
The situation has changed.
I am compromised.
Time is nearly up.
Forgive me for going all Tom Clancy at the start of this piece but social media anonymity is not what it used to be.
Many years ago, I started a fan account under an assumed and slightly silly name. I wrote a column on my team as a character based loosely on myself. When the writing stopped a decade ago, I wanted the fictional fan to survive so I started social media accounts. Since then, I have built up a modest yet engaged following.
I must admit the cloak of anonymity is liberating. It allows me to express a stronger opinion than I might if my headshot was attached. People have supported my views so I have taken up causes. I try to fight the good fight against the forces of darkness in my sport, yet I am not an agitator. I mind my Ps and Qs and refuse to get drawn into arguments online.
For most of my character’s online existence, I have protected the subterfuge. Though a handful of people know who I am, there are precious few clues in my timeline. The camouflage has been so thick that recent chatter even speculated over my gender!
For me, this is all very innocent and a little eccentricity fits nicely in my specialist area.
However, it is apparent that the concept of social media secrecy has changed dramatically in the years since the account was set up. For a start, I had to abandon any attempt to revive my dormant Facebook account when they demanded visibility that would give my identity away.
Secondly, comments directed at others have suggested those shrouded in secrecy have something to hide and their opinions should not be trusted. This is not true but, it seems, the finger of doubt is enough to force people out in the open these days. Admittedly, I would have suspicions if I were on the other side of the conversation.
Then there is the question of authenticity, a real buzzword in social media right now. And certainly, if you are anonymous then the modern assumption is that you are deliberately playing with people as you have something to hide.
For me, a pseudonym has helped me build up years of credibility through years of posts on my unfashionable team and unloved sport. My followership is precious and few but they know I am for real, even if they don’t know who I am.
I’d argue that anonymity has created real confidence of expression. A silly, solitary tweet can end a career these days and, while I am not offensive or controversial, occasionally I have deleted the odd post on second thoughts. My nom de plume provides a feather bed for such mistakes.
Recently, I partially identified myself by agreeing to be interviewed on local radio and, if another project comes off, then there would appear to be no option but to brace myself for the ‘Full Monty’.
I am not fooling myself that anyone cares less but it would satisfy the shifting morals of social media etiquette.
In fact, the biggest block on a bona fide Kendo Nagasaki-style unmasking is simply that it has been fun to be unknown.
I have enjoyed it and, feedback suggests, others have too. It has added a little spice to the all-too bland recipe of English professional sport.
Something will be lost once the account is anchored to boring-old me. I am not sure how to handle it but I am certainly overthinking it.
The new truths of social media seem to revert everyone to the mean. Strong opinion, even if it is supported with evidence, is convicted without trial leaving an ever-long queue of wind-up merchants and attention-seekers to dominate the conversation.
It is no place for nuance or niceness, and that’s the brand of my pseudonym.
Frankly, I don’t know what to do – reveal, continue or delete.
What would you do?