Not everybody is thrilled with the Google+ real-names-only policy; the estimable nakedjen, who has blogged under that name for several years, tweeted her frustration: “Raise your hand, Internet, if that’s the ONLY way you’ve ever known me.”
While keeping one hand in the air, I found this advice from Marcel:
An important element to keeping a secret is not letting anyone know you have one. If you are going to use a pseudonym, it follows that the best pseudonym would be a common … name other than your own. Choose a given name and a compatible surname: Jacob Miller, Alejandro Martinez, Mohammad Khan, whatever is suitable to the environment, and move on. You’ve been Mighty Thundarrr since you went online back in ’98? Take the opportunity to change, and get a fresh email address while you’re at it.
People will complain this makes it hard for others to find them. That’s largely the point for me. Why then would I use Google+? I most likely would not, and will not unless there’s some compelling reason, and the loss of privacy is balanced by some gain. If I did, I’d use my own name, or else some common name. I would not use Goofy Gonif or Bigbird777 and then complain that Google+ was repressing my freedom of expression when the enforce their terms of service.
I started phasing out most of my pseudonyms in the late 1980s; separate personas turned out to be too high-maintenance a luxury. (I’ve kept one, which shows up on several message boards to this day, but there’s no fabricated persona involved.) Then again, nakedjen doesn’t have a fabricated persona either: she is what she is.
The Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal sees the Google+ edict as an inversion of reality:
[I]n real life, we expect very few statements to be public, persistent, and attached to your real identity. Basically, only people talking on television or to the media can expect such treatment. And even then, the vast majority of their statements don’t become part of the searchable Internet.
Online, Google and Facebook require an inversion of this assumed norm. Every statement you make on Google Plus or Facebook is persistent and strongly attached to your real identity through your name.
And if nobody hears it now, maybe someone will hear it a couple of years down the road, when you perhaps don’t want it heard. I once got a request from a person whom I had quoted extensively in a post: he’d been overtaken by events in real life, and some of this stuff he didn’t want attached to his name. I agonized briefly over this, then rewrote the post to omit anything traceable. Social networks, of course, can’t be bothered to do this sort of thing.