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Thursday, May 22, 2014

Faking an Identity

I am noticing that more people are faking their identities on the Internet, and the practice has me curious. I've always been careful never to post anything that I wouldn't want to see attributed to me on the front page of the newspaper. Most of my social media presence and even this blog and others that I manage are oriented toward my profession, that of writing and the publishing industry. You can scroll through my blogs, visit my website or follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest and find that I am consistent across the board.

So when someone contacts me through any of these Internet venues with a fake name and a fake picture, I always wonder why they are afraid to reveal their true identity. The conspiracy theorist in me (necessary for a lifetime of writing political suspense and international intrigue) wonders if they're the neighbor down the street or they're in the Ukraine, China or Russia.

They might be harmless but my gut reaction is to pull back and not to engage.

Sometimes they use an actor's photograph. I wonder when I am looking at a good-looking bodybuilder whether they're really the great-grandmother of thirty or a disheveled alcoholic using their local library's Internet connection.

Sometimes they use a celebrity's name or a combination of well-known names. Again, I wonder what's wrong with their own name and why they believe it's so important to hide their true identity. It isn't as if I'm selling sex or engaging in illegal activities. I only write about them.

So why are they afraid to reveal themselves? Are they afraid their spouse, their children or their parents will track them and demand to know why they're on social networking sites or visiting blogs? Do they really establish relationships with people through the Internet when they're obviously hiding behind the mask of an actor?

Sometimes their comments, tweets or messages appear to have merit. If they were correctly identified so I know they're an expert in a particular field, I'd welcome their opinions. But how do I know when I'm staring at the obviously spoofed face of Angelina Jolie or Brad Pitt, that they're not twelve-year-olds afraid Mama will catch them on the computer - or worse, a felon looking for their next victim?

I know many bloggers who have amassed a number of genuine friendships on the web. Their reach may stretch around the world, and many times they've met their contacts in person. It happens all the time with me, as I promote Book 'Em North Carolina. Relationships with other authors are established and I meet many of them in person at our annual BENC events. I'm careful with whom I engage; people troll the Internet for any number of reasons and I look for others with similar motives as my own.I also receive fan mail regularly, and always respond.

So I have to wonder: if you've created a fictitious character to hide behind, why?

And if you've encountered spoofed characters on your blog or through social networking, do you engage in conversation? Why or why not?