In early 2017, I wanted to be more anonymous on Facebook when replying to public posts or to comments friends made. I wasn’t feeling a lot of social media trust outside my own circle but couldn’t convince myself to reply to NOTHING. I treat Facebook as my personal world, almost a diary, so I don’t want biz associates or strangers just finding me there (even though I don’t post publicly).
So I changed my Facebook name to my first and middle name. I figured that would make me more anonymous. Someone in the SF area appears to have that as her full name, so hopefully I’m harder to find. I still had a female name, just not my real last name.
I found that strangers continued to treat me the same. When posting something liberal-leaning, the typical non-liberal response was that I was just a stupid person. I was overemotional (even when making a totally factual argument). I write too much! I just can’t focus! They used every insult in the book to try to distract from any decent point I might make.
I noticed that none of them ever wanted to take my ideas or arguments head on.
And one day I got a LinkedIn request.
A friend of a friend (a stranger to me) somehow put 2 and 2 together. He didn’t send a Facebook request. He sent a LinkedIn request… which connects what I thought was my more private, personal world with my more public, business world. Ugh.
So I changed my name again in October 2017.
I changed it to a name a human could possibly have but unlikely. 🙂 My first name is a common noun. My last name is a location. This isn’t my name but it would be like if my name were Trees Tucson. My profile photo is not of a human. So I should be really anonymous now, which is great for potential collisions with people who disagree politically.
But something I didn’t expect happened.
When I posted liberal-leaning commentary to public pages’ posts or to friend’s posts, I noticed two key things that were different from when my name on Facebook was Debbie:
1) Non-liberal-leaning people told me I was a Russian troll. This made me worried about what their fake news is telling them about Russian trolls. Most of what I read said that Russian trolls are NOT liberal-leaning. I have also learned that real Russian troll accounts tend to look like hot, young, female millennials with female names. I have a non-name and a non-human photo.
But to them, whatever my commentary, opinions, or points were were just fake news. They should be ignored. I’m a Russian troll!
2) Random people had way less empathy. For example, I posted to one public page post about having recently had an unexpected allergy attack. Every person who commented under mine said I was a liar and it couldn’t have happened. Never happened.
I wasn’t expecting to hear that the allergy attack I definitely had never happened. I wasn’t posting for sympathy. I was posting as a warning to others that something most of us thought harmless could initiate an allergy attack. But the people who commented went beyond not believing me to insults and declaring me non-real. I deleted my comment.
Bonus: a real life, long time friend told me my name looked so disgusting to him that when it comes up on the page, he wants to look away. Well that’s interesting! You KNOW it’s me. Yes, the name is weird. But I didn’t think anybody would have that huge a reaction to a common noun plus a town name. I told him I plan to keep the name.
So now what?
It’s an interesting thing for me to consider. I “dehumanized” myself by using a fake name and a non-human picture. I was then treated as not real. A liar. A fake.
Yes, I’m a human typing words into Facebook comments. I’m real! But when people saw the fake name, it was like they didn’t have to listen. They didn’t have to care.
When people agreed with me, the treatment was no different before or during my new name. They listened and cared. But when they didn’t agree, I wasn’t a person. I was fake news. It’s been interesting to watch and experience.
I plan to keep my ridiculous name because I’d rather be anonymous than cared about. I can go without the empathy of strangers. You can say I’m just bringing it on myself but I’m only noticing the change (mostly) from people who have different political opinions. Even strangers “on my side” haven’t changed how they respond to me.