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Disposable Online Identity A theoretical discussion of what it means to have an online presence

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As some of you may remember, I have been (albeit rather slowly) undertaking a course of online study into the field of Cyberpsychology. I have recently been looking at the whole issue of online presence and identity, and I would like to get some input from others on this issue.


I have been online in one form or another for quite a long time now. In fact, I would probably first have "gotten connected" back in the late 1970's, although that was with BBS's and FidoNet. I think my first exposure to the Internet for real was when I was working for Telecom New Zealand back in the mid 1980's and they rolled out an internal network called "Myriad" which, for us, ran on the sole Intel 286-based computer in the office at the time and was connected through a gateway to the global Internet. Back then, I was known online as "Wampus", and I was quite active in various online communities, including many usenet groups.


There is nothing left of Myriad now. A Google search for it doesn't reveal anything, no matter what keywords I try. (If anyone has better luck at searching for it than I did, please let me know). "Wampus" died along with Myriad. Then there came a time in my online life that I am not too proud of now, and I never reveal what my online identities were back in the late 80's to mid 90's. Suffice to say that I am well acquainted with particular online communities that even today are legendary names among the 1337. But I have lost contact with those whom I knew back then. Many of them are either still in prison, or have gone on to form the backbone of the world's cybercrime prevention and computer forensics community, putting their skills that were once used for nefarious purposes to a much better use.


To cover my past online indiscretions, I have gone on to create a string of throw-away identities, normally only lasting no more than 12 months each. At first I used to be fanatical about using random proxies to assist in obfuscating my identity. These days I am a lot less paranoid: there are many more people online in New Zealand now that there were back in the 80's; and also, I have changed ISPs so many times now that even I couldn't trace myself by IP address any more!


I have been active in a wide variety of online communities since the turn of the millennium, with all sorts of different things holding my interest for diverse time spans. The counter-exploit brigade still pulls me back time and again as it is my online "roots", so-to-speak, but I never go back as the same identity that I was on a previous visit. I try to avoid Usenet, IRC, and anything that is going to tie me up too much these days. My wife already says that I spend too much time on the Internet, so IRC would not be a good place for me to hang out these days. :lol: But my favorite haunts are online communities, such as we have here on Xisto. I have met some really interesting people in my time here so far.


I flitter around the Internet like a ghost, hither and thither, taking on a different appearance each time. I have even been introduced to myself once! ^_^ That was a scream! On one Philosophical website I was known as Episteme1 and an acquaintance there, Aristotle1, wanted me to meet a friend of theirs on another Philosophical website that they were on under a different nick. It was then that I found out that I knew this person's other nick as well, and the person that they wanted me to meet was someone known as Phronesis1 which was my my nick on the second Philosophical website! So I had to dutifully make a post introducing myself to myself. I never did let on who I was! It was really quite funny.


Using such tools as KeePass Password Safe, I am able to easily keep track of all of my online identities, including usernames, passwords, and related URLs. One thing that I found rather annoying at first though is this incessant need that webmasters seem to have of ensuring activity from their users. Why do webmasters always do that? If I do not visit their site for a certain period of time then they will delete my account for inactivity. For instance, how long does an MSN email account last if you don't log in regularly? The explanation is given that deleting inactive accounts makes room in their database for more active users. But what about someone such as our Saint_Michael, for instance, who has given his time and contributed to the Xisto forums for over four years now, and who must have posts in just about every sub forum on the board, if not in every thread. Should such an identity not be immortalized, at least for the lifetime of the online service itself?


As I say, this used to annoy the heck out of me at first, but now I just roll with it. Creating online identities has become second-nature to me now. While some people say that finding a suitable unique nick these days is getting harder due to the increasing Online population, I still think that identifying yourself is only limited by your imagination. Making use of disposable online identities is much easier, I think, than trying to identify yourself as yourself. It is also much safer with the proliferation of online identity thefts being reported these days.


There are moves afoot to standardize the way that we identify ourselves online. Microsoft's Passport was one such early innovation, and the concept has been extended as the Microsoft Live ID. Also, there is OpenID, which is another such unified online identification methodology. Back in 2005, Microsoft released a document entitled Microsoft’s Vision for an Identity Metasystem which outlined what they had learned from developing their Passport service and how they would like to implement such technology in the future. Should such a Metasystem be introduced, and together with the tinfoil hat brigade's view of a future iPatriot Act, (which presumably will steamroll over Online civil liberties just as the Patriot Act did in the real world), there is the potential for enforced real-name identification of all Internet users. Imagine having to supply your Social Security Number every time you go online!


I could go on, but I'll open this up to further discussion. How do you manage your online identity? Who are you online?



1 Names have been changed to protect the innocent.


Edited by travstatesmen (see edit history)

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Online Identities are actually starting to duplicate nowadays. But I manage just fine.Anyone can easily manage their identities. I find that most people fake alot of the information online. What do you think?

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I guess there are a lot of fakes, but why would someone need to fake something on Xisto?I guess if someone where visaiting porn sites you would need a fake identity many times.Why tell a woman you have a porsche though when you don't?I've never lied like that. Maybe it feels good,I don't know.

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Unlike travstatesman who has a lot of identities online, I am having trouble keeping tabs with all of my other identities in different online communities. I am talking at the level of usernames here. Not that I want to have different identities, I actually only want and am struggling to have just one for the sake of remembering. And also because in my experience, it's not easy being consistent with so many identities.

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