Wednesday, 23 April 2014


Anonymity can help us reach out to the world with our innermost thoughts and feel freer for doing so. Behind a mask we don't have to worry about repercussions and can present ourselves however we like without feeling obligated to fulfil social expectations. When writing, a pseudonym can free us from the type of work usually expected from us. It can give us the freedom to express ourselves fully without threat to how we are perceived as a writer or a person. We can try new ways of writing, new genres, and put it out there to see how we are received.

JK Rowling considered publishing her first adult novel A Casual Vacancy under a pseudonym in order to separate herself from the Harry Potter series and break into the adult market. The reviews for this book were mixed despite it reaching number 1 in Amazon book sales within hours of release. It would have been interesting if she had used a pseudonym, to see whether it would have reached those sales in that time scale without her name on the cover. Rowling's success as an adult author can not be accurately gauged because of what came before. Her name has given her a status as a writer that will always ensure she is spoken about. Whether people like her adult books or not they will still buy them. She will always sell books. Her name has become a commodity more than anything else, which is sad and I do think that it's such a shame she never released her new novel without that. She saw her lack of anonymity as 'brave', but I disagree. It would have been far braver to release something without any expectations from the public, to see how they genuinely viewed it.

However anonymity on the internet can be a bit crap. People remove any vestiges of how they would speak to people in the flesh. In company if our political beliefs disagree then we agree to disagree if the discussion goes nowhere. Maybe we'll call them a dick to our partner on the way home but usually we are polite unless they are an outrageously offensive arsehole. Then we might call them that. If there's wine involved. But online this barrier of social politeness is removed almost completely. If someone is wrong THEN THEY MUST KNOW THEY ARE WRONG. All sorts of expletives, name calling and shizzle goes on.We might re-assess how we speak to someone on Facebook, but a random on the internet usually gets full qwerty throttle. The /B/ page on 4Chan is an example of how anonymity can stir up some incredibly creative, but also eye-wateringly nasty stuff. Don't google that if you don't have brain bleach handy. They created pedobear. But they did create LOLCats, and probably started the internet cat craze, so it's not all bad.

So, anonymity.  I've not really made my mind up yet. Good bits, bad bits. Pretty much like everything. I'll be here on the fence, whistling and pretending I'm invisible.