Monday 6 May 2013

On #CA2013 and Twitter

First off, I'd like to thank everyone for all the positive feedback on the start of this venture. I'm glad folks are excited about it. I am too, and although I’m not sure where this is all going, it should at least be a fun ride.
So, to business: in my last post, I mentioned my recent experience live-tweeting this year’s Classical Association conference in Reading. At the time, I was asked to jot down some thoughts for the CA blog and newsletter; the subsequent article can be found on their website, but I don't intend to just rehash the whole subject, or to shamelessly plug an older post (though that’s a nice side benefit). Instead, I want to comment on an issue that arose when the time came for the piece to be posted. Simply put, I had no idea what name to use.
Now, I had several options available: I could use my legal name, I could use the pseudonym under which I’d been tweeting for the entire conference, or I could include both. This shouldn’t have been a difficult decision, but it weighed heavily on my mind. The most sensible option was to list both names, but as I always have been, I was very hesitant to link the two in such a public way.
I’ve often asked myself why this idea worries me so much, and while there are perhaps legitimate arguments to be made about somehow endangering my future career options, the real answer is far less valid. It’s actually rather embarrassing. The truth is, I’m worried that someone somewhere will decide that it would be good fun to make my life a living hell by releasing all my personal details to widespread ridicule. This sort of thing has become an unpleasantly common occurrence on the internet, and though a person usually has to have committed some grave offense to incur such treatment, I’ve seen it happen to friends for no reason at all – simply “for the lulz”, as the phrase goes. My over-sharing on Twitter notwithstanding, I'm a very private individual, and the thought of being so exposed before my peers terrifies me. And even though I’ve given away enough information on Twitter that it’d be rather trivial for someone to link my names together, I still wasn’t eager to make things any easier for a would-be attacker.
No doubt this sounds ridiculous – which, of course, it is. I don’t fail to recognize that fact. Though I’m tempting fate by saying this, it’s incredibly unlikely that anyone would target me; frankly, I’m nowhere near important or visible enough to make it worth anyone’s effort. I’ve told myself this any number of times, but it’s not in the nature of irrational fears that they can be easily banished by rational argument. It’s taken me longer than I'd like to admit to accept that I can’t let fear of a thing that hasn’t happened, and which will probably never happen, govern my present actions.
Ultimately, my byline on the CA post reflected this conclusion, with both my legal name and my favoured pseudonym appearing irrevocably together at the bottom of the post. Watching as the link circulated on Twitter that afternoon, I felt a familiar tingling of terror, but also a certain sense of relief. Dogs and cats were not suddenly living together; mass hysteria had not broken out; the world had not ended. Life, as it usually tends to do, went on. And though I still catch myself worrying about this sometimes, it's become a little easier to bring myself back to reality, and to refocus my attention on the more important things that I should really be worrying about.


  1. I must have missed it when it was originally posted and discussed on Twitter, but your CA2013 post is fascinating.

    1. Thank you! I hadn't expected Twitter would be so important in my conference experience, but I was definitely pleasantly surprised, and I'm hoping there'll be even more widespread participation next year.