When you make forum posts beginning with, "I'm not a racist, but..." or call us retards in the comments, do you use your real name? What if you had to? Cracked has no plans to implement such a feature, but the world certainly seems to be heading that direction.
You probably saw the raging backlash that occurred when one of the world's largest video game companies tried to institute a "you must post under your real name" policy: The idea lasted about two days before they were forced to back down.
But that felt like a temporary reprieve for anonymity. Facebook Connect is turning up everywhere, and encourages (sometimes tricks) you into using your Facebook name on other sites (like ours!). As we speak, one of the world's most wired countries, South Korea, has had a real-name policy for Internet users since last year.
For all that's going to accomplish.
The curtain is coming down (or going up, depending on what type of curtain you're picturing) and it's fascinating to see how differently people react to that possibility.
OH GOD LOWER IT AGAIN.
So where do you fall on this spectrum?
5People With Secret (But Perfectly Legal) Online Lives
Let's get this out of the way right now: We know you don't have to be a troll to be afraid of revealing your identity online. A whole bunch of us here at Cracked go by fake names so as not to be harassed by people who, for instance, preferred Michael Keaton's Batman.
"These people know nothing of my work. I must find them."
As commenters have pointed out, it's no different than how we all keep our real-life social circles separate--you're not the same person at the job interview that you were the previous Saturday night at the ICP concert, or at your weekly underground fight club sessions.
This is where it becomes a problem. There's no good reason an elementary school teacher shouldn't be allowed to pick up belly dancing as a hobby. However, if she were forced to upload her videos under her real name instead of "Fatima the Enchantress," she's much more likely to lose her job. People are quick to judge about that sort of thing.
Hint: It's the eyes.
Likewise, there's a lot of reasons you might not want people to see you posting on a forum for online gaming. Maybe you're running for office, like this guy.
Ed Hermes: hardcore Halo player, aspiring County Supervisor.
While your Halo skills may win you younger voters, that only helps you on the extraordinarily rare occasions that they actually vote.
Or maybe you just want to surf some forums without being surrounded by ass-kissers but you happen to be Axl Rose.
Unfortunately, in the argument over whether we should make online identities transparent, those of us who prefer online anonymity for innocent reasons will constantly be confused with the other groups on this list. Mostly because that's exactly how they want it.
Unfortunately, there areâ€¦
4People With a Secret (and Illegal) Online Life
This is the actual intended target of anti-anonymity policies: the spammers that spam without consequence; the child pornographers; the trolls that badger kids into suicide; the anonymous assholes making up lies and destroying people's reputations for fun.
Much like Iago in Shakespeare's Othello.
Just this week you've heard how 4chan tracked down and spread the address and phone number of a girl who insulted them via webcam, rallying the forum to call the family at all hours of the night to make death threats. The girl was placed in protective police custody.
She is 11-years old.
Left: How 4chan sees themselves. Right: What 4chan is actually like.
Anonymity doesn't just make this kind of behavior possible, it seems to cause it. It's behavior that occurs purely because the perpetrators are sure they'll never be found out. It was a series of similar high-profile cyberbullying cases that made real-name laws possible in South Korea, starting with the infamous Dog Poop Girl. She saw anonymous Internet trolls post the addresses of her and her relatives, harassing her until she couldn't go out in public anymore and had to drop out of school. Because her dog pooped on the subway.
This isn't just a man cleaning up the poop of some girl's dog. This is history, folks.
Most of South Korea felt this was a little out of proportion for one dog poop. Between that and a rash of cyberbullying suicides involving celebrities, the public decided anonymity wasn't worth it. The U.S. isn't at that point yet, but then again, Natalie Portman hasn't been harassed to death by 4chan yet.
Even though she was partially responsible for a much bigger turd.
Ironically, it is this group that has spawned...