When it comes to personalities and names, there are times when having one of each is simply not enough. Aliases, nicknames, pen names, and personas are sometimes necessary to change perceptions.
Some people may be perceived as having multiple personality disorders (not schizophrenia) when they really don’t. Most of the time, multiple personalities are intentional.
In most cultures, people have one given name, the one they’re born with. This is the name that appears on a birth certificate. Some parents aren’t satisfied with addressing their children by their given names. They give them nicknames and sometimes the nicknames have nothing to do with the given names.
In some countries, including the United States and the Philippines, it’s perfectly lawful to use two names. One is a birth name and one is an alias. Obviously, the birth name is the name on the birth certificate. Not so obviously, the alias is the name that the person is known by.
It’s very common for actor or an author to use an alias. When an author does it, it’s called a pen name and when an actor does it, it’s called a stage name. If I think about it long enough, I can probably think of other types of media personalities who use aliases.
Some media personalities keep their aliases secret and get angry when they’re discovered (J. K. Rowling/Robert Galbraith). Others don’t really care (Stephen King/Richard Bachman/John Swithen). It seems the ones who care are those that are trying to pretend they’re something they’re not.
While authors or writers can get away with creating multiple personalities, actors can’t. Actor names are associated with faces. Authors and writers may have a face associated with a name, but only one name.
It happens a lot with blogs. A male writer will use a female name and personality to capture a certain audience and a female writer will do the same thing, in reverse. From what I’ve seen, it tends to work well for them until they’re discovered. The backlash from followers or fans can be horrendous.
Worse than “fake” personalities online are the personalities who won’t show themselves. Although a byline isn’t required, visitors shouldn’t have to guess whether you’re male or female, or any other details that show your personality. It can sometimes be discerned by what you write or the way you write but your name can’t be obtained that way.
There may be more than one reason to use multiple personalities online, but having multiple personalities to match multiple websites is the only good one I can think of.
I prefer to use one name and one personality on multiple websites. Of course, the first part of my online name is a nickname. It’s the one I chose out of all the nicknames given to me by my parents, siblings and friends over the years.
I use the same name on every website I write or post on, RT Cunningham. I figure if I make a mistake, I’ll own it. There may come a time when I’ll want to create other personalities but I don’t think I could ever get away with using an opposite gender.
Originally published in August of 2013. Updated with minor corrections.