What’s in a name? Plenty. A name is the essence of who we are. It can be the name that we are given at birth, or a nickname which signifies who we are within communities, or it can be an Initiatory name. Sometimes a name is a persona we choose for ourselves in order to keep us safe from the prying eyes of employers, or those who wish us harm such as ex-spouses, abusive family members or stalkers who want to impinge on our personal lives and our personal freedom. Names that do not appear on our birth certificate, Social Security card or driver’s license are no less valid than the initiatory names and pseudonyms that we use. Some may use a ‘fake name’ to bilk, defraud or deceive others online. Facebook, Google and many other places have in place so-called real-name policies that are designed to help, but sometimes end up hurting.
This past week, this policy ended up happening to me. My “real name” is not Fanny Fae. It is the nickname of an ancestor of mine, Frances or Françoise McKay and used the name of this blog, Fanny Fae. My reasons for doing this on Facebook and elsewhere, primarily were to 1) protect myself from my ammo-sucking, gun-toting, “Take ‘MERICA back for Jesus”, and “Convert to Christ or DIE”, and “Left Behind” series-believin’ family members who object to my being a polytheist & lesbian woman legally married to her partner after 22 years, and 2) This name is a brand that I own and intend to keep on owning it. She started as a fictional character on Livejournal and PanHistoria more than a decade ago and I have fiction and other things that are mine written under that name – and they will stay being MINE. Those that know me knew of my motivations. There were never any attempts by me to deceive, defraud anyone. Just a nice safe, almost-anonymous ID to be able to live and to work unencumbered by my religious extremist family and to protect what I perceive to be my intellectual and DNA property. Most everyone in the writing, Pagan and polytheist communities knows me by that name and I have made quite a few friends with it.
From my understanding, Christian Day, an occult shop owner with stores located both in Salem, MA and New Orleans, a radio host, author and “warlock” who rose up to take on the Evil Charlie Sheen a year or so ago, decided to out or ‘dox’ me and anyone else that he knew who had a “fake name”. He took it upon himself and enlisted the help of his friends, groupies and flying monkeys to follow him in this endeavor. That is what I was told. I have no idea because I was not online at the time. It really isn’t important at this point how or why it happened or who did it. I refuse to participate in feeding negative energy to a person who claims he “swiffs” it for his own purposes. The end result was Facebook logging me out of my account and telling me that I must use my real name, but could add Fanny Fae as a nickname in parenthesis. I did so.
I admit, at first I was angry. This sensation lasted all of about five or ten minutes. Then I realized that with the Sekhmet book, hopefully in production to come out soon, it was probably a good thing to stave off potential objections by those who do not equate this ID with my real name. When I explain to them the circumstances and my reaction to it, most have been very accepting and understanding. Some, still safely behind their initiatory names or ones that they have contrived to also stave off inquiries from employers, abusive ex-spouses, etc. have been more than understanding. I daresay that Mr. Day will not be able to swiff their energy from them either.
The biggest inconvenience to me, so far, has not been my weirdo, religious wing-nut family pounding on my virtual door -( though I do expect this to happen eventually), but so many people in the groups that I either admin or those who I am friends with now asking, “WHO the F*** is Christina Paul?!” I have to explain to them what happened in a Cliff’s Notes version and it always ends up being o.k.. Most did what I did and just shrugged and moved on.
What companies like Facebook, Google and all of the other social venues and corporate conglomerates don’t understand is that most of our lives are online these days. All it takes is someone with a bit of tenacity, some basic computer skills and a credit card and they can get whatever information on any of us that they want to. The entire backlash by consumers about issues of privacy, should also include the ability of persons such as myself and others to give good reasons why they want to hide behind another name. Ninety-five per cent of the time, those who do, are not trying to do anything illegal. They are just trying to live their lives quietly and unemcumbered . Not everyone who chooses to use a pseudonym has gone through abuse, or has to put up with hands-in-the-crazy relatives, or employers that want to know what their employees do on their off-time as much as they do for the time that they have those employees on the clock. Being able to mask at least some part of our lives that we feel is private and not open for public scrutiny should be as natural as closing the shades at night when we get undressed. We are all pretty much at least virtually undressed when all of our lives are out there for everyone to see.
With all of the recent bouts of identity theft – whether financial, or someone such as a celebrity having someone impersonate them – of course, knowing who you are dealing with is a very good idea. On the other hand, there needs to be dialogue about having a choice for those who have very good reasons for wanting to stay hidden. Companies such as Facebook and Google should not assume that the only reason why people choose “fake names’ or are reluctant to not use real names on their services is for potentially illegal reasons. It isn’t. Having a safe space to be able to interact with others is of paramount importance. Facebook and Google, et al, have unfortunately become the village square du jour. You can always opt not to use those services, but to do so leaves you potentially cut off from what most people use as a support network. Someday we may have other choices that offer more privacy -or we can hope that these companies get a clue and realize that they have become part of the problem that allows the rise of social ills such as online bullying and stalking. Companies such as Lifelock and other identity theft and credit monitoring services are doing a booming business these days. I am left wondering if Facebook and Google don’t get some sort of kickback because they are by their own policies very probably helping to create the problem in the first place.
I know you….I know all of your names.
That is a bit of ancient Kemetic or Egyptian heka or authoritative utterance that is said when you gain knowledge of all of the names of someone and you are set to either magically protect or curse them. We Kemetics take things like the words we use, and especially names very seriously. There is the legend about how Aset (Isis is Her Greek Name) wanted to get the secret name of Ra and by manipulation was able to obtain that secret Name or Ren. Ra knew that with it, Aset could destroy Him. But He also knew that without paying the ransom to Aset by giving it to Her, that He would die. Like that story, our names and how we are identified and move through this world are double edged swords. They can hold great power and they can be used to destroy us utterly. As I always have said, “My name is my integrity”. Nothing is more potentially dangerous as when something does something in your name that you don’t approve of. Like your word, your name serves as a bond. Naming is branding. Some of us like to have absolute control over our names and our branding in order to set us apart from everyone else. Celebrities, recording artists, authors, etc. know this reality all too well. The more we are out there and participate in social media, the greater for the potential for companies such as Facebook and Google to be used by those who DO want to do illegal things and bilk others to gain more and more power. It is a fine balance to walk, and having one-size-fits-all policies serves no one in the end. These venues have already been used for such purposes. The real name policy in most of these incidents did nothing to safeguard it from happening.
This is an issue that I think deserves more discussion. My outing came from someone else wanting to be vindictive and to cause me and others harm. They failed in that endeavor with me other than it has created a few minor inconveniences. These have already been overcome, so the major explosion that he likely expected ended up being more like a dud firecracker. Still, privacy is an issue that will not go away and it will take thoughtful consideration rather than wholesale policies in order to make things more safe for everyone.