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Ask Jules: I’m ready to stop using a pseudonym online

(María Alconada Brooks/The Washington Post; iStock)
3 min

Hi Jules: I’ve been active online for a long time, more than half my life (I’m now 18). But, for almost all that time it’s been under pseudonymous identities. Now that I feel I’m more mature, I’m starting to become more comfortable with the idea of exposing more of my real identity online. Previously, I sort of separated personal accounts — which I only used to connect with friends and family — and those pseudonymous accounts — which I used to follow my actual interests. How should I go about approaching a more personal online identity, and is that even a good idea in the first place?

— Jane

Jane: The urge to move away from pseudonymity is often a sign that you’re becoming more confident in who you are — so, huge win. Going all-in on your real identity online can help you build connections, establish credibility and, ultimately, make your experience online more fulfilling. But to assess if this transition is a good idea, you first need to establish what makes it worth it for you.

Do you want to build a professional reputation or personal brand? Do you want to consolidate your digital experience? Do you want to be more authentic and genuine with how you show up online?

Because using pseudonyms has played a large part in how you appeared online up until this point, transitioning away from them will feel uncomfortable no matter what. The ability to lean on sound reasoning will help you continuously push through that discomfort.

You also need to assess the potential negatives to make sure the change is worth it. Are you ready for a new reputation with friends and family? Or, to be responsible for your posts potentially impacting your profession? Do you know how you would handle unwanted attention or discrimination that may come from revealing your true identity?

If you have started to feel that your self-expression is stifled by staying pseudonymous, it’s probably worth risking those potential negatives. I believe your intuition is a strong indicator of what challenges are best for you to take on next, and you should trust your gut here.

If you decide to move forward with this decision, think about the logistics of transitioning your accounts. Your first option is to get rid of your pseudonymous account and begin to share those interests on your personal account. Another option is to turn your pseudonymous account into an additional personal account that is more stranger-friendly than your current friends-and-family account. Both of these solutions are workable, but from experience, I recommend the second option.

This is because your current personal account may have information that is only safe for your friends and family to know — such as locations, or names or pictures of loved ones. Turning your pseudonymous account into an additional personal account allows you to start fresh in a way that addresses these safety and privacy concerns. It also means the people who currently follow your personal account need to opt in to following your secondary account. This can eliminate the overthinking that often accompanies going all-in on your current personal account, where people have preconceived notions about how you show up online.

Remember, this transition will feel uncomfortable, but your online experience is bound to become more fulfilling when the real you isn’t hiding behind a curtain.

This is Jules’ final advice column with The Post. You can follow her work on TikTok, Twitter and Instagram.