[Trigger warning for discussions of online and IRL abuse and violence]
I recognize the irony in my first post after my big “This is my real name” announcement being about anonymity. I think it’s important, though, to make a strong statement about the importance of anonymity in light of some comments by a colleague. It was the “pseudonyms are used to bully” argument, with a little “I can’t take pseudonyms seriously” thrown in.
Some people are assholes online, and like to target others and make their lives hell. They will do this using their real names and even workplace computers; they do this with fake identities. Research about online behavior hasn’t found evidence to support that anonymity leads to trolling. If a website is full of assholes, it’s their fault for not holding people-–whatever name they go by–-accountable for their behavior.
Online discussions don’t have to be everyone agreeing with each other. Conversations just need to not be racist, hateful, or destructive. The way to make that happen is to create consequences for bad behavior, regardless of real name status.
Pseudonyms are critical to having a fully representative online community. A great list of reasons why pseudonyms are important can be found at the Geek Feminism Wiki:
The cost to people [of denying pseudonym use] can be vast, including:
- harassment, both online and offline
- discrimination in employment, provision of services, etc.
- actual physical danger of bullying, hate crime, etc.
- arrest, imprisonment, or execution in some jurisdictions
- economic harm such as job loss, loss of professional reputation, etc.
- social costs of not being able to interact with friends and colleagues
That page goes on to list, in detail, the various ways that these groups can be harmed. We know that women experience 25 TIMES the amount of harassment online that men do. We know that 50% of LGBT teens are bullied online, and many of them consider–or commit–suicide. We know that women are stalked and killed by ex-lovers. We know that LGBT folk are the victims of hate crimes.
There is a real and critical need for pseudonyms to be honored online, even if it’s a convention that you rely on the good will of others to maintain. And yet, a lot of people, especially scientists, are very dismissive of pseuds as not having meaningful things to say. I have to admit that my first reaction to the tweet I have copied at the right was RAGE.
[Edited to add: Terry says he meant to say “Once you consider the concern about physical safety and stalking, and look at other issues, then there is safety in knowing that you don’t have to triple-think everything you write.” Since you are limited to 140 characters by Twitter, I've added the clarification, but IMHO it doesn't change anything.]
People in marginalized groups triple-think and agonize over every damn word we think, say and write.
Every. Single. Day.
- Will I get hurt again?
- Will I get sued if I add my story about sexual harassment to the ones already public?
- If I talk about the time my department head introduced me as “This is Bug, she was raped”, will it get back to him?
- Will my family read this?
- I’m sure it was illegal that I was was required to post on my office door that I had epilepsy, but how do I ask without the department finding out?
- How do I get help when my boss is a bigot?
- Is talking about my LGBT relationship going to come back and bite me in my job search?
It’s not just things we write online; if you are part of an outgroup and trying to fit in, you have a lot of secrets. You make decisions every day about what you will share, who you will share it with, and how far you are willing to go to combat stereotypes.
Terry, the author of the post and the tweet that set off this rant, is a good person, and I know he cares about his students and his work deeply. He is also a white tenured dude. I’m not mentioning him as an example to shame him, but to show how easy it is even for the good guys to forget that their experiences are not representative.
If we limit the ability of people to use pseudonyms, or dismiss their words specifically because they are pseudonyms, we silence a huge part of the population. And that is why I’m still getting in people’s faces about this issue, even though now you can pin all of my words on a specific person. (Who is still looking for a full time job, BTW.)
I am not at all comfortable writing this now that everyone knows who I am, but I have a tiny bully pulpit, and by golly I’m gonna use it. I would never have been brave enough to write about my sexual assault or epilepsy without my pseudonym. It was not only healing for me to write about it, but I heard from many, many others that it helped them. That?
Totally worth it.
Worth the freak out I still have every time I see my real name online. Worth the fear that I’ll become unemployable. Worth posting this photo of me again, that I took down in the past.
Please don’t dismiss pseuds, nor limit our access to important online discussion spaces. Pseudonyms include voices of people living in fear who are reaching out to others. We have very good reasons to not want a full record of our lives online under our real name. I include here people that are not at risk of physical harm, but economic and professional harm; graduate students that don’t want to be viewed as trouble makers, and postdocs that don’t want to hurt their grant chances, for example.
Can pseuds be credible? Yes! But what makes us credible and worthwhile is our words and ACTIONS.
Do hold people who behave badly–whether it’s using their real name or a pseudonym–fully accountable for their actions. But don’t blame bad behavior on anonymity alone, and don’t dismiss or limit those using pseudonyms.
Great reads on this topic:
- If your website is full of assholes, it’s your fault
- Why pseudonyms won’t stop bullying, from an online media researcher
- In the news: using social media to harass women
- Let’s not forget that George Orwell was a pseud
If you’ve been blogging for a while, or if you have a decent amount of traffic, you’re going to start getting these emails. It’s basically a form letter, asking if you would let some
blogger corporate shill do a guest post, or offering to write a post for you.
This particular one is pretty standard; note that the template has some non sequiturs where the template breaks. (Also, SNORF at “related to the niche of our sex shop.”)
The typical setup if you agree is the spammer provides a blog post that is shot through with links to their shop or to marketing partners. That creates more links for them and more Google Juice, as well as increases their exposure. They don’t want to pay for this, of course.
The letters I get are usually from pesticide companies, although I did get a bunch like this right after I wrote my post about SpiderMan’s penis. I’ve found that if I reply with a completely off-the-wall request, but make it seem serious, they run away and never come back. You want to sound like you are both in earnest and completely unhinged.
This was my reply.
Have never heard from this company or person again
I’m not sure if I would recommend this as a method of dealing with all the spam requests I receive, but it amuses me, and probably wastes some of the spammer’s time. So we’re even.
Welcome to part 2 of the series on social media! This series of tips will focus on how to make your online reading more efficient.
Social Media Tip #4: Work Smarter, not Harder.
I love the internet. Billions of fascinating bits of information, lovely photos, and hilarious viral videos are uploaded daily.
That would also be the primary problem with the internet.
It’s easy to end up curled in a fetal ball under your desk just thinking about all the journals you aren’t reading, but that you think you should. And that’s the boring stuff.
What amazing podcasts and blog posts are you missing? What fresh hell of asshattery is some politician spouting off about? The most important corollary to Tip 4 is:
4.1. Give yourself permission to not read everything.
You can’t read it all. It’s impossible. So stop feeling guilty about it.
4.2. No. Seriously. Don’t try to read it all.
Later in this post, I will explain how you can have have all the awesomeness of the internet delivered to you automatically. That can then become an additional source of stress.
Journal Table of Contents in your inbox? For a journal you haven’t looked at in months? Unsubscribe.
Feed or bookmark for a blog that updates rarely, or doesn’t match your interests anymore? Delete.
Be realistic. If you have a bunch of stuff sitting in your inbox, and you haven’t read it in weeks? It’s not urgent, and you can just delete or archive it.
Before you start using any of the tools I’m going to tell you about, take a hard look at what you are doing right now in terms of your reading and work habits. What can you stop doing?
Look at your “dumb things I gotta do” list and get rid of items that are vague. Take a day and clean your inbox and workspace completely. Have you turned off your email notifications, so that you aren’t interrupted constantly? Everything piled up digitally or physically around you is taking up emotional space.
This paper (just pages 4-8 to skip the academic jargon) has a very nice summary of the Getting Things Done methodology. Give it a look. GTD made a HUGE difference in my stress levels when I found it 7 yrs ago.
Now you are ready, grasshopper.
4.3 Use tools to make the time you spend sifting and looking for information as short and convenient as possible.
Still clicking through a bunch of bookmarks to look at stuff? Dude. UR Doin’ It Wrong. You can have information delivered to you!
Many of my readers already know this, but I find that when I start talking about “RSS feeds” to my medium to low-tech-savvy friends, eyes tend to glaze over. So let’s have a very brief review, and then jump into tools I like.
XML is basically a type of web language that contains the content of a blog, newspaper, or many other types of media, stripped of formatting and packaged to be portable. XML feeds are usually indicated with an icon; this orange RSS one is the most common. Here’s the Bug Blog Feed, for example. Because of this packaging, you can have news, blog posts and comments, or journal Table of Contents ported into a web application or emailed to you at your convenience.
Personally, I try to avoid having emails sent, because it not only further clutters my inbox, but it is delivered to me when it’s convenient for the publisher, not me. Then it sits there in the inbox. J’accuse! You have not done your reading!
Email is such a bastard sometimes.
4.4. Sometimes being a tool is a good thing.
Here are my favorite tools to automate my reading; most of them work on a “dashboard” model that allows you to arrange your feeds into groups, and even play a little with colors. The key here is that I retrieve information when it is convenient for ME. Not when it is published.
- Hootsuite (Yes, the same tool that automates your social media posting!)
- Google Alerts
Hi All! I have been super busy, but there is such an awesome online entomology community of blogs and commenters, I know you aren’t starved for bug info.
I wanted to pass on some tricks I’ve learned to make your entomological social media efforts more efficient. These tips are not in any particular order, and the numbering doesn’t represent priority. I’m sure that people will chime in with additional suggestions in the comments.
Hopefully this will help you spread the gospel of bugs more effectively! You might also find reading things I’ve written about social media in the past helpful–they are linked at the bottom of this post.
Look for a series of posts on this topic over the next few weeks. Why yes! This is part of my
evil secret special plan for my BugMediaEmpire™.
Tip #1: Don’t be a fire hose.
I occasionally see folks post about 20 links in quick succession. That makes total sense if you are posting things as you’re sitting and reading; but it isn’t as effective as spreading your posting out over an entire day.
If you post 20 things at 10am, and I’m stuck in a meeting from 10am to Noon? I might never see any of what you posted. The rest of the world is posting too, and piling on top of my Twitter and Facebook streams.
Don’t even get me started about the crazy way Facebook decides for me what I should see. GRRRR. There is a fair amount of data about how long a post is “alive” on Facebook. Basically, after 3 hours, your post pretty much ceases to be shown in the news feed unless it gets a lot of early Likes and shares. This makes the timing of a post on Facebook especially important.
Corollary Tip 1.1: don’t post about every damn thing you eat or wear, unless your topic focus is food and shoes.
Tip #2: The best time to post should be driven by your audience’s schedule, not yours.
Most people’s posting is driven by when they have free time at the computer. That may or may not match up to when your readers are online. But how do you know when the best time to post is?
You can find out when people are looking at your blog using Google Analytics, but that may not tell you when people are looking at your social media streams. Blogs take longer to read, and I’m less likely to look at them during work hours, for example.
You can ball-park your timing by paying attention to when you seem to be getting the most Likes, RTs, or Reshares. It’s a lot easier to use one of many websites out there that help you sort out what times people are reading based on traffic data. A utility like Topsy, for example, will give you specific traffic information for keywords. Lunchtime and from 3-5pm are generally the peak times people are mentioning “entomology” on Twitter in this particular sample, but you can also see that it varies from day to day, and that the effect is relative to the keyword.
If what you are posting includes a link, you can monitor your traffic that way too. Bit.ly is not just a URL shortener, but it also tracks how many people click your link, and where they are. There are also paid social media analytics like EdgeRankChecker that produce amazingly detailed data, but since I am a broke-ass academic, I don’t use them.
The easiest way to manage all of this, especially for multiple social media streams, is to automate your posting, and use a tool that will post your info at peak times.
Tip #3: Use an auto-posting utility to manage your social media streams.
I have 5 primary streams of social media content for the BugMediaEmpire™ that I actively manage: Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook (personal page), Facebook (official blog page), and Google+. I also have Pinterest and YouTube pages, but I don’t do much with them other than create insect-themed song playlists.
Professionally, I manage several university Facebook and Twitter feeds, as well as FB pages, blogs, and twitter feeds for multiple non-profit organizations.
Um. Yeah. My name is Bug Girl, and I’m a social media addict.
The point is, I’ve got a lot going on.
A common question I get is “When do you sleep!? You are always posting things on Twitter and Facebook!”
I sleep a lot, actually; I just get up in the morning and set out a day’s worth of posts while I’m drinking my coffee. That way I can post something at Midnight EST for the West Coast crowd, or at 6am when the UK is going to sleep. That also lets me post things when I’m at work and forbidden to access many off-campus websites.
Here’s what my post stream looks like on an average day. This is actually just 3 main topics, repeated several times for different media streams. I also let Hootsuite decide when to Retweet (RT) people if it isn’t time sensitive, so we both get to share the optimally timed love.
Does it work? For the most part, yes. I do seem to get more Likes and RTs using the autopost timing feature. Unfortunately, the free version of Hootsuite is rather opaque about just exactly HOW it is coming up with this data. I’m sure if I had the paid version, it would become clearer.
The scheduling in advance feature is especially useful for the university and non-profit accounts that I manage. I can set out a whole semester’s worth of tweets and Facebook posts, or schedule reminders for a grant deadline months in advance. All I have to do is occasionally look in to make sure no one is posting nasty spam, and add a few timely news items or photos. Much, much less work. DON’T TELL MY BOSS.
So there you go, half of my secret to being omnipresent online. The other half is using online tools that allow me to organize what I read in more efficient ways. That’s the topic of my next tip post!
Caveats and Disclaimers:
- If you decide to use some of these auto-schedule or other social media management tools, be aware that you are giving them the keys to your digital kingdom. You give these applications the ability to post under your name everywhere. Make sure your passwords are very secure.
- Each one of the tools I’ve tried has some small aggravating glitches. Hootsuite, for example, will post to a G+ business page, but not to a personal account. It doesn’t have a way to autoschedule and select a date months in the future (although you can do that manually). On the other hand, all the tools I’ve mentioned here are FREE. Which pretty much makes them perfect.
- There might be a downside to using these third party applications to auto-post. Because of the way in which Facebook determines what you see, auto-posted items using third-party APIs may to be at a small disadvantage compared with posts done manually. It’s not clear how future Facebook changes will affect this in the future. I can say with confidence that Facebook will change the way that they display information soon, and it will piss us all off. Again.
Other things I’ve written about Social Media:
You may know that in my regular life, when I’m not Bug G. Membracid, I have a job advising students, among other things. In the spirit of “do as I say, not as I do” in terms of career advice, when someone recommended some online reputation tools to students, I wanted to try them out.
The first tool I looked at was Reppler. It sells itself as a way to find potentially damaging content that might spook potential employers.You have to connect it to your Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook accounts for it to work, which is the first hurdle. Essentially, you give them access to troll through your entire posting history.
I have the perfect paired test–My Bug Girl online identity, and my IRL identity. How did they compare? Well, looks like it’s a good thing that I kept those separate! Here is the rating for my Real Self: 88 out of 100. (The score was a 90 until I hooked up my Linked In account, which was “neutral”–that was enough to lower my score.)
When you look at my Bug G. Membracid score, well. Oh dear. Clearly there are some issues.
But what counts as “inappropriate content?”
Apparently, Arse is a dirty word. But fanny is not. You can see the categories that they search in this screenshot. Mentioning Alcohol is bad. In fact, on the post flagged here, I was explaining that I couldn’t drink beer, because I was allergic. It still showed up as negative content.
Reppler flagged the word “vagina” as adult content, even though it was a reference to the recent news story in Michigan. It also seems to know that “F**K” is a euphemism, and flagged it as “strong language.”
Sounds terrible–but what was my score, with all this negative content? 80. Only a few points lower than my IRL score! This makes no sense–why is my squeaky clean real identity score downgraded for being neutral, and my Bug Girl Profile rated so highly, despite vaginas and alcohol?
Well, you gotta have a gimmick, and online reputation monitors are useful for people that create online profiles and walk away, I suppose. For me personally, I laugh everytime I get the report (“You have 23 new Inappropriate Content Alerts!!”), so there is a high entertainment factor.
And this is all very interesting, but what do employers see? If you have everything marked private, they can’t find you, right? Not so fast. Take a look at the reports from Social Intelligence, a background checking tool marketed to employers. They managed to find a fair amount of embarrassing material on this writer. The good news is that most of the deep search tools are not free–but a major employer will almost certainly have a subscription to a service like SI and check you out.
Another tool commonly used is PIPL. With just my real name and state, I was able to find a list of everywhere I had lived for the last 10 years, plus my age and phone number. Yikes! Had I been willing to give up some cash, I could have gotten an extremely detailed report about myself that probably would have creeped me out for days. PIPL doesn’t tell you anything about your online reputation, but it will produce a detailed history of your movements and employment–which would be useful to an employer verifying your resume.
I was happy to see that PIPL picked up a lot of Bug Girls online that weren’t me, and that I still had my plausible identity intact.
In summary, the best way to keep your online reputation is to not do anything really stupid. If you are having a bad day, or are angry, walk away from the computer. And that advice is free, and requires no subscription.