Jennifer Olney
July 23, 2014

Who Are You? The Anonymity Of Internet

In recent days, Google has announced that they will drop their “real name” policy and allow users to use pseudo names on their platforms such as YouTube and Google+. “Over the years … we steadily opened up this policy … Today, we are taking the last step: there are no more restrictions on what name you can use,” Yonatan Zunger, chief architect at Google+ stated.

The use of pseudo names has been point of contention since the dawn of internet – specifically chat room/boards of 90’s. In these bastions of the early form of “social” communication, the use “fake names” was the norm and you really never had an idea if the person behind the “handle” was real or fake. The slanderous comments and mudslinging was a daily occurrence in some of these rooms.

I frequented many chat rooms back in their hayday– not only for technical issues such as the software and propriety hardware for companies I represented back in the day but also as a hobby such as professional hockey chat rooms . In both cases, you really had to have thick skin to walk into those rooms and take the comments and banter. I can say for those who hid behind these pseudo names they felt could comment without any repercussions – whether it was to slander a product or individual. Many times these conversations turned into nothing more than pissing contests between individuals but many times it was downright personal.

With the dawn of social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter – it began a bit more difficult to hide behind a fake name – since both require a name and email for registration. It’s not unlikely that anyone who wishes to deceive others can’t still use a fake name but both platforms have worked to ensure that personas are who they are said to be …but no system is fail proof. Recently, I had a new follower on Twitter who profile didn’t match with the profile he had linked with LinkedIn.

The users have become savvier than the days of chat rooms. And with this in Google perhaps has realized that their own process and practices are in place that can ensure there is accountability to keep the fakes off their network.

If you are concerned with “fake” names or users in your social media networks or if you are experiencing “troll” behavior from user within these networks – consider taking the time to do a bit of due diligence on your end. It doesn’t take much as user to ensure you are talking to “real” people. Don’t wait for the platforms to root out the fakes for you.

My recommendation is if you feel someone isn’t being honest with their profile, look up their name on Google or Bing. Many times someone who is using a fake name will assume the name of real person – look to see if the profile pictures match on all of their social networks listed. If the user tends to send out repeat text to multiple individuals in any network – that’s a clue you are dealing with someone who not real – most likely even a spam bot.

Before you accept a friend request on Facebook or connect request on LinkedIn, find out why they want to connect with you – simply ask. Sometimes you find out that these requests are generated by bots as well. It’s always a good practice to not simply accept every request you receive – be selective about who you let into your profiles. Even if it someone you have had “some” interaction on Twitter for example – do a little homework on their background with a cursory check of their networks. Are they just “super” friendly or do they have another reason for connecting with you? There are many folks who like collect friends and connections simply to build their counts for social media metrics.

As Google takes this step to eliminate their policy on fake names, it will be interesting to watch how they live up to their claim that they can stomp out the spam. I wouldn’t wait to see what happens next. I would be proactive and protect yourself from the pseudo players in the social media landscape.

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Jennifer Olney is the Founder of #bealeader. #bealeader is an organization that provides leaders from business, talent management, education and social business a platform to express their leadership and expertise. #bealeader has been at the forefront of bringing the power of community and services to social platforms. #bealeader has taken leadership from online to real world by creating the #beamentor volunteer mentor program which puts leaders into action providing their expertise in volunteer and professional coaching services. Jennifer is also the CEO of GingerConsulting works with organizations to brings brands to life and transform their bottom line with business development and marketing services. Jennifer is also a Featured Author on and appears monthly on SteamFeed Radio. Jennifer is a contributory author to Business2Community.

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