Aliases are what associate all the ideas that we diffuse on the Internet to a single name. It adds reputation to our identities and can be used to attach our Internet selves to our real, human selves.
But aliases are not such a simple concept as filling out your name and start contributing away. There is much more to an alias, from its origins to its applications.
An alias is not a name in the traditional sense. Unlike names, aliases are not inherited or bound by family in any way, nor do they have to be a saint’s name or sound intelligible or civilized in any way. You can make an alias just by taking two words randomly from a dictionary and putting them together. They could also have a profound story behind them; for instance, Scott Manley came up with “szyzyg” after misspelling “syzygy.” In my case, I came up with my own alias when I was told to sign up for RuneScape and had to think of something quickly related to programming, so I came up with longbyte1, a contradiction of sorts since long and byte are two different primitive data types in C. Whatever.
However, as I began gaming under longbyte1, I realized that when you Googled “longbyte1” you’d get my forum activity, my TF2 scoreboard data, and whatever else to come. If I was asked by a college admissions officer to tell them my online alias, would I tell them longbyte1? Heck no, who knows what they’ll find about me! So I decided to make a secondary alias called oldmud0, some obscure, humble name intended to attract as little attention as possible, and decided to keep it clean this time. That is the alias where I placed my GitHub account, so that I had a working alias to present to whomever was genuinely interested in me rather than my mischief.
Now, I’m fully aware that saying all the aliases which I go under in this one blog posts completely defeats the purpose of having multiple aliases. But I knew from the very beginning that the time would come when the two aliases would become totally inseparable from each other in their activity. Besides, hiding my name was for my security, not because I felt the need to be completely anonymous.
So I’ll state it right now: longbyte1 is oldmud0. There, that was it.
Aliases are a large reason minority groups (not ethnically speaking) are lured into the Internet, including those who are antisocial, LGBT, criminals, introverts, and of course the dead, because they will never have to be judged by their human person, their piercings, their purple hair, their tattoos. They can submit their opinions to the entire Earth – with an assortment of 95 characters at their disposal, with whatever opinion they want, whenever, to whomever.
As the Internet becomes an essential part of human society, this omniscient network of ideas that traverse the whole world will begin to intertwine virtual identities with real ones. But the principal ideals of the Internet, those of anonymity and freedom of expression, will never die.