Survey Says Most Of My Friends Are Real

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I was a pretty hot commodity on Twitter last week. 

Well, by my mini unimportant standards, sure; but I stuck myself out there and ran a poll. The question was: 

#WritingCommunity: How many of you use your real faces and names on Twitter and other social media? If so/if not, why? I’m out there. Should I be? Are you?

Their poll response choices were:

Yep, really me

Nope, alias

Something else

I got approximately 1,350 responses, which I must say blew my mind. I thought that was pretty darn good, considering I’m not Angus Reid, and actually made a decent sample. Maybe I’ll start my own polling firm. A new career!

What was fascinating to me was that 74 per cent of my respondents said they used their own names and faces on their profiles. Mind, many of these people have at least minor public profiles; they tend to be writers and artists of one sort or another, mainly authors, and they need to have a presence. I checked out most of them, at least the ones that added comments, and they certainly seemed un-robotic. 

Another 17 per cent said they used aliases. Some of these were people who use pen names, which is a legit thing for writers. A sub-group write as duets, and therefore use a name to reflect both people. The sad thing was the number of people who are on Twitter under assumed names because they’re running or hiding from stalkers — former lovers, in the main.

The final group, ‘something else,’ at nine per cent, used various combinations of aliases, maiden names, other family names, authorial pen names and strange or cute avatars for photos as well as pictures of cats, dogs, and even radishes. (Really?) One respondent uses the name George Porridge. He claimed it wasn’t his real name, and I believed him.

I don’t really know if bots respond to polls. I suppose they might. But I connected with a large number of these poll responders, and they’re as real as they could possibly be. Bot identities can be pretty obvious. If you get @bobsmith19857662, well, it might be Bob, but it probably isn’t. Every Tuesday, when Twitter likes to clean out my followers list, I’m rarely surprised by the ones that go missing.

Good riddance.

Twitter can be a good place to connect with people. I’ve become part of a little group of folks with the same basic goals in life, and the things I’ve learned are legion. Very clever bunch. They’re also a lot of fun; we play silly word games and share our work. 

They also need care and feeding. One Twitter friend, or Tweep, eh, is trying to raise awareness for a rare blood disease her wee granddaughter is fighting. Another’s mother is very ill. Another almost lost her husband recently. People reach out for support and advice and that sense of connection, no matter how tenuous.

Twitter can also be a terrible place to have your ego crushed, to be trolled, to have your reputation exploded. It can be a place to follow the news, or to be misled by fake news (although, I do find that’s worse on Facebook.)

Recently, I’ve been diving into the perils and pitfalls of social media, which in part prompted my poll. I was truly interested in how many people hide their identities, and how many are brave enough to stick the real ones out there. And also, how they manage their interactions, in an age where nasty organizations have figured out how to mega-populate the ether with hate propaganda. My Tweeps are careful to ignore the crap that lands on their feeds, and stay connected with people who have proven themselves to be real. 

Being on social media these days isn’t much of an option for many. Applying for a job? Depending on the job, you better be there, at least on LinkedIn or something similar. Got something to sell, or own a business? If you don’t have an online profile, people get suspicious. Want to stay connected with family? Good luck without social media. They’re not calling you. They’re posting.

We do need to be careful out there. Facebook, for example, has proven itself to be unreliable with your personal information. Bots and far-right, scary groups are quite happy to insinuate themselves into your followings. 

On the other hand, some great things have happened because of that inter-connectedness. People have raised funds or otherwise supported important causes, for one. At a lower level, I was quite amazed at the cool people I met, the stories I heard, the number of real folk out there trying to make a difference, just because I ran a poll.