In the 21st century, we go by many names; our screen name on Skype, usernames on forums, nicknames we might have on Facebook, and many others. Traditionally, we had authors like George Orwell who used pen names. Why has it become more acceptable to have a different identity to write, not necessarily fiction, but express our ideas in a way in which we’re anonymous? A new phrase, “cybernyms”, are the perfect portmanteau to this new phenomenon. The lines are blurred between traditional fiction (I.e. short stories) and online life with sites like Fanfiction.net, where amateur writers post fanstories about any characters from a film, book, TV show, game or manga, like unofficial spin-offs of “legit” fiction ( fanfiction is even how EL James got Fifty Shades of Grey published, under the pen name “Snowqueen’s Icedragon”)
For some, it may be a way of expressing an interest or their talents. Certain people have done this , such Dane Boedigheimer (the creator of the popular webseries ‘The Annoying Orange’) is known by his YouTube cybernym, Daneboe. For others, it could be a way to seek help in a private way like Andthat’swhyou’resingle, Girlsaskguys, HeTexted or other help sites (who hasn’t stumbled on Yahoo Answers?), giving a brief summary of “the story so far”. But for most of us, it’s simply an extension of either the chapters in our life, or creating a new virtual one. If someone noticed something you published on a site or something you said on Twitter or Facebook, you could be on the news or get internet fame (perhaps even real).
Forums and interactive social media are the modern equivalent of Metafiction, or Goosebumps with its multiple choice scenarios of which route to take (Futurama parodies this concept with its Who wants to a Millionaire? ‘ask the audience’ multiple choice buttons to vote for the narrative thread in ‘Raging Bender’, and the spoof James Bond film the characters watch only highlights its mocking tone). We ask our readers or viewers what to do, whether consciously aware of this or not.
The rise of celebrity culture has probably influenced this. It’s because we know the life of celebrities that we all want our own legacies,mane believe fame and fortune can be achieved by anyone. In the past, there were prestigious figures like Lord Byron and Queen Victoria who were famous, but their lives were neither double nor documented. Now, we observe Celebrities such as Lady Gaga with their stage names, and porn actresses with their “porn star” names. Or, there are The Kardashians and reality TV stars such as Jade Goody who are famous for becoming famous. Celebrity culture means that any famous figure, whether it’s Beyoncé, Margaret Atwood, Stephen Hawking or Prince William, has a life on-screen and off. But , whether you’re famous or not, everyone has a degree of access as to what you decide to show. We live off checking OK!, the Daily Mail, the news networks and Twitter for famous people, and Facebook for ordinary ones. Our life is a daily publication in one form or another, but not all of us know it.
What are your thoughts on this? Post it it in the comments, lit geeks!