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Pseudonymity means using a pseudonym instead of one's "real" name. Examples include pen names of authors such as Mark Twain or Cecil Adams, as well as stage names of performers such as Woody Allen or Ice T. Usernames used online, if not connected to a person's legal identity, are examples of pseudonyms. Compare Anonymity.

Issues of anonymity and pseudonymity tie in closely to Privacy.


  • Allows participants to take part in activities which might be socially or professionally difficult to do under their real names. Eg. lawyers or teachers might want to behave informally or be silly without clients or students finding out.
  • Allows communities to build a kind of atmosphere according to their interests. For instance, in a goth community pseudonyms like "Darkraven" are more atmospheric than "Ted Smith".


  • Any Social capital or experience accrued to the pseudonym is not easily transferred to the real name, meaning that it can't easily be used as part of a job application (for example) without Outing the person in question.
  • A tendency to be more open about personal matters when operating under a pseudonym can mean that the cost of being outed is higher than if one had just used one's real name in the first place.


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Examples of communities which support pseudonymity include:

  • LiveJournal and similar sites
  • ...

Best practices[]

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  • If you allow pseudonyms, encourage people to maintain a single pseudonym for all their activities. Switching pseudonyms frequently may be Sockpuppet behaviour.