I've been active on the Internet since 1993, though you'd probably never know it, as I went underground about five years later. I've operated several Web sites, contributed to discussion groups, joined and participated in communities and discussion groups ... all anonymously. I probably have half a dozen active pseudonyms, and a lot of others that have gone quiet.
"Why the masquerade?" you might ask.
The answer is simple: if you put yourself out there, speak from the heart, and let your "real" self be known, you're going to get raped. And it's not just dealing with the occasional stranger with nothing to do and a burning need to treat another person like a doormat - that's easy enough to tolerate and deal with, as those people don't matter. The worst is when people you know and trust do it to you. Your friends, your neighbors, your coworkers, and even members of your family will grab some snippet of what you said somewhere, possibly in a casual and candid moment, and use it to beat you down.
And what with companies sticking their noses under the tent, it can be used to beat you down in a more direct way, to threaten your financial future and the income on which your family depends in order to manipulate and control you, even when you think you're off the clock. I realize this all sounds very "big brother" - but we all know someone who's been called on the carpet, possibly even handed their hat, over something trivial.
And so, for over ten years now, "Jim Shamlin" has been a ghost and a shadow in the online community. Maybe it's stupid of me, at this point, to think that it's worth going back to the water. Time will tell. But it also means that the process of resurfacing is going to be slow, the content limited, and my steps cautious.