The Secret Lives of Fen

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Title: The Secret Lives of Fen
Creator: criticalcricket and commenters
Date(s): January 5, 2008
Medium: online
External Links: The Secret Lives of Fen; Archive
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The Secret Lives of Fen is a post by criticalcricket at Fanthropology.

The post has 64 comments.

Some Topics Discussed

The Post

Recently, it's come to light that someone had been plagiarizing the journal entries and comments of well known late fan, Thamiris. People contacted lj support and kept getting turned away because they were not family. The problem is, Thamiris kept her fannish activities and real life strictly separate until her death and until now, her friends have all continued that separation out of respect. But this word thief has begun to blatantly throw her real name around as he struggles to throw off the noose. That's got me thinking about the secret life of fen. If we choose to keep our lives separated, should we expect the internet to cover for us? After all, people like disclosure and sharing secrets and there's the sudden rise of the wiki. Up until yesterday, Thamaris' real life obituary had been linked from the fan history wiki. It's since been removed, but the fact is that it was there and that precious separation has been compromised. Of course, the likelihood of someone actually tracking down your family to spill your dirty internet secrets is slim, but it has been known to happen in the past when people get vindictive. So what is someone supposed to do in order to protect their identity? Is it really possible to keep your life a secret and is it really in your best interests to do so? If Thamiris had had just one person who knew of her other life, could they run interference and handle matters like this that pop up? Would it have made a difference?

Excerpts from Comments

  • comment by sidewinder ("Just as a side note/further info since it's been mentioned here (and elsewhere): the link on the FanHistory had been added unaware of Thamiris' stance on the issue, after the information/link had already been floating around in various people's livejournals/other communities/etc after her death. So obviously the separation had been compromised already (and it IS a tricky thing to maintain, really - people who had been close friends of Tham's may have known of this, but as info trickles through blogspace that directive can easily get lost, as was the case here. Which I suppose is actually a point that goes toward your question of whether it really is possible to keep your life a secret, in the long run, when once information is *anywhere* on the internet, you can lose control of where and how it gets spread no matter how you try to protect it.) Back at a convention several years ago I remember a panel discussion on the potential importance of fannish "wills", and perhaps executors, to deal with these and other issues that can arise when we lose fans. It seems like an issue that many more fans might want to think about in the future...")
  • comment by hafren ("Is it really possible to keep your life a secret and is it really in your best interests to do so? That is for the individual fan to decide; it is no one else's business. I know slash writers, in particular, who keep their two IDs separate either because their husbands would be upset or because it would do them no good at work. One can take certain obvious precautions to protect a secret identity but most fans depend to some extent on their friends in fandom being decent people. Fortunately the scum types are rare; it would be nice if they didn't exist at all, but this is the real world.")
  • comment by dreamflower02 ("I have people on my flist who practice that strict separation. I never have--my own life is right out there flapping in the breeze alongside my fannish interests and my fic. I made the decision early on that as I was not internet savvy enough to keep my identity secret from anyone determined to find it, I would just do my best to post things that I don't care if my RL family and acquaintances know about. When necessary, I may lock a rant or something. Of course, not everybody is that blaise about it--some don't want their jobs finding out, or they have family members who would disapprove, or they just don't want to answer questions in RL. I do think, though, that it might be good to have at least one person who has access to your journal and who knows you, just in case of things like the incident in question! A sort of "LJ literary executor" so to speak.")
  • comment by lennoxmacbeth ("My experience in the real world and my CIS (Computer Information Systems) degree in college told me otherwise. It can be a pain in the butt, but it is possible to find out any information on anyone online, if you are determined enough. We absolutely cannot expect the Internet to cover for us, because the Internet is a key piece in finding out about us if someone decides they want to.")
  • comment by lennoxmacbeth ("Alithiel's death was what really opened my eyes up to what COULD happen to my fanworks. That was when I quit password-protecting my computer and when I started making sure multiple copies of my work existed online, including where anyone could find them. It's when I started to connect my real name and my real life with my fen life. My parents and one of my two brothers are barely able to function on the Internet; the other brother has virtually none of the same interests as me and thus doesn't troll the same sites and circles. I keep to myself IRL, so I have no friends who could help my family out. For, it's in my best interest, as well as the best interests of others, to not keep my real life and fen life separate or secret.")
  • comment by viva_gloria ("It's difficult to create an online identity that cannot possibly be linked to your real-life identity: that said, it's both possible and reasonable to take steps to prevent online identities being easily discovered. I wouldn't, for instance, want my employers to know that I write and post fanfiction involving gay pirate sex. To prevent them finding out, I don't log into this account from work; I don't access any slash websites from a work computer; and I don't discuss my fannish interests in places (online or off) where Random Outsiders might see it.... I've made some efforts to keep this id and other online ids separate, but I suspect that if someone really wanted to find out my real name, address, phone number etc they could do so. If I died suddenly, I'm fortunate enough that I have fannish friends who know my real-life identity and could masquerade as members of my family (who have even less of a clue than my workmates about any online life I might have). I have several online friends who don't have the luxury of an Informed Other. Presumably, if anything happens to them their work is fair game, because there's no way for their online friends to cross into the offline world. And all the legal stuff, all the protection, all the handling -- that takes place with real people in the real world. But then, the online personae that we create aren't real people with rights and duties, any more than SecondLife avatars eat and sleep and work for a living. 'Thamiris', though she was very definitely a person, wasn't a whole person: she was one aspect of a real person's life, an aspect that the real person wanted to keep separate. 'Gloria' is (I hope) a person, but not a whole one: she has no rights and probably not a leg to stand on, legally.")
  • comment by stefanie bean ("Everybody has something they've written that they don't want anyone else to see. It bears thinking about, whether you care whether anyone sees it after your death. Sometimes families *do* destroy things (like Lewis Carroll's sisters, who destroyed several critical pages in one of his diaries; the part where he most likely revealed just exactly what went wrong between him and Alice Liddell's mother.) There's a risk that if your family knows about your online writing, and has access to your passwords etc. after your passing, that they will delete things. But after you're dead, there's not a lot you can do...")
  • comment by lassarina ("Well, for those of us hunting for jobs, we may want to take at least minimal steps to protect our fannish identities from getting us fired or preventing us from getting hired, yeah? I have a website that I use as my showcase website; it's the one on my resume. I've made sure to strip all references to this LJ and any site that would easily lead to it from said website. If someone were determined, sure, they could link my real name to my online identity. I periodically check on Google to see if there are any explicit links between my real-life identity and my online, just so I know and can exert damage control measures.")
  • comment by truwest ("There are lots of fans that prefer to keep their fannishness private (for various reasons), just as there are lots of fans who want to be open about it. I don't think one side is right and one is wrong. It's not an either/or issue for me. It's a shades of grey issue. Myself, when fandom comes up, I usually say that I'm active in media fandom, but I usually don't get specific about which fandoms or what activities... But bottom line: human nature means that people will *always* make judgments about other people. And there is *always* going to be a certain amount of prejudice and bias and unfair decisions that get made, based on circumstantial and irrelevant data. Each of us has to decide how we want to manage that issue, in our own life. Some people manage it by not putting a lot of information out there, for others to react to. Yes, bias can be lessened or managed, but basic human nature isn't going away. People are *very* influenced by their own subconscious biases, even when they are trying hard to be perfectly fair. At any rate, in time this'll likely be a non-issue where fandom is concerned. Fandom seems to be following the path of prior "socially unacceptable" hobbies: a generational trend that goes mainstream over time. Waltzing used to be scandalous; now it's staid. The blues, jazz and rock & roll in their early days were "the devil's music;" now they're classic. Fandom was a big secret clandestine thing 20 years ago; now, it's leading edge/risque/cool in a nerdly way; 20 years from now, it'll be boringly mainstream and there'll be "Harry Potter: 20 Years And Counting" reunions with lots of grey-haired middle-aged people (just like Rolling Stones concerts today).")
  • comment by blackjackrocket ("Fandom is "leading edge"? Maybe *some* fandoms, but as a whole it's still mostly underground. And I don't think the analogy quite works. I think some fandoms have risen to the top, but there'll always be fandoms that remain "clandestine".")
  • comment by text_isle ("Just because something is visible doesn't mean prejudice about it goes away. Have you ever heard of racism?")
  • comment by blackjackrocket ("I was thinking more of how homophobia goes down in areas where gays are more open. When they see that gays are normal everyday people, they lack "reasons" to hate them.")
  • comment by delle ("you seem to be living in an Ideal World. I have a husband, a job, and kids. I don't WANT my "hobby" to be public knowlege. Fair or not, right or wrong, legal or not... when I lived in a Small Southern Town, I was not going to take the risk that my writing explicit fanfiction would be public knowlege because it WOULD reflect on my husband and my kids. Not to mention, being fannish is NOT a protected catagory. So while you may not be fired for your skin color or your sexual orientation, there's nothing to say a company cannot fire you (or refuse to hire you) because they find your Internet hobby peculiar. Teachers at private schools, to reflect back on the previous poster, often have "morality clauses" in their contracts. You don't think being outed as a writer of explicit fanfiction - which would read as "porn" to the non-fannish world - would go against their contract? Would have Real Life implications? YOU may not have a problem being openly fannish at Hollywood Video. That's great. But I don't have that luxery - not with a family to support and a husband's career to consider. YOU don't get to decide that I - or any other fan - must Change The World.")
  • comment by criticalcricket ("Why would fandom interaction prevent you from getting a job? With this thing we call the information super highway making it easier and easier to track down information on people, a lot of companies are tracking down potential employees' journals, myspace and facebook accounts. Do you really want any potential company to find your digimon porn? Do they really need to know that you have an incest kink? I don't think that your three page diatribe on why eroguro is timeless art is going to endear you to your potential employer. It will however give them an impression of you that you'd probably prefer they not have. Your fannish squeeings that happen in your personal time are really none of their business. People are never 100% unbiased and having people reading up on your fannish (and unprofessional) pursuits can mean the difference between them picking you for a position or that nice little Mormon girl with a spotless online record. She could be a dominatrix in her spare time but as long as they don't know about it, that's fine. It's nice to think that everyone is open minded enough to let bygones be bygones but there's a big difference between your boss knowing you're a sports fan and your boss knowing that you write porn on the internet.")
  • comment by laura_holt_pi ("Some bosses might like that. Frankly, a sports fan is more likely to take a day off unexpectedly. I've heard similar arguments from druids and witches, but my being a druid actually helped me to get my current job. If I were an employer, I would rather employ someone who openly writes porn than people who concealed great chunks of their lives.")
  • comment by iamrosalita ("My RL friends know that I write slash and they range from those who read and enjoy my stories to those who couldn't care less what I do online. My mother knows I write fanfiction, but doesn't know it's slash and I don't want her to. She would not approve. As for work, I don't talk about my fannish activities because it is none of their business what I do in my off hours. However, I am well aware that putting my stuff online means I might someday be discovered. If that happens, I'll deal with it. It's not something I really stress over.")
  • comment by dancesontrains ("I try to keep RL and fannish stuff seperate; none of my RL family or friends know about my hobby at the moment.(That'll probably change ext year as I'm doing my dissertation on something fannish.) The closest I've come is my Mum digging through a drawer and finding some vanilla slash; luckily she doesn't know the fandom and thought it was original. I've locked all posts in my journal that are remotely RL related as well; even on a tiny post about a Facebook group or something of the sort, people I'd just friended would ask me about myself, and like lennoxmacbeth above what I'm doing at uni is very Googleable. I never use my name online and didn't use it when I signed up for a fannish email account.")
  • comment by mandy_croyance ("I have an internet alias that has served me well for the past 6 years. For the most part, I try to keep my fannish identity and my real identity separate. Telling my family about my online activities didn't bother me nearly so much before I became a slasher and (worse yet) in an RPS fandom. It's not something which is easy to explain to my family and their conservative values. I'm a girl; I'm not suppose to enjoy erotica or find two males making love arousing. And it's terrible because I feel as though I can't be my true self around some of my friends and family, those who don't know. My fannish life is as much a part of my real life as any other activity I undertake. But merely standing up for things like gay marriage casts potentially dangerous aspersions on me. I wish I could be bolder and not care what others thought of me, but we all fear rejection and some more than others. I hate that the world makes me feel as though something I find as enjoyable as fandom is a dirty hobby that must be hidden.")
  • comment by kazaera ("I think one of the things about this is that once your real name and your fannish name are linked, that's it. What happens on the internet stays on the internet, and not in the way that proverb is usually used. So if you're not sure about whether or not you'll always want people to be able to find out about your fannish activity, it's a very good idea to keep it under wraps just because of that. You can always out yourself later, but once you're out there's no going back. Heck, I know I regret some of the things I did online when I was younger - I thought I was being careful at the time, but I think there are enough hints that a determined person could extract my RL identity. Not easily by any means, but it is possible. And since this is the /internet/, there's no way to erase those statements now.")