It’s not always possible to use my real name – sometimes (for instance, Reddit) it’s already taken. Other times, it’s assigned for me. Some places, like Steam, require something that sounds awesome. (Usernames can be fun.) But for the most part, I’m going to use my real name.
For most people, they see the usage of their real name as a risk. With someone’s name you can find out where they work, what they do, who they work with, and what city they live in. There are two kinds of risk people worry about.
Safety risk. Some people are worried that harm could come to them or their family, that they could be stalked, harassed, etc. There are a few issues with this. Firstly, most people are already giving this information up on Linked in already. It’s a hop, skip, and a jump to find you that way. Secondly, to find you somebody had to begin looking. They can do that with a phone book or all other matter of public records. Unless you’re a celebrity, you just don’t need to take these kinds of precautions.
Reputation risk. Reputation risk sort of goes behind the safety risk. If you are using your own name, you mean what you say. You can’t hide who you are, so there is motivation to say exactly what you mean. Nothing more, nothing less. You wouldn’t say something that would get you assaulted in real life, so why should you say it online? Don’t forgot that you are interacting with real humans.
Given these drawbacks, why should you use your real name? I think it comes down to a few things.
Courage. If you are ashamed of what you have to say, that means you are probably wrong regarding your beliefs. Nobody should be ashamed of the truth. Admitting such is basically admitting that you are wrong, in which case you ought to begin believing something else.
Respect. If you don’t hide behind a cloak of anonymity, you will be forced to show respect to others. They may not show you respect in return, but then again, who are they really hurting by hiding behind a curtain?
A false sense of security. You can be discovered, even with a username. It’s happened to me on Reddit. It’s also happened to Mitt Romney, if you recall. (This is not my opinion of Romney, I’m just saying that it happened.) It can happen to you too. Wouldn’t you have rather written things knowing they would come back to your name? I would.