[de]Branding: Introducing… Me
I have a theory: the internet encourages multiple personality disorder.
Over the years, I’ve paraded around the internet as many people. It began with the dial-up years. Hellfire rained over news broadcasts as they warned of child abduction after someone disclosed their real name ON THE INTERNET. Sages of local sports and weather forecasts wisely warned against using your name or anything resembling it on your AOL account, lest you find yourself kidnapped and murdered. We were immediately conditioned to adopt an alias for the internet.
At the time, I was hooked on ANIMORPHS. One of the alien creatures, a Hork-Bajir, was introduced as “Jara Hamee”. To this, a main character quipped, “Whoa, your name is Jeremy?” Which was my name, and that stuck with me because I was 11 years old. This scene came back to me as I racked my brain for something to call myself on-line. All my friends lovingly called me Germ, so I married the two and was born unto the internet as Germ Hamee.
I maintained Germ Hamee for years, and this was pretty simple. Simple, until things got personal, and I felt the need to create another name for my on-line gaming persona. I couldn’t have my gaming friends read about my inner turmoil! For this, I decided on Reyn. Reyn Wilde.
Then, I started marketing myself as a writer. All my favorite writers wrote under pseudonyms, so it seemed natural for me to do the same. I tried J.N. Howell, but eventually settled on Nathan Trader.
This was wildly liberating.
Nathan Trader made me feel reborn. I had no baggage, no incriminating history. I felt free to write about anything I wanted, without any guilt from the religious background I was still struggling with. Work would never find me bitching about them, and embarrassing family members had no chance of piecing it together. I’ve written before about the liberating effects of anonymity, and Nathan Trader had me in catharsis.
Until things got personal. (Again.)
Eventually, you just need to express yourself. Doing it under a different name was liberating in some ways, but became restricting in others. It didn’t feel right. My vision of Nathan Trader was this level headed guy that had it together, you know? He didn’t have problems. He was the ideal. He was a real bonafide writer, and didn’t have to deal with the issues of a grumpy waiter. Nathan didn’t like it when I forced him to talk about things like that.
(Also, apparently he’s the Mad Hatter?)
I’ve maintained these aliases for years: Germ, Reyn, and Nathan. This became complicated. Which account do I post this under? Whose voice do I use? What account am I logged into, anyway? This struggled spanned from LiveJournal, to MySpace, to Facebook, to Google+ and Twitter. Eventually, a guy just doesn’t want to spend all his time logging in and out of shit.
Inevitably, I slipped up. No one knew who Nathan was, so nobody cared what Nathan thought, and I let him bleed into my personal life. I shared him. Before I knew it, all my time was spent explaining my pseudonym. Originally, I thought it was cool. Recently, I find it embarrassing. Perhaps it’s just my attitude, but people were just confused about what to call me and it became a mess. Friends slipped up in comments, I posted things on the wrong accounts, my cat yowled for attention in the other room and I chainsmoked my way through.
Ultimately, it felt unauthentic. I asked myself, why the chronicle if it isn’t even tied to me? What is the point if my only readers know the secret, anyway? How much can I connect with new readers if they aren’t really getting to know me?
I’m over it. I’m over you, Nathan Trader.
See, all the issues that warranted the use of a pseudonym have vanished. I’m too old for anyone to be interested in abducting me. The religion that watched my every move is long behind me. Panic about on-line identity ended ages ago; everyone has used their real name since Facebook normalized it. As for work, I jumped off the corporate ladder and happily settled for holding it in place at the bottom.
Embarrassing family? Well, I’ll just trust they can’t figure out their phones beyond Facebook.
The point is, none of the reasons I had for using a pseudonym are relevant. It’s time to cut the complication and come clean.
So here I am, coming out again. I’m Jeremy Howell. I’m a writer, and a reader, who wastes all my time playing video games and working and drinking instead of doing the things that I am. I’m coming to you from Sprinklers in the Rain, feeling very exposed, to chronicle my journey to Jeremy Howell – the writer. Not Nathan Trader.
My closest friends call me Germ, and they have all my life. You can call me that too.
Why Sprinklers in the Rain? Because the internet is an absolute deluge of people like me. Your feeds are constantly updated with content like this. No one needs more. Who cares? I’m a sprinkler someone forgot to turn off, and I’m just gonna keep on ticking. We may be coming from different places, but eventually we’ll meet in the same place. When we do, we can really create something. A torrent to destroy, or a tree to create.
We’ll get there.