I know it doesn't seem like a big deal, but it took a long time for me to feel comfortable with those words.
When I started this blog three years ago, I wasn't really sure where I was going with it. I started it in conjunction with my "experiment" of joining Twitter, as a place for me to expand on ideas beyond the 140 character limit. However, I was hesitant to reveal my real identity on either.
The reason for this is because I'm a teacher. I teach developmental mathematics at a local community college. Considering the substance of my Twitter feed, this probably isn't a huge surprise. However, I've heard horror stories of teachers getting in trouble for things they've said on social media sites. Since I had know idea what I would be saying, I did the sensible thing and adopted a pseudonym.
Operating under pseudo-anonymity gave me a sense of freedom. I felt comfortable talking about topics like religion and politics that are considered a classroom taboo. I knew that anyone who really wanted to find out my identity could; it just probably wouldn't have been worth the effort. I could always fall back to the disclaimer on the right that "the comments on this blog are my own and may not reflect the opinions of my employer", but the lines regarding such publicly made comments are fuzzy at best. Nonetheless, I have opinions and I don't feel like I should need to hide them. I consider most of them to be well thought out and all of them are subject to change with sufficient evidence.
So why the sudden change of heart?
Well, it wasn't really so sudden...
When I first started this experiment, developed something of a persona for Suburban Lion. Whereas I was fairly introverted and hesitant, Suburban Lion was extroverted and impulsive. While the real me would bite my tongue to avoid hurting someone's feelings, Suburban Lion would speak his mind openly and publicly. This internal struggle is well captured by the symbolism of my chosen alias. I was like a house cat who fashioned himself king of the jungle.
As my social media endeavor progressed, a couple things happened.
First, it's become increasingly difficult to keep my real identity a "secret". I knew from the start that my online interactions would never be completely anonymous, but the more information I posted online the more I realized how futile the effort was. Not to mention the fact that I've been signing all my code with my real name this whole time for copyright reasons.
Second, I feel like I have a better idea of the direction this blog is going. At a glance, it might seem to be an eclectic mix of politics, video games, and education. It's the mathematics tying these remote topics together that's piques my interest, and provides the common thread of this blog. I've also come to the realization that it's the act of blogging that I enjoy. I will continue to blog on things that I find interesting. If people enjoy reading those thoughts, that's great! If not, that's fine also. The learning experience that I've gained from communicating with others through this blog has been rewarding enough on its own.
Finally, and perhaps most significantly, I feel like the distance between my real identity and my online persona is narrowing. Suburban Lion has become a little more reserved and a little less argumentative. On the other hand, the "real me" has become a little more sociable and assertive. It's gotten to the point where the differences between Ryan and Lion have almost disappeared. "Almost" being the operative word.
Where do we go from here?
My goal with this is primarily for personal growth. By tearing down the wall separating my online identity and my real identity, I feel more motivated to live up the ideals that "Suburban Lion" personifies to me. At the same time, I hope that this move breathes new life into "Suburban Lion" by putting a name to the face behind the screen.
It's not just about the name either, but an identity. There are a lot of Ryan Ruffs out there, but only one Suburban Lion. Well, it turns out that there are actual suburban lions, but that's beside the point. I've been interacting online since I was a teenager. It's time that I started to connect these interactions to a central point. It probably won't happen overnight, but I've got to start somewhere.
I'd like to thank the community on Twitter for making this possible. Thank you for setting a good example of how to develop my "Personal Learning Network". Thank you for never holding my pseudo-anonymity against me and judging me primarily on the contents of my tweets.
I'm sorry it took this long for me to come clean, but maybe something good will come out of it. I'm sure that there are many others on Twitter going through the same anonymity dilemma as I did. Perhaps this post will provide them with some digital courage.
Thanks for reading!