For those of you who know who I really am, I ask–no, I IMPLORE–that you please do not leak my identity in any way, not on Twitter, not in comments, please, no mention of my name or previous handle anywhere–please. This is not a joke or a game and I am still under serious threat to lose my job. I am supporting my family and I have nothing to fall back on if I lose the job. They are watching me and scrutinizing anything new under name and former handle using Google, among other tools, to ensure I am no longer writing. There’s a lot at stake here, so let’s keep our lips sealed!
I never set out to write under an alias. What’s the point? I mean, unless you plan on creating a whole persona and sticking to it like glue, the whole thing is really quite a transparent sham and it just causes confusion so why bother. I also thought that writing under a pen name was a little, well, smug, but I won’t harp on smug since there’s a history there. The closest thing I ever had to an alias was the name I used to fight for USA Boxing for the Golden Gloves, and I’m not sure why I even did that–maybe an homage to my grandfather and great-uncle who fought in the Golden Gloves.
So here I am now, day two into writing under an alias, and I wish there was a more juicy story to tell, but really, it’s a 21st century tale of social media paranoia. I get a new job because I got sick of my other one. It’s a pretty long interview and vetting process. This goes on at least six weeks from the first contact to the offer letter. The topic of my writing and the book I published didn’t come up because it is just not related to the qualifications I needed to demonstrate to get the job. I’d been on other interviews when I brought the book up and some people seem interested in it. (Sidenote: I didn’t get those jobs. Perhaps there is a lesson there.) For those of you who know who I really am and the book I wrote, the title scares the shit out of HR people, apparently. Thankfully I don’t think like them and didn’t have that foresight (or paranoia). But unfortunately, because I didn’t think I had anything to fear, I did nothing to hide my identity or my work. Any half-wit could track all my potty-mouthed posts, comments, tweets, flash fiction, blog commentary, and book chapters with a two-second web search. So either they thought I was a complete idiot for putting stuff out there and assuming they wouldn’t find it, or they thought I was a brazen, irreverent liability.
Let me back up. I’m at the job four days when this comes up. Yes–the offer letter, the negotiations, the headhunter going back and forth–that all happened already. I gave my notice, I dealt with the counteroffers, I left my last joint with all my shoes in a box. I had my week off in between. I started, went through orientation, tediously long and redundant computer training on their systems, and thrust into the melee of the job. Then Thursday afternoon comes and I get the call. My boss leaves me a voicemail about some cryptic message from HR about the fact that I have a twitter account. I emailed back and said, yes, I do have a twitter account. I’m not posting about the company, it’s personal, I yammer on with friends and others about the publishing industry, bugs, snot, comic books, and the weather. Boss says fine.
Monday comes along and there’s a frantic voicemail about a problem we have to address. “We.” I call boss back who is claiming all kinds of rotten stuff that HR has dug up on me–I frankly don’t even recall half the shit they mention and am not sure where they got their data from, but I don’t ask. I thought about asking for the company social media policy, or some guidelines and documentation on what can and can’t be used in social media. But I know better and I don’t bother to ask. Boss says that if I wasn’t off to such a good start work-wise, I would have been out on my ass; but I have some ’splaining to do and must make some fixes asap. First, take down the book from the website or edit the offensive chapters out. Second, stop tweeting. Third, stop writing offensive stuff. They object to my language. So I backpedal like the pathetic, desperate mommy that I am and vow to end it all, now.
And so I did.
Ok, not really. That same night I decided to stop feeling sorry for myself. Watching the 10 o’clock channel 5 news there was a robbery on Lennox Avenue uptown, and they interviewed some witness or something whose name was Robert Parker, or John Park, something like that. And there’s the alias. I set up my new blog, http://EatMyBook.wordpress.com and decided I need to change the working title of my novel I’m about to release so this is all a blessing in disguise. I started my new twitter account, @LenoxParker, and will retrofit as best I can to track down the people who I so intensely worked to earn trust. It’ll take time.
I will always be looking over my shoulder online, though. And thinking about it going forward, I really can’t do webcasts, or readings that will be covered by the press in any high-profile joint. I can’t do interviews with a photo of myself. And this is what I mean by the limitations and confusion of an alias. Complications like that will continue to arise; and I can’t make enemies or else someone will try to leak my identity–which in my case, would be near lethal. Seriously. So if you can avoid it, do so. If you can’t, be careful. Really, really careful.
Can they do that, you ask–haven’t they heard of the First Amendment? They can do whatever the hell they want. Employers write the rules, that’s their job as the employer. And if they detect a potential liability, they need to crush it like an ant. I am an ant. It is 1984.