Behind the Mask

by | May 13, 2023 | General | 2 comments

“The difference between involvement and commitment is like an eggs and ham breakfast—the chicken was involved, but the pig was committed.”

That quote was credited to Anonymous. I don’t know who this Anonymous guy was, but he sure got around, judging from the number of quotes, stories, poems and songs credited to him. He must be getting on in years, because you can trace his credits back to the 1600s. If you look around, you’ll see that he’s still putting stuff out there, but in a different forum.

The anonymous persona continues to get a workout online, largely on social media pages that focus on political topics. People love to rant and rave and post outrageous rhetoric. Not many are brave enough to use their real names, though, and prefer to hide behind pseudonyms. It makes you wonder why they’re afraid to take credit for their opinions. Maybe it’s a feeling of false security, thinking “I can say what I want, and no one will know it’s really me!” That’s also SOP on dating websites, chat boards and adult entertainment sites, but for different reasons. A lot of people still think there’s a stigma to admitting you went online to get a date. That isn’t the only reason folks play it cool, however.

People have figured out that potential employers, colleges, lending institutions and friends use social media as a character reference. Law enforcement agencies monitor sites, too, especially in this era of increased domestic violence and human trafficking. When I worked in civil service, I was careful with my social media pages. I didn’t “friend” anyone who was in a subordinate position, and I didn’t use my real first name, the one that appeared in my personnel file. My friends know me by my middle name, and I publish under that moniker. I listed my occupation as “writer/photographer,” working at “self-employed.” Nowhere on my profile does it say which state agency I worked for, or what position I held. I set it up solely to promote my writing, and to network with friends in the business and some former classmates.

I took these extra measures because word came down that the good folks in Administrative Services were monitoring the online postings of state employees, whether they were on the clock or not. Big Brother was compiling dossiers on the worker bees to see what they were up to. Did one of them post an unfavorable comment about the current administration? Put a red checkmark next to their name. Did someone indicate allegiance to a left- or right-leaning organization? Better keep an eye on them. Did anyone endorse a candidate in the upcoming election or donate money? They are so screwed!

I think one of the reasons for this is the ongoing push for transparency by news organizations, especially those investigative teams that boast about “holding government accountable.” The Freedom of Information Act allows them access to the records of public employees. When I was still working, one such request resulted in a major metro newspaper publishing the name and salary of everyone employed by the state. Most of us looked at it to see how much our co-workers were being paid. The result was a lot of bruised egos, and comments like “That slug is making how much more than me???”

It seems that the majority of authors who write romance (whether it’s erotic or vanilla) use a pseudonym. This can be for a variety of reasons, especially if they pen hot erotic romance. Using an alias for that kind of writing could save you some embarrassing explanations at family gatherings or in the workplace. I’ve found that for some reason, many writers don’t want people to know that they write books or blogs in their spare time, no matter what genre they write. When I’ve asked some of them about this, the responses I’ve received ranged from a desire to separate professional from personal (I get that), to a shrug and an awkward silence.

The Colombian novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez said “Everyone has three lives—a public life, a private life, and a secret life.” There’s more truth to that statement than many of us like to admit. I once had a psych professor who claimed that everyone was guilty of harboring “secret sins,” things you did that you would never, ever tell anyone about. I’ve also been told by friends in the legal profession that criminal attorneys take their client’s secrets to their graves because they’re ethically bound to do so. That may explain why many of them fall prey to substance abuse, like alcoholism.

There are several online sites where people can post erotic fiction. Naturally, no one uses their real names. This anonymity allows their id to concoct outrageous fantasies involving a variety of fetishes. Some of the posts I’ve read weren’t half bad from a writing standpoint. Others, though, were so poorly written I hoped none of those folks ever pursued a publishing career. I made the same observation about some self-published romance writers when I reviewed books. I realized why they were self-published, because many of them would never have made it past the submission process for a good publisher. A lot of those writers didn’t believe in hiring an editor, either.

I have a good friend who has been writing erotic fiction for nearly 50 years. He began with “one-hand books” in the 1970’s and he’s still cranking them out, but in self-published digital format now. He’s always hidden behind a pseudonym, and the only time he used his real name was when he attempted a mainstream romantic adventure novel. It didn’t catch on, so he went back to writing what I call porn with a plot. When I asked him about it, he explained “I write under this name, and I sell books. I write as myself and nobody cares!”

There’s something to be said for anonymity.

Tim Smith

Tim Smith is an award-winning bestselling author. His books range from romantic mystery/thriller to contemporary erotic romance. He is also a freelance photographer. When he isn't pursuing those two careers he can often be found in The Florida Keys, indulging his passion for parasailing between research and seeking out the perfect Pina Colada.


  1. Lisabet Sarai

    If my writing persona and my real life persona were linked, I could be kicked out of the country where I live.

    Anonymity isn’t just about shyness, for me at least.

  2. Frank Davis

    Very good article. Hits the mark correctly. Thankyou Tim.

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