It’s Harder To Build Relationships When People Wear Masks
Imagine meeting someone who wouldn’t reveal her real name.
That would change how you spoke and thought of them.
She might still be friendly, funny, empathetic, and supportive. She might reveal plenty of information about herself too. But something would always be missing.
The problem with pseudonymity is it establishes a preset limit on the depth of disclosure. You know the other person is only willing to reveal so much.
You’re less likely to disclose information to someone who has already decided to hold back. This becomes regressive too. First we hold back our real names, then locations, then images, and then details about our working/personal life etc, etc…
It can also breed mistrust.
When we use a pseudonym we unintentionally stop the vital process of reciprocal self-disclosure that fosters trust and a strong sense of community (which in turn is linked to value, retention, and levels of activity).
Everything is a signal
When your members participate using their real names, displaying their own faces, give real information about themselves, explain what company they work for, they’re sending a powerful signal about their trust in the group, the levels of disclosure expected from members, and what they expect from the group.
For sure, there are a lot of groups when this depth of exposure is a bad idea and pseudonymity is a critical means of self-protection and freedom of expression. But this doesn’t cover nearly as many as we might think.
We don’t use pseudonyms when we meet strangers at any other social situation. Few of your friends, colleagues, or acquaintances introduce themselves using a pseudonym. Pseudonyms should be the exception not the norm.
You shouldn’t force people to use real names, but you should give them every nudge and signal that they should. It’s better for the community and leads to a higher quality of discussion.