During this time, he also developed a love of pseudonyms. Franklin penned at least one hundred items under fake names throughout his life: Ephraira Censorius, Patience, the Casuist, the Anti-Casuist, Anthony Afterwit, Margaret Aftercast, and Silence Dogood, to name but a few. Pseudonyms were not uncommon for many eighteenth-century writers, in part because they reduced one’s chances of being prosecuted for sedition and because the writing could be evaluated on its own merits, instead of being subjected to personal attacks.
— Kembrew McLeod, Pranksters: Making Mischief in the Modern World
On the pre-social media web of message boards and blogs, fifteen to twenty years ago, pseudonymity was still common. I loved thinking up a different nym for each blog I commented on. Now, of course, we’ve “progressed” to the Orwellian panopticon of SocMed, where most travelers have their Facebook or Google barcode tattooed on their foreheads for easy identification. This trend has dovetailed with the emergence of the new identitarianism, according to which there is no rational argument, only predictable expressions of racial/gender/class identity. The web has gotten no less vicious with the elimination of pseudonymity; if anything, the fanatical conviction that “error has no rights” has encouraged even more brazen assaults on reputations and livelihoods. Naïve reformers (and would-be totalitarians) insist that transparency is equivalent to honesty; in reality, a world in which everyone is exposed is a world in which everyone is suspicious and reticent. There is no honesty without the freedom to fib. Ask me no invasive questions and I’ll tell you no serious lies.