The Power of Anonymity

Yesterday I boarded a plane in Bali.  The weather was nice and warm, the long and coriaceous leaves on the palm trees were rustling and the overall mood was chilled, laid back, relaxed.  This morning, merely twenty hours after saying goodbye to the beautiful Balinese summer, I am going through the meagre collection of books in the bookstore of Milan central station. Twelve hours and I am across the world.

It’s eight in the morning, I’m jet lagged and desperately need a shower and a coffee but instead I stand next to a guy who, like me, is looking at the classics and, if I’m not mistaken, is reading F.S. Fitzgerald, like me.  We bump into each other, not knowing where the other is going or coming from, our eyes meet for a fraction of a second, we can smell each other, and then we are gone.  Each in a different direction, with barely the memory of having read two lines from the same book, standing next to each other, in the same book store.

Anonymity is a beautiful thing.  It’s the very essence of the concept of “possibility”, until all factors that determine an event are known, anything can happen.  Everything is possible.  I had an interesting conversation with Paul the other day.  Since I’ve opened a twitter account, a few months ago, I keep checking compulsively my new followers, if anyone has liked my tweets or retweeted them.   I mostly write about gender based violence and the purpose of my social networking is, allegedly, to share the little knowledge I have.  But is it really?

The world of social media is a flesh and ego grinding machine.  The more you think you have to say, the more you want people to acknowledge it.  I don’t have a solution, I feel that, like many other people, I have succumbed to the power of a means of communication that, in real time, puts me in touch with the rest of the world.  Or rather the other way around.

The paradox is that many of us, myself included, want popularity through anonymity, and to do so we write using pseudonyms.  Why?  Because we want to take credit for what we write only if it turns out to be good?  Because we are so selfless to share our knowledge with no need for recognition?  Or because, deep down, we all want to have an alter ego, someone who doesn’t have our same social restrictions and can say whatever he or she wants without being judged by those he or she knows?

I think it’s a combination of all three: social media, in one way or another, always give us a chance to stay unknown, the opportunity is right there for us to grab.  Personally I chose this name, Barbara Viale, because it’s  the name I would want to “wear” when I’ll start the new chapter of my life as a writer, if that day is ever to come.

Barbara was the name my dad would have wanted to give me.  My mother forbid it because his French pronouciation of Rs made Barbara practically unintelligible.  Viale is the family name of my mother, a name I’m very close to and that I would have wanted to add to my name, if Italian laws allowed it, of course…



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