09 September, 2020

Donning a Mask

When I go walking, I bring a mask with me, but I don't actually put it on. My walks generally take place around 3:30 a.m. and the only beings I tend to meet during these walks are the occasional deer or rabbit. But I keep it at hand in case I do run into another human.

Gogo, mimic.

At home, I'm always maskless. When I visit family, I wear a face shield when people are close and nothing when people are further away. (It's a pretty weak face shield, but it just feels too cumbersome to wear a full mask around family members who've promised me that they've been careful due to my recent health problems.)

I never spend time in public anymore. I haven't gone to a store of any kind since March. The only exceptions would be the drive through pharmacy runs that I've done occasionally. All our groceries are delivered. I've been buying anything that needs to be bought almost entirely through Amazon.

So far, our household has remained COVID-19 free.

But when it comes to my online presence, I haven't worn a mask in nearly thirty years. When I was young, I was a serial liar. I lied for the fun of it, just to see what people would believe. I'm not proud of how I acted in those days. It was especially bad in my online life. To strangers, to friends I met online, even to an at-the-time minor celebrity (Anthony Bourdain, who hadn't yet become an executive chef and was known then only as a minor author), I lied successfully enough to maintain a variety of relationships indefinitely. Eventually, when I had had enough of these antics, I made a promise to myself that, from then on, anything I did or wrote online would be under my real name. I figured this would help me to act more appropriately.

It helped.

I used "EricHerboso" or "Eric Herboso" almost everywhere, except on dating sites, where I used "EricJHerboso" instead to deter them from showing up too high in the search results. (At the time, Google wouldn't return a page with "EricJHerboso" if you searched for "Eric Herboso". This is no longer the case.) I still lied from time to time -- it was a tough habit to break -- but eventually I was able to be proud of the things I said online.

However, after decades of going solely by own name online, I've reached a point where I'm okay with having a small nom de plume. I'm going to restrict its use to writing fiction online, so I won't be tempted to use it in places where I actually participate in open discourse online, like on reddit, wikipedia, or on the effective altruism forum. But I've been wanting to publish some light rational fiction, and I think using a pen name for that purpose (and that purpose alone) will be fine.

I guess saying that I'm doing this on my public blog is my way of justifying breaking that initial promise I made to myself more than twenty-five years ago.

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