My Google Plus Confession

I posted this yesterday on Google+ and am copying it onto here in case my G+ profile gets suspended, in which case my posts there will vanish into the ether.

oh, by the way, I am one of those – those awful pseudonymous people, the ones that some suggest simply don’t belong here, the ones that some have even told me shouldn’t be on the internet at all.

yes, I feel it’s time to say this out loud: my name is not Meirav Berale. There. Now you know. And if you hate me, you can go and report me and get my account suspended for the crime of using Berale instead of my real surname. I hope you won’t, because I really like it here, I’ve been enjoying this place – it’s a fabulous platform for interacting with strangers and for gradually building friendships, but you see, in order to interact with strangers and possibly build friendships I need to feel safe, and this is the basic boundary I need for my own safety: I need to be able to talk to you without disclosing my surname.

Which, come to think of it, is pretty much the way it goes in real life – unless I’m talking to the bank or something, I don’t normally introduce myself by my full name; and there are lots of people I know just by their first names – neighbours, friends of friends, people I know from church, etc etc. A surname is something I’ll ask for if I need to write you a letter or look you up in the phonebook, it’s a formality which has nothing to do with friendly interaction – at least not in life as I know it; of course there may be cultures with different levels of formality, I’m speaking from my own experience of life both back home in Israel and here in England.

So why do I feel I need to use Berale instead of my real surname? I’ll try and cut this very long story as short as I can…

My full name is unique. My first name – Meirav – is a very normal Israeli name; but I’ve married an Englishman, and his surname is not very common. So the combination is very very probably unique: out of the few people in the world with my husband’s surname, it’s extremely unlikely that another one will have married an Israeli at all, and it would be super duper unlikely that she would also be called Meirav.

Now, this would not be such a huge issue if I didn’t have reason to expect some people to actually want to track me down and harm me.

No, I’m not paranoid. I’m just a Messianic Jew, i.e. a Jewish person who has chosen to put her faith in Jesus. In Jewish culture, this choice is considered unacceptable (to put it mildly). There actually are people out there who make it their business to track down people like me and to make our lives as difficult as possible, by whatever means – including violence, including spreading malicious lies about us, anything will do.

I could, of course, simply keep quiet about this particular subject online.

I have chosen not to keep quiet about my faith. I am very passionate about this issue, and I have sometimes blogged about it. But in order to do that, I have chosen to keep to that boundary of not disclosing my surname online.

Cowardly? maybe. I’m not a very strong person and there is a limit to the type and level of risk I consider it reasonable to expose myself to unless it’s absolutely necessary. I find it hard enough emotionally to cope with some of the reactions I get to my blogs online – but at least when it’s just words on the screen, I can deal with them privately, I can sit down and cry if I need to and the people who posted them won’t see, and they won’t turn up on my doorstep to continue hollering their insults at me.

So I’ve been careful. I’ve been expressing myself online – my real self, as I am, including those things that some would rather I’d shut up about – but I’ve been withholding two items of personal info from strangers: my surname, and where I live.

I see no reason to change this policy.

So, if you don’t want to talk to people without knowing their real surname, feel free to ignore me. (Oh, it’s ok, I’ve already been ignored by someone once in real life. It was someone Jewish, when I mentioned my faith: she just looked through me as if I wasn’t there, and walked away. But there are others who have suffered far greater abuse, so I count myself fortunate. My family have not disowned me, and so far no one has spat at me or beat me up for my faith.)

There are so many people who need to exercise this kind of caution. There are those whose political views could get them or their families into serious trouble, including prison or torture or execution in some places. There are those whose sexual way of life could cost them their jobs or their personal safety – sadly we live in a world where some people feel it’s ok to be violent towards someone just because they’re, for example, living in a homosexual relationship. There are those who have suffered abuse from family/spouse/partner and need to be able to communicate with people without worrying about their abuser finding them. There are lots and lots of other examples, you can look it up here: Who is harmed by a Real Names policy – I’m just one of the people under one of these many categories. I thought it was time to share my own personal perspective.

So now you know.

I had some lovely comments there – well worth reading.

EDIT @ May 2013: I’m pleased to say that this is no longer an issue – Google did eventually change the names policy on Google+ to allow the use of pseudonyms. Yay!



10 thoughts on “My Google Plus Confession

  1. Lance, I'd love to hear your cat's purrspective. (I had a friend who published a regular column in some magazine or other written, allegedly, by her cat Tinker. The column was called Tinker's Tales, of course. or was it Tails?)Waving at Wiseoldwoman and bowing.


  2. This is an emotionally moving and passionately reasoned blogicle (what the hell does one call a post to a Blog?). You should send it for publication.Reading it, I have a haunting sense of your being in a virtual catacomb.


  3. Well—you're not inside an actual tunnel carved through rock. At least I don't think you're in Newcastle. Perhaps a better phasing would be "a modern day catacomb."


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