Do you use an online avatar to protect your real identity when using online dating communities?
It is an interesting debate. It depends on the situation and whether you actually care about others knowing where you live or who you are.
You need to make the decision about whether to go all out and reveal yourself to the virtual world or create your virtual self with the same qualities but perhaps a different name.
If you are part of a paid online community or dating site then protecting yourself may not be such a problem as random people browsing about will not be able to find you anyway. If you are part of multiple free online communities then you may be under threat from casual browsers.
However this is all about personal preference. In most situations the benefits of being yourself and not hiding from the world behind a fake you outweigh the avatar creation. If you are undecided it would pay to not use your name in casual forums until you really want to because once google links you up to a certain profile you have little control over changing this.
By using an online dating avatar you gain personal privacy but lose that personal touch of it not actually being YOU.
Most people love the idea of creating this second life separate from their own real world. It becomes somewhat of a fantasy land to go to outside a potentially boring existence.
Whether you use it to escape from your world or protect your own identity online, a virtual you or avatar could be useful if you are hesitant about leaking your own internet antics to others.
You may have already used your own name in several communities which is fine and really is how it should be. Transparency and a fading between real and virtual worlds will soon bring everyone closer together than many can currently conceive. This could be both scary and exiting depending on how you look at it. I would suggest embracing this trend and choosing now whether you want to run hide or just be yourself online.