(A)Nonymity on the Net

I’ll confess to being a bit of a privacy freak. Maybe it stems from being the first (cough, experimental!) child in my family … always being watched for the next developmental milestone, a harbinger of things to come with my younger siblings. Maybe it has to do with spending too many years in a YSA ward. Everyone knew everyone else’s business, or had at least heard a rumor of a rumor of a something-or-other. Or maybe it’s just that I feel a certain level of accomplishment at being able to keep a secret. Whatever the reason, this deep desire for privacy for myself, my family and my close friends impels me to blog under a pseudonym.

Yes, I understand that this is totally counter-intuitive … writing in a completely public space and yet hoping for privacy. I constantly have to negotiate the balance between telling a complete story, and omitting details to protect the story or identity of someone who has strongly impacted me. There are times when I do not tell the whole story, but I do blog honestly. Family and friends read the things I write, and would give me loads of something-or-other if I were untruthful.

I know some people who are fearlessly honest and raw in their blogging. For the most part, I admire people who can be so open, sharing their struggles as they experience them.

And yet, I sometimes wonder if it is wise. I’ve heard stories of people being turned down for jobs because of ill-advised details on myspace pages. I’ve talked with friends who contemplate turning off their blog while actively seeking jobs. I wonder at minors being able to post sensitive information on-line.

I take a modicum of comfort in knowing that I’m generally unfindable. After a series of on-line conversations with an ultimately mismatched guy, I did some searches to see if I could “find myself.” To my vast relief, I was just another miniscule drop in the internet ocean. And with everyone from employers, nemeses and old boyfriends able to google any old Dora’s info, I’m quite happy to keep it that way.

And then, there are the myriad commenters post under an absolute shadow of anonymity. With controversial topics, I can understand the rationale. Really, I do. But, after two or three Anon’s in a single discussion, it can become tedious, trying to sort out all of the Anonymouses from each other. Not that I don’t appreciate thoughtful and intelligent responses … I crave them! But sometimes I wish an Anon would just pick a random name and stick with it for a long discussion.

So, having come to the conclusion of my non-revelatory ranting of non-personal information, I’d like to hear from you. Do you write anonymously, under an alias, or with your own name? Have your experiences generally been positive or negative? Would you change your decision if you could?

Jana

Jana is university administrator and History professor. Her soloblog is http://janaremy.com/pilgrimsteps/

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  1. Rusty says:

    I write under my own name. If I google my name I’m immediately found on my own blog and as a commenter on other blogs. If someone wanted to find me it would be extremely easy.

    I blog some personal stuff, but I’m mostly just talking, not revealing. I wouldn’t really care if a potential employer saw my blog and/or comments on other blogs, I don’t really feel like I have anything to hide. I could be wrong, but at this point I’m not too worried about it.

  2. Keri says:

    I blog under a pseudonym to preserve my privacy. I consider it akin to a novelist using a nom de plume. This way, if I say anything controversial or ill advised, it won’t come back to haunt me later.

  3. Courtney says:

    When I originally started blogging, it was under the name “cmac” a nickname from high school (it’s pronounded smack). Then, I developed my own blog and decided I would just write under my real name. There are many people I know who blog, so I guess I thought it would be weird to go by something else. Although, unless it’s blogspot (which automatically shows my real name), I still post under cmac. And, like you, Dora, I am honest while blogging, but I may not tell the whole story.

  4. stacy says:

    My life has always been an open book, and if someone tried to google me they’d find my professional blog under my real name. Since I work in an industry that depends on networking, it’s just necessary if I’m going to have a blog out there and not do what Miss Snark does–go completely anonymous and make up a whole online persona. I’d rather be clear about who I am up front than be “outed” at some later point because I’m too lazy to hide all my tracks.

    However, I never post anything more personal on my professional blog than stuff about my cats, or moving, or random stuff like that. I keep a more private LJ which I treat more like a journal, on which I post things meant only for friends and family. I only have readers from those spheres, and I make the private LJ ungooglable. It still shows up in certain searches, so someone could find me if they were really looking, but I still feel like I do what I can to keep private things private and if someone *really* wants to find all about me, well, they won’t find a very interesting story anyway… 🙂

  5. John Remy says:

    I generally blog under my real, full, Google-able name. I started blogging six years ago as a way to reconcile my honest self with the facade I presented at Church and around extended family. Blogging also fits well with my aspirations to be a writer–I feel that the best writing is painfully intimate.

    Although I reveal intimate details about my emotional, spiritual and intellectual life, I generally don’t blog about work, relationships, or my family. I’m especially careful not to reveal too many details about my children.

    Three of the members of the IT team that hired me read my blog while going through the process of interviewing and hiring me–it confirmed to them that I was a good match for the environment I’m in now.

  6. Bored in Vernal says:

    I started blogging pseudonymously, but I’ve let my real name be known in several places, so it’s not a secret. I really wish I had kept it closer to the chest. I blog to let out all the things I can’t say around my family, my ward, my students and even most of my friends. I still don’t feel comfortable knowing I can be tracked down.

    I don’t feel that I’m a very integrated person. In some ways I lead a double life.

  7. Ana says:

    I blog under my real first name. A couple of times I have mentioned my last name, and it is not too hard to figure out where I live and work, if someone wants to. I just don’t think most people want to.

    I went through a little incident a couple of months ago with an anonymous sniper on my blog who doesn’t like the fact that I want to adopt my foster daughter. It was tough in some ways, and I wrote on my blog that my first reaction was, “I never should have made this story public.” But I ended up deciding that I do believe sharing this story will do more good than harm.

    I just don’t allow anonymous commenters on my blog anymore.

  8. Ann says:

    I also blog under my real first name. I’ve said enough about my personal life that it wouldn’t be hard at all to figure out who I am, exactly.

    That’s only a problem for me when I write about experiences that could allow readers to identify other people in the stories. And I’m afraid that’s a REAL problem. It wasn’t so bad a couple of years ago, because I didn’t write so publicly. But now that I do, I find I have to self-censor a lot. If I blogged and commented under a pseudonym, with much less geographical detail, I could be more explicit about my experiences (and so my blogging would be more interesting).

  9. EmilyS says:

    I blogged pseudonymously for a while, when I first started at FMH. But it really, really bothered me. I’m generally an open book, and I chafed under the secrecy. I’m still not entirely sure why. Here is the link to my “come out” post on (female) anonymity, if anyone is interested.

    http://www.feministmormonhousewives.org/?p=413

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