Tuesday, March 14, 2006
A couple of things have happened lately that have gotten me thinking about the murky relationship between our online personas and our real-life ones.
When I started out writing my blog, I went to great lengths to keep my blog anonymous, picking a codename and setting up a separate email address. I thought that writing under a nom de plume would free me to be completely honest without fear of personal or professional consequences. It'd protect me from internet nutters. And as a journalist, at least in the states, I could potentially find myself assigned to "objectively" write about a politician, controversial issue or organization. Having an online paper trail of my personal opinions could potentially make things difficult for myself and my paper if someone wanted to be a jerk.
But as time went on and I started meeting some of the people who read my blog, I gradually started using my real name. Introducing myself as Yankunian at a blog meet seemed, I don't know, kind of retarded and precious. Especially when I already knew some of the people there from other things. When I got professionally involved with a blogging project at the MLF, it was essential that my real name be linked to my blog - it was, effectively, my credential. And of course by linking to Norm's profile of me last week I kinda put the final nail in the anonymity coffin.
Some people really don't want to be unmasked. Even more than that, they don't want their anonymous blog pointed out to people even though it doesn't have their real name on it because they think people might be able to figure out it's them from what they're writing about. (whew!) Of course I respect a blogger's personal preferences, but a tiny part of me wonders why they don't get one of those old-fashioned diaries with a lock on it, hide it under their mattress and wear the key around their neck? Why write a blog on the internets, where it's out there for all to see, if you don't want people you know reading your stuff? Because if you're putting it out there, you should assume that someone you know is reading it.
I went by Southern Bird's anonymous blog today and I see that she stopped writing late last month. This is sad, because I liked her blog - it was engaging and she genuinely seemed to enjoy writing it. She explained in her last post that she was giving it up because an ex-boyfriend was, from what I gather, stalking her through her blog. SB alluded to problems she's had in the past with other ex-boyfriends and her blog, and in her comments several others write in with similar tales of woe. Her name isn't on her blog anywhere, but she presumably told her ex about it in happier days. Having an anonymous blog didn't protect her from this situation, because she made it non-anonymous herself, just by telling someone she completely trusted at the time.
What do people think about this? I'd be interested to hear how some of you came up with your own approach - full separation of online/offline identities, some overlap or completely straight-up, firstname lastname blogging? I suspect the Manchester blogroll includes all of the above.