Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Reflections on blogging and anonymity

Up until today, only Mr. Jane was aware that I have a blog. I had not told anyone else about it, not even alluding to it. Today, I finally told someone else, a friend of mine. I did not mention which blog was mine, only that I do blog and that I do so anonymously.

The decision not to tell anyone was somewhat conscious. I really want to keep this blog anonymous. I consider it my "safe place" (which is a bit ironic considering I'm baring my soul for the world here). Letting the secret out, even to people whom I would trust to keep my secret, seems dangerous to me. The more people who know, the better chance there is that someone will slip and expose my identity to someone. (Sometimes I'm even uncomfortable that Mr. Jane knows, despite the fact that I trust him completely. But keeping a secret from him, even something as minor as this, would make me more uncomfortable, so that was the tradeoff I made.) Plus, I am not sure that I want the people who know me in real life to see this side of me---the "blogging" side. Am I afraid of how they would judge me if they knew? A bit, yes. Some of the things I discuss here are things that I don't discuss with anyone in real life, or at least not to the extent that I do here. In some ways, my blog is an extension of the running commentary in my head, the analysis of my life. Strangely, I am more comfortable sharing this with strangers who don't know or don't care who I am than I am with people who have known me forever.

When I started this blog, I thought that anonymity would allow me the freedom to post at will, to work out my thoughts and ideas without judgement or fear of reprisal. I still think that's true, to some extent. But, after over 2 months of blogging now, I sometimes find myself censoring what I say. Mainly because I am deathly afraid that I will be "outed" at some point....and, being untenured, I worry about that affecting my tenure case (if, for instance, my colleagues figure out my identity). That is why I self-censored my original post on the results of our job search, even though my original post is a truer display of my feelings about the matter. And I am still conflicted by that decision to some extent. Because of my fear, I also censor a lot of the details of my life---what the weather is like here, whether we're on semesters or quarters---to make myself harder to "trace". Do I need to? Probably not. But it gives me a small illusion of some security, so I consider it a worthwhile tradeoff.

I didn't know what to expect when I started this blog. The whole dealing with anonymity has been an interesting experience. The feeling of living a "double life" has been scary yet also exhilirating. But the biggest surprise was how starting my own blog has made me feel like a part of a "community" that I didn't feel when I was just reading and commenting on others' blogs. In some sense, blogging makes me feel like I'm "giving back" to the blog community, adding my voice and insight to the chorus. I don't know if my contribution is worthwhile, but I'd like to think that it is.

So, anyway, this grand experiment has been quite a trip and I'm looking forward to whatever the next few months will bring!


Ianqui said...

To further your fears of being outed--make sure you don't post your school's name instead of its pseudonym and the real name of your coteacher on your website like I did today!

Andy said...

I just sort of solved the problem in the opposite way. Everybody knows I blog but I don't blog about work. I blog about lots of personal stuff but in real life that's what I'm like too. I'll straight up tell you when sh!t is messed up. Ask anyone I live or work around. My wife doesn't read my blog because after reading it for a while she said "I already know all that stuff. Why would I want to read it?". I don't blog about work because way to many people get fired for blogging about work and my company is not employee friendly so I could get canned quick for blogging work stuff if somebody higher up ever read it and didn't like it. That's ok by me though I just b!tch about it via e-mail or walk into my boss's office and b!tch to him about it. I don't think I could take the stress of blogging anon. If the constant watching my back didn't get to me then I for sure would slip up and say who I was at some time.

Now that I know your all full-stealth mode on this blog I'll watch for slip-ups and if I find one I'll e-mail you so you can alter it.

Jane said...

Oh no, Ianqui!! I hope you caught it early enough...but wow, this is just the thing that I fear.

Andy, thanks for watching my back. :) And I thought about not being anonymous and blogging about personal stuff, but my work life is way more interesting than my personal life. Sad, but true.

MJ said...

I blog pseudo-pseudonymously (I don't consider "x-librarian" a pseudonym, at least not in the sense that "Mark Twain" is a pseudonym). I blog about professional issues but not much about my job; I used to, but I got kind of nervous, especially when a post in which I had quoted a particularly irritating e-mail kept getting hits from a very specific and odd search string (I ended up deleting the post).

I don't think it would matter if my boss knew about my blog. I think he'd enjoy it, as a matter of fact. Perhaps he already does. :-) I've been found out by some of the people on a listserv I'm on, and my husband reads it in his RSS aggregator.

I figure that anything I put online is public, and it doesn't really bother me if people find out--but I don't go out of my way to tell them. I will admit that if the people who inspired posts like this ever read them and figured out I was talking about them, their feelings might be hurt, and I would be sorry about that. But mainly, it's just that I don't think most people I know would get it. For example: back in the day, I was an About.com Guide, and people just never understood what I did. I told one friend who was trying to get started in freelance writing that I was basically doing that: I got paid to write weekly columns and longer features, maintain a library of links, and moderate a chat room. When I ran into her a few months later she asked if I was still hanging out in chat rooms. That was what she remembered of our conversation. I have a feeling that there are a lot of people who would view my blogging in a similar way.

From time to time I think about switching to my real identity, but if I change my display name in Blogger it applies to my other blog, which I want to keep anonymous. Maybe one of these days I'll get over my laziness and install WordPress or Pivot to run it, and take full credit (or blame). Till then, I'm the x-librarian. :-)

Zoe Strickman said...

Your blog caught my attention because I have exactly the same concerns regarding my blog on frumpter.blogspot.com ; I'll be reading your blog and posting more comments. Thank you for sharing your thoughts; I can already tell that your posts will be very insightful. You also have a wonderful writing style. Compliments to you. Have a good weekend!