Useful Tuesdays: Anonymity?

Blogging. It seems there are as many ways to configure your blog as there are blended coffee options at Starbucks. Some people put it all out there, giving their name and the names of all their family members. Some blog under a monicker but use their children’s real names. Others give everyone a nickname and stick with them. A few even keep their city or state safely hidden behind pseudonyms. Many bloggers post pictures of themselves and their families while some never show their true face.

I blog under an assumed name and I’ve given one to my partner. I use my daughter’s real name, I’m not sure why. At some point I wanted to change that but I already had “Isa” written in so many places in my blog it felt impossible to go back. I have divulged where I live and posted countless photos of myself and my little girl.

On my new blog I use my same assumed name (Esperanza). I thought of using my real name there but I linked to it many times from here so that felt counter productive. Still there is nothing on that blog I wouldn’t want associated with my IRL self. Anyone I know could read that blog if they wanted to.

I suppose that is why I keep this blog anonymous. Without my real name I can say whatever I want about anybody I want. And I have said things about colleagues at work that I wouldn’t want them to see. But really, that’s about it. My girlfriends do know about this blog and I’ve had to filter what I say about them accordingly (I learned this the hard way). Actually, I posted a link to my blog on Facebook during NIAW so I guess anybody could have clicked through and then scoured my backlogs for shit talking. The reality is I knew they wouldn’t. I didn’t even expect them to click to the miscarriage piece in the first place. That is why I put it out there, because I knew it would be ignored.

And I have no reason to assume it wouldn’t continue to be ignored. And yet I’m not sure if I’m ready to test fate (or my friends’ curiosity). Do I want people who google my name to find my blog? I don’t know. If I knew they could do that would I censor what I write? Probably, though I can’t point to any specific topic that I would handle differently.

I am not trying to remain completely anonymous. I’ve sent things through the post to myriad other bloggers and they’ve sent things to me. Most of my daily commenters know my name and some even have my address. I suppose my pseudonym is more to protect my blog from the people I already know and not to protect me from the unknown Interwebs. But maybe it should be about protecting myself, and my family, from the unknown dangers of the Internets. I’m certainly all sorts of naive about that.

None of this would really matter if I weren’t faced with two separate issues simultaneously. One has to do with BlogHer. Mel recently offered to syndicate one of my pieces. I dressed up my BlogHer account a bit and posted my piece, but for some reason, on BlogHer it felt strange to use my pseudonym. Don’t most bloggers there use their real names? Don’t most writers, in general, want their work associated with who they are?

At the same time my local mother’s group, Golden Gate Mothers Group (GGMG), which has thousands of members and puts out a bimonthly publication to its dues paying constituents, has asked me to be the subject of their inaugural interview column. They solicited me after putting out a call to all blogging GGMG members, requesting our URLs to compile a list of San Francisco Mom Blogs. I guess they liked Second Hand Happiness and wanted to interview me.

They would also like to use my real name in the interview (but are fine if I’d rather stay anonymous). As I said before, I have no real issue associating my name with my other blog except that I’ve linked from here to there so many times I’d basically be outing both places.

So now I’m not sure what to do. Using my real name in the GGMG article will out me on my other blog, at least to all the mothers who read that publication (which I believe only appears in print, not on the internet, so the “damage” would be contained). Of course if I used my real name on BlogHer I would be outed on this space anyway.

I’m not sure what to do. I feel ignorant of all the reasons I might want to keep my identity secret (at least to a google search) and I worry I’m being too presumptuous in assuming that my IRL peeps would ever take the time to read it. And if they did, would I really care? I’m a pretty open person, for better or worse, and I don’t really mind people knowing what goes on in my mind. But maybe I only say that because I know they don’t. Maybe if I knew anyone could find this place I wouldn’t feel nearly as comfortable here.

The reality is I have no idea what to do.

Do you write anonymously? Why or why not? Can writers branch out under assumed identities? Or does maintaining a moniker automatically prevent them from making a name for themselves? Should I use my real name at BlogHer or GGMG?

24 responses

  1. i know that many companies google you when hiring. So… I definitely won’t be interested in my future employer’s finding this sort of blog.

    And even people I know.

    I have another blog, where some readers know me in real life, while some don’t – and that definitely affects what I can and cannot say there. That’s why I had to create this one, dedicated to my struggles towards having a baby. The other blog’s readers have no clue I am pregnant…

    So I’d say – if you want to be able to really pour your heart and share what’s really on your mind – keep it anonymous. That’s help you stay honest with yourself.

    • Of course companies google people’s names when hiring and of course I DO NOT want them coming to this place. Thank you for that very important reminder. I will definitely be keeping this space anonymous.

  2. Hmmm…it is a tough situation.

    I would love for you to be able to blog openly with your real name at your other blog, which I think it a really neat, unique space. I wish there was someway to more clearly separate the two…

    I am like you–I blog with a pseudonym, but use my child’s real name and also post pictures of myself on my blog. I would never, could never use my real name for my IF blog. My real name is far too unique and easily searchable. Very few people IRL know about our IF struggle, and that’s intentional. Anonymity, to a certain degree, is an absolute necessity. I stand behind everything I’ve written, and I’d never take a word of it back…but it’s some really intimate intel, for me. I sought out this community because I didn’t feel safe/comfortable sharing this stuff IRL.

    Having said that, there are other bloggers, like you, with whom I’ve exchanged real mail and emails from my personal email account–bloggers I’ve grown to trust. I don’t mind that part of me being exposed to certain people.

    I’m interested to see what others have to say… I’ll stay tuned…

    • I totally understand your need to keep your IF struggles to yourself. That makes a lot of sense. And, really, I think I’d rather keep my thoughts about fertiles to myself, since so many people I know are, in fact, super fertile. So yeah, seems best to keep this place private.

  3. Hm…you know, I don’t really have a reason why I’ve never kept it anonymous (my old blog I started out anonymous, but came out eventually). I guess because I never assumed anyone but me or my family would read it (oops!). But I’ve also never included my last name, my step-daughter’s name or where I work…I feel like that would make it more searchable. My first name is spelled normal and is fairly common, so I guess I thought I was pretty safe putting it out there. My step-daughter’s is more unusual, and I figure since she’s not my daughter I don’t have the right to put her real name out there for others to find. So what I think is that you have to be ready to take the plunge if you decide to out yourself in one of those places. If you have an easily searchable name with an unusual spelling, then maybe think twice? I don’t know. I think in your case, as a teacher, maybe it’s better to stay anonymous? Aren’t there famous authors (of books) that have successfully become known under their pen names? I wonder what the difference is? Maybe you need to just give yourself an assumed last name, too? Then no one will know it’s not your real name when they’re first stumbling upon it. Just an idea. 😉

    • Um, how could I have forgotten about my students?! And especially after that weirdness with the 8th grade boy last year that was cyber-stalking one of our newer, younger teachers. I will definitely not be associating my name with this space. Man oh man, thank god you reminded me of that!

  4. As you know, I keep things semi-anonymous, because my concern is mainly the google machine. So I take care to keep my name off my blog, but I don’t mind linking out to stuff I’ve written, etc. So the situation is that when people google my name, they can’t find the blog, but when they google the blog, they can find me. I do this mainly because of the nature of my work, and the fact that I’m in a very male-dominated field and I assume my fertility obsession would be a problem for potential employers.
    In your case, I would just suggest you think about the reasons for your anonymity, and see if they apply to this interview. Do you link out from your other blog to this one? That is also something to consider.
    But at the end of the day, really – all you’ve got is your gut instinct. So just go with that. 🙂

    • I hadn’t thought of it that way. So even though I link from here to my other blog, I could still put my name their because it can’t be traced back really. And I’ve never linked from my other blog to here (I don’t think I will have to check but I’m pretty sure I haven’t) so even though I’ve linked to other writing from here I can still put my name on that writing. I love it!

  5. That is a tough one.

    Despite the fact that few people are ever likely to read my blog, I feel the need to keep it anonymous. I cherish having the space where I feel completely uncensored and I know that I would lose some freedom of expression if I could be found easily. That said, if people do contact me from this community, I have no concerns about my identity.

    I love bodega bliss’s idea. Esperanza is a pretty awesome name. If you find yourself a last name to go with it you can use it for all of your writing. That way, you don’t ever have to worry about the potential embarrassment that writing about intimate issues could create if your words were to come back to you from, say, an adolescent boy in one of your classes.

    • Oh my, if only you knew what adolescent boys could do. I can’t believe I forgot about that aspect of my life. Maybe because it’s summer and my mind is so far away from my classroom? I don’t know. I do remember when it happened to another teacher I did a ton of google searches trying to make sure this didn’t come up with my name or a combination of my name and Isa’s and thank god it didn’t. Though I strangely found A LOT of people with my last name, which is quite rare. So yeah. Thanks for reminding me of the fact that I’m a teacher. Don’t know how I forgot that myself!

  6. There are times when I wish my blog was annonymous, because I obviously censor a lot since most of my readers are IRL peeps. I’ve thought about starting another annonymous blog, but then I feel like one or the other would be neglected, and how would I get readers for a new blog?

    I like the idea of you using Esperanza + a made up last name for your mom’s club piece. And congrats on that- that’s great!

    • I think I shall use Esperanza + as a pen name. I like it and I think I’ve even chosen the name. Not sure when the big reveal will be.

      I’m trying to imagine what the tone of my blog would be if my family and friends read it. So much different from what it is now. I’m happy to have this place to myself. Very, very happy.

  7. I also sometimes wish my blog was anonymous so I wouldn’t have to censor, but as it is, I use both mine and my child’s name and our photos with abandon. However, I have to admit I blanched when I suddenly started getting 600+ hits to some of my posts… I remain uncertain whether or not I want that many total strangers seeing my child’s image.

    • Wow, you get 600+ hits on one post! That is awesome. Yeah, I don’t think I’m fully aware of the possible consequences of putting Isa up all over the place. I wonder if I should be marking my photos with some kind of copyright too. I’d hoped to learn some of this at BlogHer but alas, I’m too broke to go. There has to be some other day long seminar on this kind of stuff. Maybe I’ll look into that.

  8. As you know, no there are no secret identities on my blog. My full name is posted, my husband’s name is posted, & my kids’ names are posted and pictures of all of us are posted on a regular basis.

    There are several reasons why I did this: 1) When I first started the blog, I had zero readers, so it didn’t seem to matter. 2) My infertility has never been a secret. In fact, I probably talked more about it than people wanted to hear. When people would be annoying asking when Rob and I were going to have kids, I would tell them that we were trying and that I could not get pregnant. It shut them up pretty quickly. 3) When I did get pregnant, the blog was a great way top share the pregnancy, birth, and baby with friends and family.

    Every once in a while, I wish that I was anonymous and could say anything I wanted. I avoid talking about work because I’m well aware that anything I say could be easily found. (For the record, I’m VERY happy at my current job, but have not been happy at every job I’ve had.) I avoid talking about marital problems because, again, anyone could find it and read it– It just doesn’t seem right to put it out there with our names all over it. I avoid talking about our finances which have been unbelievably tight since I quit working full time… I actually wanted to respond to you directly about the comment you left on my blog today about feeling guilty about things you may not be able to provide for Isa — We’re more alike than you think. I’ll email you. 🙂

    Anyway– do whatever you think is best & congrats on all of the new opportunities!

    • I also talked about my loss more than most (re: all) people wanted to hear about it and I feel like that part I’m fine with people seeing. I mean, the piece I shared on FB was about my loss. So obviously I’m okay with that. Having said that I’m not okay with my students knowing that about me and they would definitely take the time to google my name and find it and that would be very, very bad.

      It’s interesting to hear about all the stuff you don’t talk about it. I never thought about your blog being open and having that affect what you chose to write about. I guess I always kind of assumed your life was just perfect in those areas. What a silly thing to think. Sometimes my mind does not function correctly. I would love to email more about it if you want. Just let me know.

  9. My blog has become less anonymous … somehow one of my co-workers found it, and now many people I know at work read it. Still, I think my primary concern would be 1) that someone could find and hurt my children, and 2) that a future employer would know more about my personal life than I care to share at that point.

    I think a lot of folks who become non-anonymous write for a living … so it’s a moment when their personal and professional lives merge.

    • I think you’re right, that people who are non-anonymous do write for a living. I wonder if I think that by going non-anonymous i’ll somehow start writing for a living?! I don’t think it goes backwards like that though. 😉

  10. Call me stupid…I blog with ME out there. A lot of people I know IRL have googled me reached my blog. and I simply do not care. I say what I want in any case IRL too. I have thought about companies too, but I don’t think what I blog has anything to do with my professional life so I really dont worry about that – I mean I have had my best job offers after I started blogging. In fact one of my countries biggest magazines read a blog post and asked me to write for them (way back in 2008). I will always write under my own name, i love myself way too much 😉

  11. Call me stupid…I blog with ME out there. A lot of people I know IRL have googled me reached my blog. and I simply do not care. I say what I want in any case IRL too. I have thought about companies too, but I don’t think what I blog has anything to do with my professional life so I really dont worry about that – I mean I have had my best job offers after I started blogging. In fact one of my countries biggest magazines read a blog post and asked me to write for them (way back in 2008). I will always write under my own name, writing is after all my bread and butter.

  12. I write anonymously, though I don’t object to any of my IF readers knowing who I am. I’ve met several in person and am facebook friends with others. I stay anonymous for two reasons. 1) the career. I don’t want my employer, future employers, random opposing counsel, or my clients to read about my products of conception, therapy appointments, etc! 2) the friends/family. Often my most difficult emotional experiences stem from actions they’ve taken, and while I understand where they’re coming from and don’t blame them, I need to be able to speak freely about how I feel or my blog isn’t serving the purpose I originally intended. If they read my blog, I would censor myself.
    That said, it’s tough to be anonymous when I want to be an advocate. I’m not ashamed of my losses and I want to be there for others who are going through the same thing. I will probably also create a non-anonymous blog when my child arrives so that people I know can follow along with her life. Did you catch that slip I just made? Oops 😉

  13. First time commenting after “meeting” you via Promptly. As you know, I posted on a very similar topic recently & am still struggling with anonymity vs transparency. I just can’t bring myself to be fully open on my blog. That seems weird when so many bloggers are transparent but I can’t be.

    • As my wonderful commenters reminding me (how could I have forgotten this?!) I have to think long and hard about what I want my students to see, because they WILL find it and when they do, they will all read it, no matter how boring it is. And while I’m pretty honest with my students, I would like to share with them of myself and my life on my own terms, not through a blog that I didn’t intend for them to see. So yeah, I have to be very careful with my identity and this blog, though my other blog would be more appropriate to share with the world.

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