Who, exactly, do I think I’m fooling?

In response to yesterday’s post, both Laurie and Alejna posted comments that got me thinking, again, about my (imagined?) anonymity.  I like to think I’m so “hidden” here.  I change people’s names (except for bad people: Michael and Mrs. Workman are really Michael and Mrs. Workman, Alain is really Alain), I don’t use my last name, I never name my employer or the neighborhood where I work.  I’ve been itching to talk about the grant Laurie mentioned in her comment, but I hold back because if I name it, anyone could easily trace the bright neon line back to me.

But how anonymous am I, really?  Not one, not two, but five of my bloggy friends have found me on FaceBook.  I have my photo posted here and I use my first name all the time.  I’m forever talking about the neighborhood where I live.  Even the vague descriptions I’ve given about my adult ed program could easily be turned into the actual name and location of my job if someone gave themselves five seconds to figure it out.

Does it matter?  Clearly, I think it does, but maybe it’s time to reassess.  Do you keep your identity hidden from the general blogosphere?  If not, why not?  If so, why?  Do you ever regret one choice or the other?

See what the other slicers are up to at Two Writing Teachers!

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16 thoughts on “Who, exactly, do I think I’m fooling?

  1. Molly

    I don’t tell people about my blog, unless I want them to read it. I don’t tell people I have a blog. Most people are satisfied with Facebook, where I have set up an account especially for the university people, where I accept ALL friend requests and post practically nothing, and certainly nothing personal. I know people can find my blog easily, but I trust they will not look for it. I have downloaded one of those things with which I can look and see where my readers are reading from, but I don’t look at it very often.
    Lots of writers have blogs that are public, and probably other blogs that are secreted away in some way.
    It is the nature of the writer to have multiple personalities, and pen-names, and different genres and points of view from which to write. Sinking into your characters means losing your individuality in some subtle way that makes writing a dangerous past-time, not for the easily daunted. The writer can be upset by the question “who am I REALLY?” or can ignore the question.
    I think some people are so firmly rooted in themselves that they don’t shift into other personalities, and you can tell it in their writing. It’s not all bad, it’s just what some people are like, and others aren’t.
    I think you should hide your secrets, but it may be hard to decide what is a secret and what is public information. Anything on the internet can easily become public information, so keep that in mind.
    On the other hand, you are already a public personality.

    Draw some lines, is my advice. You can always undraw them.

    1. This has been exactly my stance with my blog identity. There are a lot of people who know me who also read my blog … and sometimes I wish that wasn’t the case, but it hasn’t been impossible — or even difficult — to work around. It does mean that I have to think about the full range of my (not at all large) readership before I hit “publish.” I link my posts automatically to my Facebook page, but there are some posts that I don’t send to FB, like the Alain posts. That doesn’t mean folks from FB won’t see them. They can easily come over here and read whatever they like, but most of my friends there aren’t going to do that. Sticking with the example of the Alain posts, I had to think hard about that before posting — not just because I’d have to tell my family before posting but because of the number of people at my job who occasionally read my blog. Deciding whether I wanted to tell that story to coworkers slowed me down a little, but not overmuch.

      For things that I truly want/need to keep secret, I have to option of a private blog I was invited to join. It’s wonderful blog, with about a dozen contributors, but so far I haven’t done anything more than comment on others’ posts. I’ve started working on a post that I think is bound for that site … but that’s what I thought when I started writing the Alain piece, too. We’ll see. And, of course, I always have the easiest option of all for truly private things: don’t put them online! 🙂 I use that option plenty.

      Thanks for your thoughtful feedback, Molly!

  2. Hmm. I am pretty open on the web. think I always write with that in the back of my mind. There’s too much of me, of all of us out here but it’s beyond our control. no matter what we put out so much of our life details are here from the local and state and federal govemrents beyond our control.

    I don’t think about it. I try not to.

    Bonnie

    1. Thanks, Bonnie. I’ve been impressed with how public you are. I’m not sure what I think would be the negative consequences for me of full identification. I’m always careful about what I choose to post, no matter what, but I remain wary. And, too, it’s not only about me. I talk about a lot of people on this blog, and I certainly don’t have permission to be putting those people’s stories and information online.

      Still thinking … but, as I said, I remain wary.

  3. I believe just because we put some pieces (or a lot in some cases) of our lives out there for the world to see does not mean the world is entitled to see every piece of our lives. No matter how public a personality may be.

    Molly is correct, draw lines, some can be undrawn but some should be indelible. Obviously, the comfort level of what to share with the world varies person to person, but holding to the now modern adage, *don’t put anything out here you would not be comfortable with your grandmother/grandchildren seeing*is a good rule of thumb.

    As famous as you are right now, at least until Oprah has you pimping your latest tome on OWN, you can still go to the local supermarket in relative peace. Just keep it in perspective and bring some autographed copies for Pizza Night. 😉

    1. Thanks, Raivenne. I’m still pretty firmly in the “draw lines” camp. I just come back to the choice over and over again. I definitely keep the “What my mother will see” rule in front of me when I post. And, for the most part, I’ve been very (VERY) selective in terms of who to accept as a friend on FB, so I’m not overly worried about folks from there coming here. My FB worry is more about my nephew seeing things that I don’t think he’s ready to see or know about me (my main reason for keeping the Alain posts from hitting FB).

      As for my fame ( 😉 ), my head remains a safe, unassuming head size. As I’m sure you’re aware, my “payment” for the stories was a couple of copies of the journal. I’ll definitely be bringing one to pizza night, never fear!

  4. When I began my blog, I thought of it as a very public undertaking. I’ve only felt the need to change a name once, but I don’t think the person mentioned would really care if I used their name or not. (Read: they pretend that I don’t exist.) I also censor myself a lot, because I don’t really want to offend anyone or lesson my chances of being employed. (Even though I would much prefer to work as a writer. Wouldn’t we all!) I think of my blog as a column, like in a newspaper or a magazine. Those people are very public. I wonder how they feel about it.

  5. When I started blogging in 2001, I tried to keep my identity secret, but somehow it came up anyway — I could Google my name and find my blog. So I just gave it up and decided to put myself out there, and more recently, I’ve done that explicitly: my full name and photo are now on the blog’s About page. Over the years my blogs (I started on LiveJournal and now only blog on WP) have shared a lot of info about me that many people wouldn’t even necessarily share with friends. My mom likes to snark at me (she doesn’t know the word snark, but that’s what she does) that I did a post once about my bra size. Yes I did.

    I’m a natural oversharer and a little bit of a creeper, so I like to talk about myself and I like to know stuff about the people who interest me. That’s why I’m so open online: it feels natural, and it’s what I personally want as a reader. But I’ve also had no stalkers so far (and very little hate mail) and I’m not famous, so I don’t feel the risk too strongly.

    Do what feels right to you.

    1. PS. I wouldn’t worry too much about who you’re fooling. For most people, a few obstacles are ample to keep you anonymous; they won’t bother to connect the dots. If anyone really wants to find you, yes they can, but I suspect that in this age that’s true of just about everyone who writes about their private life.

    2. Ok, first: I can’t imagine anyone being inspired to send you hate mail! You are such a lovely person, I just can’t fathom it.

      I am totally the queen of oversharing, and I’ve brought that to this blog: telling a lot more about a lot more things than I’d have though I would in a public space. I started off with just “girlgriot” and then started using my first name and then added a photo … Maybe that means that eventually I’ll reveal all, but I think it’s not coming yet. (Stalkers?!)

      1. Stalkers were on my mind when I first started blogging because I was in college, and blogs were relatively new, and everyone was all, “OMG don’t share your real name on the internet ever! Bad people can find you!” But now I think it makes more sense to think of my blog like a newspaper column, as Ré (sparksinshadow) suggests.

        Thank you for the no-hate mail love. 🙂

        1. I’m glad no one mentioned the idea of stalkers to me before I started blogging! It’s certainly not something that would ever have occurred to me. As Ré mentioned, I was more concerned about not writing something that would affect my job (or affect a future job).

  6. Oops… I think I found you on Facebook. Sorry? 🙂
    When I first started blogging, I was on a website owned and hosted by my husband and our best friend so anonymity was both impossible and wholly unimportant. Anyone who read that blog was a real-life friend, and someone with whom I trust my life.

    When I made the switch to Blogger I went all secret-identity because of The Stalking; I’ve been real-life stalked (vs. cyber-stalked), and I tend to be a bit paranoid.

    Slowly -and I don’t know how or why- my blogging “personality” and my FB/Twitter/Flickr pages got all entangled. It’s my fault, but I honestly don’t remember why it happened. I don’t publish all the details on my blog that could allow a person to find me, and I’m discerning about my FB friends, but if a person was interested enough they could find me. I remind myself that someone could also follow me home from the grocery store if they wanted to.

    I’ve had some amazing friendships though, and unique experiences that may not have been possible had I not allowed that shift to slowly happen.

    1. Fear not, Jade: I was quite happy when you found me on FB … just as I was with the other ladies who found me. Though, now when I come to think of it, each of you is someone I’ve talked to via email, and maybe that’s what made finding me easier? No matter. I’m more than happy to have you all in my “friend” list!

      I’m distressed to hear about the stalking. The cyber kind would freak me out totally. Don’t want to think about what I’d do with the real-life kind. I’m glad your experience with that is over and done with.

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