Here are some excerpts from an email I exchanged with a fellow blogger about privacy and using a pseudonym for online activities, specifically blogging. I’ve expanded on a few of the ideas and modified them slightly.
“I’ve used a pseudonym since I’ve been on the internet (1991 or thereabouts). The only time I ever use my real name is for business purposes. Otherwise, it’s my email name or my blog name. On some email lists, depending on the purpose, I’ll use my real first name.
I guess I’ve always been privacy-minded. I don’t like to post specific details about my private life with my real name attached. Mostly, it’s my employer I worry about, and just a few others. For example, if I’m going to bitch about work, I don’t want my current or future employer to be able to find it as easily as running my name through a search engine. They should have to work for it. 😉 (I actually run my own name through search engine to see what comes up, and so far nothing.)
To take that one step further, I do also change the names in my posts and am careful about references to my employer and links to local establishments. People forget that most sites have web statistics that can tell them who is linking to them.
A good example of a blogger who was a little too free with personal information is Heather Hamilton at www.dooce.com. The people she worked with knew she had a personal website. She posted negative stuff about co-workers and her job. Even though much of it was meant to be in jest (and was very funny), it got her fired.
Anyone who reads my blog would glean that I’m a partnered lesbian living in Western NY near a national landmark and the zoo, and a few other details, but not who I am. Anyone that knows this area, and has read this blog carefully, would know my exact location and could maybe figure out who I am. If someone that actually knew me came across this blog they’d probably know immediately it was me or have a damn good idea it’s me.
I’m really not paranoid. All I’m saying is that I try to minimize the detail about myself because once the information is public you can’t ever make it private again. I’m an honest person who changes names to protect myself and those I write about. I prefer to let more information out as I get to know someone than wish I’d been less forthcoming later.”
But, I don’t make up stories. All the events I write about are real because, after all, this is my journal and I’d like to remember things as they actually were.