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.
Anonymity is as important as identification in some ways. I do know I’m writing for an audience. That audience may include people who have reasons to dislike who I am, or what I say, and I will keep that in mind. Does it make me less honest? No. Does it make me more careful? Yes.
i’m very open. but i’m of the opinion i have little to hide, and so i don’t worry so much. maybe i’m not paranoid enough?
i don’t want to be paranoid. so i’m not. i speak truth. if someone doesn’t like it. they don’t have to read it.<br><br>i don’t mention other people, other than my family, by name… so no one’s privacy is invaded. my family doesn’t mind it. they’re weird, like me. go figure…
Interesting… this is just what I’ve been thinking about lately – as I make some decisions about whether to blog about some new developments in my life. I mean, stuff that is true about me, but that I wouldn’t necessarily tell just anyone. So is this an open letter to the world or my journal? I wanted a journal, but I fear I’ve ended up with a letter instead.
Alas, I have to be sort of cagey too, because as a mainstream writer whose real name can be found on the internet, I don’t want my more conservative clients reading my blog and seeing me cussing like a sailor and talking about pussyfish and Dubya and other controversial things.<br>Friends online know my name, address and phone number. People who read my site don’t need all that info. As it is I, draw hits from too many creepy perverts. The less they know, the better.
You make some great points Bird. I draw the line at telling anyone new I am interested in, my blog address. Otherwise if you find me, then I am of the attitude that you read at your own risk. Risk of being bored to death mostly.
i am new to this perceived anonymity…my other online identity has made the real life crossover to some extent, and i did not adopt persephone lightly…it is still difficult to think in terms of being a different nick…there are people in this ring i know as my other online self…and as of now i’m not telling!!, though i suspect you already know who you are…
I occasionally freak out about how easy it would be to figure out who I am. I’m not worried about online people knowing who I am, I’m worried about the rl folks finding me and being shocked somehow. So mostly I try hard to leave out details that would be hurtful to another if found.<br><br>I did have an experience of blogging about some messy family business and suspecting that some members of my extended family had discovered the posts. It made me so ill that I tore down my blog for a week.
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