I don’t know quite when I began reading blogs. Almost certainly three to five years ago. The advent of RSS and news aggregators definitely helped that, making the phenomenon about the content and not about visiting a lot of web sites. Two blogs I started reading early on are written by women, each creating an intensely personal chronicle of each life, often with a resolution of minutes. As I thought about it, it amazed me that each one, in the face of identity theft, stalkers, rapists, and general inconsiderate behaviour these two were maintaining their privacy. They were doing so despite their sharing information with the anonymous world.

Is this possible? Can privacy be sustained by a blogger?

I haven’t gone to great lengths to protect my identity here, certainly not to the level that my inspirational authors have. Yet at the same time I don’t come out directly and say who I am. Many of my friends know this is my blog, and people who comment sometimes get personal email replies when WordPress notifies me. As my blogging experience matures, though, I find myself with the increasing desire to directly correlate my name with this site. I want the world to see who I am, to be able to Google my name and see my work, my thoughts. I also feel rude corresponding with others and not using my real name. I don’t want to tell someone that they aren’t good enough to know who I am, when they shared some of their information with me. I also don’t want to appear like I’m shirking responsibility for what I write. Staying anonymous creates a subtle, subliminal barrier between others and myself. Humans, being intensely social, instinctively react to behaviour like this. The reaction is rarely to my advantage.

The part of me that fears exposure keeps dragging me back. With the Internet caching everything that becomes part of it, what if I write something that labels me? What if I say something that makes me unemployable, or causes mail bombs to be sent to my mother? The scope of a blunder is no longer local, it is global. The lifetime of a blunder is no longer measured in hours or days, but in lifetimes, as humanity records everything as a permanent record. People routinely judge others as they would never want to be judged. Corporations have zero tolerance policies for opinions. Why would I want to put anything of my own out there, with my name on it, so that someone might decide I am not worthy even before they meet me? What happens when my boss doesn’t like something I’ve written? Labor laws don’t protect anybody from their employers. And now I can’t get another job because I mentioned Nazis in a blog post.

There is no such thing as partial anonymity, though. I’ve left breadcrumbs for anybody who really wants to find me, and I can’t take those back. Two people have already emailed me that they know who I am, so I know the crumbs do lead to me. I could add more barriers to discovering my identity, but those are defeated with more effort, and only defeat the lazy or incompetent. Besides, over time the breadcrumbs spread everywhere, making the trail to me hard to miss. I didn’t go all the way towards protecting my identity when creating this site. I don’t protect my identity when corresponding with others. I don’t want an alter ego, I want an outlet.

Is it possible to remain anonymous while blogging? Yes, but it is incredibly difficult, and it flies in the face of everything humans do and everything blogs are. It is not possible for me to remain anonymous, and was never possible. I botched it intentionally, but just wouldn’t admit it until now.

Is it worthwhile to remain anonymous while blogging? I guess it depends on what the purpose of your blogging is, and the risks you run. A whistleblower might benefit, as would someone who runs the risk of stalkers, or someone spreading slanderous remarks. I don’t see how I benefit, as I don’t plan to do any of that (sorry, no open positions for stalkers currently).

The choice is living in public or discontinuing this blog. No more feigned privacy. If I want to make a change towards privacy I have to start over. Therefore I choose life.

Welcome to my blog. 🙂

4 thoughts on “Unmasked”

  1. Interesting… I was having a virtually identical conversation with a friend this morning while we were hiking Cascade Trail in the Jefferson National forest.

  2. Oh, that sounds nice. It’s such a gloomy day here. I don’t know when Virginia’s fall colors peak, but in the northern midwest they’re just past their peak. The rain has been knocking all the leaves off, too.

  3. It was. I was a tad disapointed in some of the photos I got of the large falls, but I got some really outstanding ones of the smaller cascades along the river. The colors have just barely started to change, they didn’t have their first frost here till just last Friday. I’m hoping we’ll see some rather nice color change over the rest of the week(I fly home Saturday…so I’m REALLY keeping my fingers crossed 🙂

    Once I get back to AK I’ll be getting them posted and shoot you the link in email.

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