Can you even truly be anonymous online?
Recently, Belle de Jour (a long time favourite read of mine, ever since the blog first started) was compelled to “come out” to a broadsheet newspaper to prevent someone else from her personal life “outing” her to a lower quality paper (the politest thing I’ve ever said about the Daily Mail*) After so many years of anonymity, it turned out that the ex-call girl was (at the time) a struggling graduate who now works as a scientist at the hospital around the corner from my office. The most unusual thing I find from this story is that she stayed anonymous for so long.
However, there are some bloggers who (so far) have stayed anonymous. Liberty London Girl (another good read) has been blogging for about 3 years as “the anonymous thoughts of an English fashion editor in Manhattan“. Whilst she doesn’t directly promote who she is on the blog, this description doesn’t seem to leave much to the imagination if you moved in the same circles.
But maybe that’s the trick. If you’re not happy about linking your real name to your blog, then don’t, but if you’re writing about something out of the usual, something “scandalous”, then anonymity may be a luxury with a time span.
Until recently, I never used my (fairly unique) surname on my site or Twitter. Back in t’day when I first started blogging (oh Livejournal, those were the days of invite codes and not actually knowing anyone), I hid most personal details about myself – right down to my own first name. I had over protective friends who would warn me never to mention anything that could identify me – even things like main roads near my house.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realised that not only is it a good idea to link my name to the things I do (it doesn’t really say much for my blogging, tweets, photos etc if I’m not willing to admit I made them!) but since my name is unusual, my friends can find my stuff if they want to. (I’ve seen the stats, my name often pops up in my search logs). Also, I want the things I’ve said in the last few months to be top of the search lists, not something I wrote years ago.
Obviously this is a personal thing, but if I can in some way control how I appear when my name is Googled, then that can only be a positive thing!
Having said all of that, it is of course a good idea to be careful about exactly what you do put online. Do you really want to end up on sites like Lamebook? Or even worse, be Dooced?
* Back when I was in Sixth Form, I studied Media Studies. We had to take a newspaper into every class, but if you took the Daily Mail, you would be kicked out of the class. The teacher was happy to have any other sort of paper – even The Sport – but would not have the Daily Mail in his classroom.