Saturday, 19 September 2009

Anonymous Blogging - is it right for you?

Sometimes you only notice how much things change if you have a break from them. When I first started blogging, when I first started to write Too Young for a Midlife, Too Old for a Tantrum, it seemed that all the immediate people I read, and who read me, did so anonymously. In some cases I knew who they were anyway, and they knew me, in other cases I still don't know. Now I've returned to blogging, and become involved in Mummy Blogging in particular, the change I notice most is how many mums put their names to their blog and are no longer shrouded in anonymity.

Blogging for me always used to be like writing an online diary. I'd write about private subjects in a public forum, and the frustrated writer in me was always thrilled with comments, even the negative ones, because it meant that someone was reading what I said, and becoming engaged enough to let me know what they thought. However, when I confided to a couple of friends that I wrote a blog and they started to read it, it changed the way I wrote, and more importantly altered the content. When you're new to blogging, and it's all still bright and shiny, you tend to read lots of blogs, and become immersed in the world of online writing, a little glimpse into other people's lives; nosy neighbour syndrome for the modern age. Such it was that I learned what an industry blogging had become, how seriously it was taken by some, and the interest it held for the media.

I realised that blogging had given many things to people, a sense of community, belonging and friendship, but it had also taken away many things. Which early bloggers were shocked by the tale of Heather Armstrong, the woman who was sacked for writing a blog talking about her workplace, earning her place in internet history not just for her writing, but for giving us a new word - dooce? This word has become synonymous with being outed from the comfort of anonymity, sacked from your job and thrust into the public spotlight, but is this a risk that all anonymous bloggers take? Belle de Jour, one of the most high profile anonymous bloggers who has probably more reason than most to maintain her privacy, has so far managed to keep her identity secret, and maybe the time for people wanting to find out has passed. However, she continues to write her blog, albeit infrequently, has moved on with her life, and now is more likely to be found with a piece in the papers which might once have paid good money to someone who'd reveal her identity.

Fast forward to today, and the phenomenon of Mummy Blogging. Many of us are proud to put our names to our blogs, many of us choose to assume another name. My stance on this is that if someone wants to find out your identity badly enough, it will be a relatively simple task, but is it right this should be the case? How many of us like to keep our personal lives personal, and have something to lose should our real names appear in the public domain? How many of us blog for the simple pleasure of writing, and how many of us to promote our work, our careers, our lives?

I don't have all the answers, in fact I'm not sure I have any of them. I choose to stay what I would term "quasi-anonymous" - sure, my name isn't on my blog, but my photo's on Twitter, and I'm more than happy to meet up with other bloggers should an opportunity arise. I don't have a wardrobe full of skeletons and I don't have the sort of life which would interest the media. But anonymous blogging allows me to comment on my job, my friends and enemies, and my life, and not fear a family argument, a row with the boss, or worse, with the other half. I'm sure I won't stay anonymous for long but will putting my name to my blog change the way I write?

So I'm throwing this open to the internet - what are your thoughts on staying secret or going public?

I'd love to hear from you.


  1. I think the danger of being anonymous is that it's incredibly hard to remain anonymous.

    But being apparently hidden may lead you to make remarks that you wouldn't do if your name was on the top of the blog in big, flashing letters.

    It's horribly easy to veer into libel, into breaches of confidentiality that could get you sacked, or just into embarrassing someone you care about.

    So I always assume people know who I am, even if I'm not shouting about it from the rooftops.

  2. That's an interesting perspective 6p, (or may I call you S?!!) - I think you're right. If you think people don't know who you are, you're more likely to be less cautious about what you write. If you're public, you need to monitor your opinions. I guess it's maybe more about the reasons why you blog?

  3. I think that by remaining annonymous, I can write what I like without fear of upsetting family or friends or those who appear in my blog.

    I can write without any inhibitions.

    I've become really fond of one or two of the people who follow me which is a real bonus and although I've never met them, I really look forward to reading what they write in the comments and some of them email me too.

    Thanks for popping by, now I've found you, I'll be back,


  4. Argh. Yes, it's me, Sally at Who's the Mummy?

    Weird name is there because you don't have a name/URL commenting option - usually I wouldn't bother commenting as my Typepad ID and Google ID don't identify me very easily, but I'd written it all by that point and couldn't be faffed to delete it. Why don't people have a name/URL option? "It makes life so much easier, especially for people like me who have more than one blog they maintain.

  5. Thanks GG for popping by, I think that's the reason many of us stay anonymous.

  6. Sally, I don't know - is it maybe a Blogger feature? If anyone knows, please feel free to tell me and I'll sort it!

  7. Interesting to read this as I write anonymously too. I think people who put their full names and faces to their blogs are brave and I'd like to do that too. I mentioned this in a post I wrote recently and said that if friends and family knew about my blog it would restrict what I could write. So I agree with GG here. I've not actually written anything offensive about anyone (and wouldn't) but I don't like the idea of being constrained about what I can write.

  8. Whistlejacket, nice of you to visit - I think many of us prefer not to feel constrained when we write - how would we have a good rant otherwise?!!

  9. Hi!
    Great post and like you i like to remain a little annonymous, although i have posted one or two pics of myself and i'm sure if people wanted to reveal my identity they could - but who cares? I don't have any major skeletons either but i like to be able to write freely about my personal life which wouldn't be as easy if my real name was plastered everywhere :)

    Thanks for your comment and don't worry the pint was hubbys although i am partial to a lager myself and pints are way more practical than halfs - beats flashing my cleavage and waitinf in line at the bar to get served every five mins :)

  10. Anonymous suits me. My friends know I blog and I am careful to be as accurate as possible, anonymous or not, but anonymity makes it possible to be read without other people's presuppositions about me getting in the way of what I write.
    A friend has already received an anonymous letter, accusing her of being the blogger and threatening her with 'consequences' if she mentions the anonymous letter writer! Friend and I have a shrewd idea of the identity of the writer...we have been around a long do I respect the writer's anonymity or do I 'out' her?

  11. Wife of Bold, hello and welcome! It seems there's quite a theme for anonymous blogging, and it seems to focus on friends and family. And like you, I'm not above the odd pint ;-)

  12. Fly in the Web, hello and welcome to you too! My, that's quite a dilemma - I'd say it depends on what your friend thinks too, and whilst we all have a right to anonymity, I wouldn't ever condone the use of it to threaten others. It might depend on what the consequences are to you of your identity being revealed.

  13. If I were 100 per cent sure it is who we think it is, I would.... a serial anonymous letter writer whose missives have caused a lot of pain over the years to a number of people.
    However, as there is always the possibility that there are other unpleasant people about...her identity can rest undisturbed.
    My friend thinks it's quite funny. I don't.

  14. I suppose it depends why you're writing, and what you want to get out of it. I'm a journalist as well as a mummy blogger, journalism is how I make a living so it's important to me to have my byline/name out there. I also feel that if I'm writing about my personal experience I want to make it clear it's my experience (and avoid the risk of plagarism). I'm always very careful about what I write though in terms of libel/legality. Even if I was anonymous, I suspect the journalist in me just would't let me write any other way!

  15. I'm coming round to the idea of anonymous blogging for the reason you give - knowing some of the people who read mine does, I'm sure, change to a certain extent some of the things I write - but I'll keep going public for now but may at some point in the future go private

  16. Hi there. I write anonymously now, although people who have been reading my blog for longer than 9 months will know that I used to be quite open and even posted photos of myself (although none of the children). That changed when I realised I couldn't rant on about my ex if I wanted to unless I was anonymous, and as he was trying to find out about my blog and what it was called I felt it was time to be more careful.

    Only one of my friends knows about my blog, and she reads it, but other than that it's private - yet oddly public.

  17. I'm blogging anonymously too. Although I am fairly careful about names and stuff that if read by someone who knew me could hurt them. I don't think many people read my blog, being incredibly boring will do that, so I feel pretty secure.

  18. Very insightful post! I am SO regretting letting someone know about my blog, and you're right-- it changes the way you write. I've considered shutting mine down to invitation only, but it's not the average reader I don't want, it's the people who take my information to school and share it with other mums :-(
    I wish I had stayed anonymous.

  19. I think you're right that if anyone wants to find out who you are then they will.
    I wish I had not told my family about my blog -- now I'm more careful about what I post.

  20. Hey, well, you know I blog anonymously - and for good reason. Anonymous blogging means that I can talk about my experiences openly and frankly. If it was a non-anonymous blog then it'd be very different, trust me!

    After all, can you imagine if my mother read that stuff? ha ha.

  21. Hi,

    Just to add to this I blod anonymously for two main reasons. The first and most important is that I would probably get fired or sued if my boss found out what I was up to and I don't think some of the characters in my blog would appreciate the (albeit loose) depiction. I also would struggle to write if I people I knew were reading every word. At the moment I can admit to doing stupid things and laugh at myself but if my close friends knew I wouldn't have that freedom.

    I don't even tell friends I have a blog as I am so protective. Only trouble is it would be lovely to have that support - blogging anonymously sometimes feels lonely.

    Sorry for rambling on!

    Kate xxx

  22. Yes I think it comes down to why you blog. In my case it's also a connection with/to family that I don't get to see too often. And promoting a little bit what I do. But yes it does restrict what you can write about.

  23. Hello Woman - if only I'd known about blogging before I became a blogger, then things would have been very different! I've always loved writing and telling stories and making people laugh and a couple of friends suggested I start writing a blog. So I did. But at that point I had never read anyone else's blog and didn't really know about the blogosphere or even where I was going with it. In fact, I didn't think I would write about my children (half-hoping it would be 'my' thing and I could write about myself just as an outlet away from the children) - I mean look at my blog address - I even use my whole name!! Duh! But pretty soon after starting it ( the first paragraph of the first post) I realised I didn't have anything else to write about other than my children. I should have known...And then I carried on and Susanna from BMB found my blog and invited me to join and voila - I became a Mummy Blogger, although I hadn't realised that it even existed.

    So by then I had a few followers and it felt like it was too late to change the address - although I wish I had. It's not that I want to be anonymous really, I just don't like my address...

    But yes, in hindsight I wish I hadn't told so many of my friends and family about it. Sometimes I want to rant about my husband/my mother, etc, etc and I can't...but other than that I try to be honest and write what I want to regardless of who will read it...but I do have disapproving phone calls from certain family members after particular posts ( of big poo), who think that I reveal too much.

    But, (and I've nearly finished here) - blogging has become a big part of my life, so it would be hard for me to keep it a secret from those close to me...


  24. Great post.
    I've been thinking about this a lot lately. When I started my blog it was an extension of my Twitter experience so I used the same name and photo. I was worried that if I was anonymous no one would read it.
    I don't put photos of my children on my blog, but I still don't want to give out too much information about them as it will remain on the internet for ever more. Also my family and friends know about it too, so I do self censor.
    All this is leading to me wishing I had an anonymous blog so I would have the freedom to rant about my MIL (albeit in a jokey way), or talk about really personal stuff. Maybe I will...

  25. Really interesting post. I guess I'm semi-anonymous. I don't have my photo - or any of the children's photos - on my blog, but my pic is on the BMB network and Twitter (not sure why?!). I haven't thought about it too hard but blog mainly to write and connect with other bloggers/writers. I had no idea it was such a huge thing when I started in March this year. Now I'm totally hooked!!

  26. Hmm interesting point. I'm an odd mix when I think about it. I'm not totally anonymous in that my full name isn't on there, but my pic is very clear, however I don't mention by name anyone I talk about in my blog. I would say I'm pretty frank in what I write, but at the same time with an eye on what the people in my life would think should they read it. So in that way I suppose I don't confide in it in the same way I would do a secret diary. But it isn't that I'm not being honest, more about what I choose to leave out.

  27. Interesting post. I used to publish anonymously in a German newspaper and on its website - until I was discovered by a person who knows me quite well but still wasn't a friend. She was quite a chatter box and no secret was safe with her. So I had to tell all the people I've written about before that they had been part of a national newspaper without knowing... If I write about someone today, I only give away what I'd say to their face. And I won't disclose their full name, as they haven't chosen to be part of it.
    When it comes to myself, it's different. If you google my full name you end up on my blog.

  28. This is something that rages on constantly. In fact I was reading a similar post on the other side of the pond at Blogger Dad:
    I use my name (because it's all over the internet anyway because of my job [digital PR] but I never use my husband's name and I never use my married name.
    I have a line and I don't cross it. My children will read this blog no doubt in years to come and I want them to be proud of it not trying to sweep it under a cyber carpet!

    In the US it does seem that the more 'out there' you are and the more brutally honest (Dooce, Her Bad Mother, Bloggess) the futher you go. I guess it's a price you pay.


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