Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Outing Myself?

I'm thinking about retiring this blog and starting a new one without so much anonymity. I kind of opened the door tonight when I left a couple of comments on the Lovely Daughter's semester abroad blog and realized that anyone who reads it -- her roommate's family, my father, her friends -- could now find Gannet Girl.

So I looked back through just the most recent entries and thought about what I might delete if people I know were reading this. A few things -- some of them comments about people in my life who might recognize themselves (sometimes in a not entirely flattering light), some of them perhaps too personal for public consumption. Some things . . . oh, I don't know.

Someone else wrote a terrific entry in the past couple of days about things that she was doing during the year that she was 25. I thought about writing a similar entry, and the first thing that came to mind (after a LONG period of dredging backward -- it's been quite awhile since I was 25!) was being taken out for a birthday lunch by the guys (all guys in those days) in the law firm where I was clerking that summer, having a little too much to drink (which, for a birthday lunch in the middle of the business day, would be anything at all), and getting hit on by one of the partners (who did that occasionally and whom I brushed off as something as a pest; I was married and he was SO OLD - probably past 40 -- one foot in the grave, obviously). And then I thought -- well, would I want my son and his girlfriend who read my blog to to read that? (Which they are probably doing at this very moment.) The people whom I might serve in a church some day?

As I've said before, I'm usually pretty discrete -- but I'm not perfect. (Really? REALLY? ) Perhaps a housecleaning would be a good idea. I'm thinking I will start a new blog and save some of the posts I really like, or maybe just clear some of the dead wood out of this one.

Those of you who write under your real names, or who are transparently pseudononymous: where do you draw the line? Do you have anyone in your lives about whom you think, I wouldn't want her to read this, or I wouldn't want to reveal this to him? It occurrred to me that I could use the session (governing council, for you non-Presbies) of my church as a litmus test -- people whom I know and who know me to varying degrees of intimacy -- which is to say, some extremely well and some not at all --, people with whom I share important moments in life but for whom I generally wear something of a public face, people whom I will most likely be asking for recommendations some day.

In the past few days I have read blogs to which real names are attached in which women have talked about their abortions (Roe v. Wade anniversary), blogs in which people have revealed searing details of family anguish, blogs in which people have been ranting about this or that issue as if they have been possessed by something not of this world.

How do you decide?

Please ~ discuss!

Identities optional, of course.


Widening Circles said...

An interesting question. I'm looking forward to hearing the answers. I've been an anonymous type blogger myself, and when a friend at work recently asked if she could read my blog, I said no. (I had previously admitted in a more general conversation that I do blog.) I don't think she could find it without my pointing her toward it.

The funny thing is, I rarely write about work and I don't think I've said anything she'd find offensive. It just seems kind of odd to put such personal stuff out there for the whole world under my own name. Yet others do, and it seems to work for them.

I'd still think twice about it, myself.

Kris said...

I will be interested in the comments as well.
Blogging is really such a awesome forum. You can express yourself as much or as little as you want, however you want, on just about whatever you want.
And sometimes you get feedback :)

Jodie said...

I think that in the age of identity theft, it is not clear that keeping an openly public blog is safe.

I believe in the marketplace of ideas. Some of us have ideas that would be taken too seriously if they knew who we really were, and some of us have ideas that would not be taken seriously enough if they knew.

But the only thing that really comes across safely on blogs are ideas. So let them sink or swim on their own merit.

Unless you are writing an interactive journal of feelings. Of which I have none. (INTJ and all...)

Mostly I am reminded of the Federalist Papers. Several of the authors remained anonymous for exactly the reason I have stated - the free marketplace of ideas -

That being said, I have pissed some people off for sharing harsh ideas anonymously. But its not my friends I worry about reading them.

emmapeelDallas said...

A tough question...I don't use my real name on my blog, and few people in cyberspace know my full name, and yet I have friends and family members who read my blog regularly, knowing that emmapeeldallas is Judi-----. Because friends and family read what I write, there are some things I'd like to write about that I don't...and so I've ended up keeping a private journal, strictly for myself, and sometimes, I think I do my best writing there...I am certainly most free there...but sometimes, I'd like to put what I write there "out there", in cyberspace, for feedback...just not on my G rated blog! Dilemmas, dilemmas...

Diane said...

hmmm... I don't criticize my friends and family on my blog. I try not to be too cheerful, but I also try not to be too dark and depressing either.

I have to think about this more. Obviously there were/are things I choose not to write about on my blog.

Right now I'm thinking about which of those things are prudent and which are cowardly.

Jacque said...

Hmmm. I have basically blogged in an open way, using my name since I began. In fact, there is a link on our congregation's website to my blog. It does mean that I blog with care and attention, knowing that anyone who knows me can read it. Though it is limiting in some ways, I find that the challenge of sharing myself in this way is good for me. One of my INFJ tendencies is to be quite private, while wanting to reflect with others on a spiritual level. This format pushes me to do that creatively. I do confess that I have wondered what it would be like to be able to say anything; to share my feelings about aspects of ministry that I would never allow the congregation or some of my colleagues to read. On the other hand, when I think of doing that, I cannot imagine how I could do it. I don't think I know how to "speak" anonymously and feel that I sharing with others on a meaningful level. I'm interested in hearing others' experience of anonymity. Peace to you in your discerning!

Lisa :-] said...

Speaking (writing?) as someone who has been reading you almost from your first post...

1.) I cannot for the life of me see anything objectionable in anything you have heretofore posted. But then, I am possibly the most indiscreet person in the world.

2.) I would think that you would have realized by now that you suck at starting new blogs... ;)

3.) I would hate to see you write any less personally. It pains me to think that people are afraid to let themselves be seen or known in their blogs. But I guess that's life...

Just my two (three?) cents...

LawAndGospel said...

This is an interesting question. I used to link to my home church, but then I wondered and blogged about whether that was wise. My real name is not that common and my main concern is for my teenage daughters and protecting their identity, hence they are just the Lutheran Chicks. I know I was surprised when one of my professors found my blog. He told me he liked it, but.. that felt a little unsettling. I have decided to not be as open in the interest of my candidacy process and my family. It bothers me becuase there are times I would say more, more deeply. For now, those writings will have to reside elsewhere. And as someone who lectures groups about predators, privacy and identity theft, I am a little too aware of connecting dots and consequences.

Mark Smith said...

I blog as myself and always have.

Honesty and authenticity are a big part of my personal makeup. I try to be myself everywhere with everyone. Sometimes that's not possible, but it actually causes me psychic distress to actively hide something from someone who should know it.

I DO pull back what I write, though most of you see me as more honest and open than average. My wife and I often joke after a particularly funny but risque exchange "Too bad you can't tell anybody that one." I have life events that I have to keep hidden.

I've decided that my writing is a part of me, and that if people choose to avoid me, not hire me, not elect me, or whatever then I probably was a bad fit anyway.

Speaking solely of Presby issues - in today's climate of distrust I view anonymous statements on major or divisive issues as less than genuine. It's too easy to take potshots from behind a wall.

alto artist said...

I'm a steady reader of your blog and have been enjoying it a great deal. I struggle with this issue, as well, and these comments are very interesting... I share my blog with some close friends, but am otherwise anonymous. I have no problem sharing most of what I write with the wider world, but sometimes talk about insecurities and fears that I really don't want everyone to be able to read. I also write about my spiritual community--always in a positive way--but am concerned about inadvertently violating someone's privacy (like talking behind their back) if readers know who *I* am.

OTOH, it is sometimes hard to be honest about what I write when I have to dance around reality. Be honest with myself, or with my readers? It gets confusing. For now, I'm remaining anonymous (but that could change in the future).


Nina said...

When I first started blogging and didn't have a lot of readers, I felt a lot more freedom to write whatever I wanted. Now that my "real-life" family and friends check it nearly every day, I've found that I don't post very much. I've seriously thought of getting a new, anonymous blog, or of quitting blogging completely because of the sense of lost privacy.

more cows than people said...

gg, if my memory serves me correctly, i'm with lisa, i don't think you've ever posted anything that would be hard for others who know you to read. i do know, however, that in our current denominational climate folks seem to troll the web for things that will bring others down. i agree with mark that taking stands on controversial or denominational issues anonymously, especially if one is doing so in a snarky matter, is highly problematic. but i don't think that has been the point of your blog at all.

it feels like this is where you have shared the stories of your life, the gifts you capture on film. and it has seemed that the blog has been one that people who know you would easily know that it is yours.

i think your session standard is probably a good one.

i guess i hope you don't delete too much. you've got a rich treasure here.

whatever you decide to do, let me know, please.

i am toying with whether i might blog out when i make my next transition.

i go back and forth, back and forth.

Althea N. Agape said...

well, I'm an INFP and I can't even get into journaling (probably still reacting to the big brother reading the diary back when)

I don't really blog feelings yet, but I don't want to be known until the candidacy process is over. Then we'll see.

Hot Cup Lutheran said...

i've deleted posts b/c of the same reasons. but in reality even when we think we are anonymous... are we? probably not. so usually if i don't want people to know it... i don't post it.

Quotidian Grace said...

Great discussion.

As you know, I'm "out" in the blogosphere. It happened by chance (or providence)when after hurricane Katrina I responded to comments asking how they could send assistance through my church to evacuees in our area and I posted my email address. Then presbyweb linked my blog on their web using my real name rather than my "nom-de-blog". (The editor knows who I am.)

An anonymous blogger can write much more personal posts than I would ever feel comfortable doing anyway so I don't miss that.

What I do find difficult is restraining myself from posting about denominational and presbytery issues because in my present role it would not be appropriate. I agree with Mark that being transparent and honest on those issues makes you more credible and accountable and that is important.

But when my term is up in 2009, I won't feel constrained by that.

Wayne Stratz said...

I am just waiting for one of my students to come across my blog... will probably some interesting emotions to flow through my body and could lead to a new more private blog.

I try not to trash folk. I do not go into some personal items, but yet I do with other personal items.

RevDrKate said...

Difficult dilemmas these. I think of myself as semi-anonymous. I am thoughtful about what I post for that reason, but not to an extreme degree. I think I pretty much know who is reading, but always of course is the thought that *anyone* could. This is such an interesting venue...self-reflection with an that develops and has a kind of safety, and yet...

I like the session standard. And IMHO there's nothing here so far that wouldn't meet that. I too hope you wouldn't weed too hard if that were your choice.

Presbyterian Gal said...

I have no idea or tips whatsoever.

I do not put my name on my blog because I find it much easier and freer to write some things in my stories without my name attached. I realize it is likely a thinly veiled safety net. But it still helps me feel safer to write what is so for me.

Everyone is different. I know of some people who have lost jobs because of their blog. I'm sure others make things up completely.

You have to do what works for you. You'll figure it out. And I'll be there reading.

Theresa Williams said...

Robin, as you know, I have always blogged as myself. But it is only an aspect of myself, the writer-self. Anything that doesn't reflect my creative life in some way usually is not discussed on the blog. I don't reveal anything about a real person that they would find embarrassing. When I write about a student, I usually ask permission first. I save the really difficult, soul searching, heart wrenching material for my creative work. And I keep "secret" blogs that help me to deal with difficult material in a forum that seems to work for me; these blogs are entirely anonymous. As a writer, I have things I want to "confess" about the creative life, things I want to share, difficulties I've been though. I want to leave a record of how my mind works for any writer out there who is doubtful or struggling. I want them to have access to the nuts and bolts stuff, but I also want them to see we all have doubts and go through periods of drought. What better way to express this than to do so with your name attached? That was my thought. But the really dark, painful stuff, yes, I do that someplace else. I respect others' privacy. If I would be embarrassed by something I've written (if it were written about me), I don't say it in a public forum by using my own name. I deal with that material elsewhere.

Deb said...

I started blogging rather anonymously, but then started using pictures of my family... with their permission. And then the kids wanted to blog so that cats on in on the fun.

If I am really upset I try to wait a day or two before posting. I've removed posts when I was really angry (some of my vehemently feminist ragings where I didn't quite want to commit a "Lorena Bobbit" but I was close)...

Plus, since I am in a quasi-emergent church, authenticity and "realness" is valued. So I try to express what I am thinking within the context that I would share it in a sermon. And no more.

I DO however, have an anonymous blog where you will read a lot of maudlin crap. But if you ask me if it is mine, I will deny it.

Just sayin

sunflowerkat321 said...

I think you know that I wrestled with this very early on. I needed to talk about things that were eating at me at the time. I decided to make my journal "private". I still have an extensive list of invitees, but I like to see the blog of anyone who asks to be added. The privacy is what kept me at AOL for my primary journal. I've since started other journals that are public where I primarily share my creative work. It's the right compromise for me.