The Perils of Blogging Under Your Own Name

How do I feel about blogging under my own name?

I have mixed emotions.

I gather that most people blog anonymously to keep from being fired from their jobs. As I’m my own employer, I never had that to worry about, so I chose to use my own name.

Recently two outstanding local bloggers, in fact the authors of the two local blogs I read and enjoy most, came out very publicly with face-revealing posts telling their real names. More power to these guys and their blogs, and to my city’s outstanding local blog community. But there’s something that makes me feel differently about a blogger’s choice to reveal the face and name behind the blog — I’m a woman.

I started this blog as a marketing tool, so I used my real name. I’m also notoriously bad with titles, and since this is a personal blog (despite its origins) I really didn’t know what else I’d call my blog other than what I called it.

Which so far has been scary only once. I had a reader who seemed to have problems understanding the boundaries of our relationship. To me, he was a nice person who commented on my blog. To him, I seemed worthy of receiving long personal emails and passwords to protected parts of his blog. When he mentioned the possibility of us meeting some day, I became really frightened. I had trouble sleeping for a few nights. I locked the doors. I asked friends what to do.

A public online identity is a different thing to a woman who lives alone.

I live on a residential street with neighbors on all sides. Streetlights light my road. And should someone ever try to break in, I am not without defense. But if I had my blog to do all over again, I’m not sure I’d advertise who I am. So far I have never been in any real danger, but my fear and distress over one situation were very real. When an unknown person starts making strange overtures, the mind panics and the nights can get very long.

Back when I was making choices about starting my blog, I wish I’d considered my safety and my peace of mind. I wish I’d thought about how easily one might find my address in the phone book. I wish I’d thought about my name, face, profession and even my home address being open to anyone with a modem and a phone book.

Fellow female bloggers (and really, all women who live alone), consider an unlisted phone number. Consider what information about you is readily available online, and what people might do with that information. Consider how you are protected or unprotected. And make a decision that takes everything into account.

8 responses to “The Perils of Blogging Under Your Own Name

  1. Ooh, creepy. I have been journaling or blogging in one form or another since 1998, and I’ve always been a bit paranoid about using my name online. I think I’ve gotten complacent since getting married, like I’d no longer be a target. But, let’s face it, in this world, a woman can always be a target.

    Like most military spouses, I’m alone the majority of the time. A house full of swords and a big black dog aside, I should still be wary. The anonymity of the net allows me to blather on about my business online, in perhaps too intimate a fashion. That same anonymity might embolden the hateful and the unhinged in the world.

    To quote the Wicked Witch of the West, what a world!

  2. Well, it’s still a good world, mostly, at least from where I sit. And I don’t think I was ever in danger, just frightened. It’s surprisingly east to be alarmist at home in one’s bed in the dark of night. People who read your blog feel like they know you, and well they should, since in many ways they know intimate details of your life and mind.

    And some people who read my blog have been welcomed into my life and thoughts, like you for instance. I love the network I made through this blog. But this one person did not seem to understand the time, chemistry, choice and boundaries involved in people connecting in a healthy, mutual way, and it frightened me.

  3. Hmm. As a cartoonist, my blog is an important part of keeping my name “out there,” and I’ve been blogging under my own name for about five years. I’ve done a couple autobio comic strip essays for the New York Times. I regularly attend comic conventions and there are about a million photos of me on the internet, most of them taken by strangers without my knowledge. (And most of them unflattering! Haha.) It’s a tricky balance, making yourself accessible to fans and editors while protecting sensitive information like phone numbers and addresses. I’ve dealt with it by developing very clear public and private selves. I have a public blog, a secret private blog for close friends only, and a Facebook profile in total lockdown mode. I rarely make public posts about my private life rarely, and then in an extremely general way.

    I’ve never really had a problem with people overstepping boundaries. There’s the occasional guy who thinks you’re his friend because he reads your blog and pesters you with tons of questions, or wants an introduction to your agent or your editor, but I’ve gotten pretty good at shaking people off. If that makes me a standoffish bitch, so be it. (I AM a standoffish bitch sometimes.) The vast majority of professional writers and cartoonists I know, men and women, blog under their own names, and I can’t think of anyone who’s been in a situation that went beyond “awkward” to “dangerous.”

  4. Hey Hope,

    Your idea of maintaining a “secret” private blog for friends is a very good one — that way you get to have a personal blog, yet only make it available to certain people you trust. I think that the illusion of intimacy created by a personal blog that’s readable by anyone is what created my one uncomfortable situation.

    I’m glad you’ve never had a problem with people overstepping your boundaries. I hope it stays that way, and if it doesn’t, you clearly sound like you can handle it.

    I, as a very introverted person who actively enjoys making my personal experience universal, have chosen to make my private thoughts public. Very public. And it’s come at a price. But so far it’s not a costly enough one to dissuade me from how I do things here.

    Wikipedia tells me you’re from Asheville! Hey homegirl!

  5. I think my comment was eaten! Hopefully it won’t show up again–that would be awkward.

    Another reason I don’t do much public blogging is that the average blog is getting much more polished, and I’m too lazy to maintain that level of quality. Where do you find the time?

    I totally am from AVL. I’m moving back in about a month and really looking forward to it, and I’ve been reading all the local blogs to prepare myself. I’ve got a place in your neck of the woods (West Asheville, right?), so if you see me wandering around please say hi!

    There’s a good chance (well, a chance) you’ve met my dad, who is a professor at UNCA.

  6. Yeah, I’m West, I’ll say hey if I see a cartoonist!

    BlogAsheville’s a great local blog; I also like Scrutiny Hooligans and Ashvegas. Killer blog community here. I don’t think I know your dad… None of my profs are old enough to have a daughter your age. I’m a Mass Comm major. Who is your dad, and what does he teach?

    Where do I find the time to blog? HOPE, I TRULY DO NOT KNOW. I can only say that blogging breaks up the tyranny of work and school, though tonight I had to say no to a free dinner at Caterina’s with a dear friend, just to get done what I needed to get done, which at 8:30 p.m. is still undone…

  7. He teaches economics (and possibly some humanities), and I suspect he’s the only Larson teaching at UNCA.

  8. Don’t know Dr. Larson yet, Hope. I’ll look out for him in my Hum classes. I think he might have been invoked in class today by a Hum prof, actually, and called “brilliant” by his colleague Dr. Davis.

    I won’t be seeing him in economics world. I DEARLY LOVE the subject, but felt I I had to choose only one minor, so I chose poli sci. However, it’s the economics end of poli sci that so far I love best.

    Hope to see you around town — welcome home.

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