Monday, June 26, 2006

Revised opinion on anonymous blogs

Based on the feedback I received on my last post and the feedback Modigli received on her post on the repercussions of blogging, I have changed my opinion: I believe it's impossible to maintain an anonymous blog that no one you know will ever, ever find out about (at least with personal blogs).

As you can see from the comments on my last post, many people have created anonymous blogs, written freely about anything and everything, and then had to face the fire when family and/or friends and/or ex-lovers discovered their blog (even if the blog was anonymous, photo-less and lacked profile information). Not fun at all.

Even if you never tell a soul about your blog and sign it with an ingenius codename, eventually someone you know will google some constellation of words, end up at your blog and think, "This writer sounds exactly like my sister-in-law. Hey, wait a minute - I know the family gathering they're talking about. This blogger IS my sister-in-law!" And there it is. You have no control over it.

The only thing to do is write as if your audience is everyone you know plus everyone else on the planet. Because that's who might conceivably one day read your blog and there's nothing you can do about it. It's dangerous to think you can create a blog that will never cause any personal or professional repercussions. If you assume this and write freely about anything and everything, it will eventually explode in your face.

And we bloggers really haven't got a leg to stand on if we accuse people of reading our blog who we didn't intend to read it. One blogger used the verb "lurking" which is a good, righteous, accusative word, but misplaced here. The Internet is public domain and blogs are free and open to anyone who wants to see them. To accuse someone of invading our privacy because they're reading our blog is like accusing someone of invading our privacy who listens to us shout a private conversation into our cell phone while riding the subway. Of course they know they aren't the person we're trying to communicate with, but who can blame them if the conversation is juicy?

I think bloggers are just going to have to take responsibility for our words and actions, establish some boundaries and limits, and conduct ourselves on our blogs as we would at the office/with our families/with our friends/etc. The fantasy is to be able to connect with others while maintaining a safe cloak of anonymity. There are probably ways to do that, but maintaining a blog isn’t one of them. We need to be more realistic. When you really need to share the incredibly selfish thing your brother-in-law did or vent about your boss, send someone an email. It could still wind up in front of the wrong pair of eyes, but at least you’ll have a moral leg to stand on when you feel violated.

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