Fandango’s Provocative Question this week asks:-
How do you feel about online anonymity? Do you believe that when people are hiding their real world identity, it encourages them to misbehave or to be offensive? Or does it allow people to reveal who they really are or possibly who they would choose to be and act all the time if they could?
When I first started blogging I didn’t use my real name or any real personal identifiers at all, although at the time I was actually on FaceBook wholly as myself, which seems in hindsight to be a bit counter-intuitive on my part – but in my defense it was as much beginner’s caution as anything else, a fear of the unknown. I was testing the waters and wanted to hide behind that degree of separation until I was sure what I was doing, and that I would continue blogging.
Eight years on and this is currently my fourth blog on WordPress, and having been more and more open about myself with every new blog I now comfortably use my first name online, but not my surname, and from time to time have posted random images of myself, too. Personally I just find it easier to feel like I’m being genuinely ‘me’ online, but I do try to be careful not to use names of family members, etc. So I suppose I try to protect my identity in some ways while being open about it in others.
Incidentally FaceBook and I parted company acrimoniously several years ago, not long after it floated itself on the stock market and changed from being a useful online tool to help me keep in touch with others to becoming an intrusive means of aggressively making money for itself at all costs – too many deliberately obstructive algorithms for my liking, too much about what benefited FaceBook and too little about what benefited me. Ultimately I deleted my account completely and would never ever consider going back to such a self-serving platform.
Basically my current blog on WordPress is my only online presence. As I said FaceBook and I long ago parted company and I’ve just never felt the need to join in with Twitter or Instagram or Snap-Chat orTik-Tok or whatever else is out there. For now this is it for me, so I’ll have to base my answer solely on my experience of blogging here on WordPress over the last few years…
I think there’s a big difference between someone being authentically themselves online while simply using a pseudonym, and someone creating a virtual persona that is deliberately false in all things (like for sexual grooming purposes, for example). I have no issue with a blogger using a pseudonym as a means of protecting their real-world identity. Or even a blogger creating an online character based on some particular aspect of life they choose to write about (I can think of one blogger I’ve followed for years who blogs as a very believable character, but not as themselves per se) as long as they are perfectly open about and consistent in what they are doing.
And for me, I suppose that is the crux of the matter. I don’t want to feel like I’m being hoodwinked by anyone. For a blogger to ring true in all things there has to be enough of a genuine human being that appeals to me behind the blog persona to let me want to follow them in the first place. Enough continuity to ensure the virtual person behind the blog appears ‘real’ in the basic essentials, regardless of the name they choose to use. So I suppose what I’m saying is ‘A rose by any other name would smell as sweet’ in that someone’s underlying character or personality or whatever needs to shine through no matter what name they choose to call themselves online, real or otherwise.
So to that end I always like to be able to read an ‘About’ page on any blog, preferably giving a little information on the blogger and their reasons for blogging, at least enough to set the background context for their posts. Of the bloggers I follow, some are male, some are female, some are older, some are younger. Personally I tend to follow people who, like myself, are just blogging randomly about life in general, posting images or poetry or opinions or rants about family and politics and the crazy world we live in. And it seems many in my little blogging community seem to be around my generation, there or thereabouts, even without specific ages being stated.
I’m sure there are many deeply offensive bloggers out there hiding their inferiority complexes behind their virtual anonymity, but I tend to keep away from them and if they try to troll my blog they just get their nasty comments deleted without a second thought other than a brief ‘Get lost, loser’ running through my head. I feel there are enough fuck-wit forums out there for them to get their kicks aplenty without defiling my blog space.
I do worry that social media space has been left to develop unfettered for far too long as a mouthpiece for partisan poison, but I don’t feel that anonymity alone is the problem here. And anyway some of the most vile and venomous vitriol comes direct from the people who are most proud to stand up on their spurious soap-box and spout their narrow-minded nastiness to all and sundry. After all one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter, and there’s no accounting for taste.
So to sum up, I have no more problems with someone blogging anonymously than with someone who chooses to use their own real name. What I do have a problem with is someone being offensive in their choice of blog content, and in my experience the two are not necessarily linked…