June 5, 2006

On the condition of anonymity

As an anonymous blogger, I think a lot about the various perceptions that accompany such a choice as the one I am making to not reveal my name on this blog. I wonder how my readers try to envision me, judge me, and just figure out who I am, what I believe in, and why I say the things I do.

Anonymity and lack thereof is something that I am very much of aware of when I visit other blogs. I know that many readers prefer to know who is the face behind this blog, their age, their occupation, and of course, their name.

But, what's in a name?

A lot, when it comes to the business of blogging, I think. The majority of the most popular blogs out there are maintained by bloggers who do not hide their identity. That's not to say that there aren't anonymous bloggers who are widely read and extremely popular.

But for me it's not just about popularity. It's about legitimacy. I personally get the feeling that anonymous bloggers have a much harder time gaining legitimacy from readers, especially if they are discussing "serious" issues like politics, government, reform, social issues, etc. At times I feel that as an anonymous blogger, I have to work harder to gain this recognition from readers.

Then again, it's also obvious that some bloggers who do use their real names practice a form of self-censorship on various issues related to social taboos, touchy political issues, and religious topics. For this, I am thankful that I don't really find that a problem because I feel free to speak my mind most of the time. Would I think twice before I posted something if my readers knew my full name? I think I would, but not to the extent that my posts would differ that much from what they are now.

But wait, am I really that anonymous? I haven't hidden my ethnicity, nationality, religion, age, gender, locality, level of education, alma mater, etc. From my posts, readers can figure out my stance on a variety of political issues, especially those related to the Middle East and American foreign policy.

So the only things that are really "hidden" are my name and picture. If I've "revealed" where I fall into all those categories above, then what's the point of hiding my name and picture, one might ask?

I have thought a great deal about this and find that my own reasoning is convincing (to me at least :)). Regarding my name, I feel that I am at a stage in my life where revealing that would put my future in jeopardy. A recent graduate looking for a job in the world of international affairs whose blog deals mostly with these issues is likely to be "Googled" by potential employers. I wouldn't want my blog to be something that would deter or even attract them to me as a candidate. But most likely I think it would be a deterrent because of my positions on various subjects that are deemed "controversial". Some employers also fear that their employees would blog about their experiences at work, a new trend that most companies/organizations would rather stay away from. The fact that my blog deals with a lot of political issues is also a concern. I know that if the powers that be really cared to find out who I am they would be able to. But I also know that we are living throught tough times, where our liberties such as freedom of speech and association cannot be take for granted. In sum, I don't want my blog to be a threat to my career or my life at this point in time.

I realize that many bloggers who use their real names do not post their pictures, and vice versa. Some find it helpful to "put a face to the name" (or nickname) of the blogger. The good thing about pictures is that they are not really searchable unless they are labelled with precise information. So why would I be careful not to post one or some? Unfortunately, we live in a day and age where appearances appear to be everything. We judge people by the type of clothes they wear, the color of their skin, the label on their handbags and shoes, the way they wear their hair or cover it, the way they stand, the size of the diamond ring on their finger or the gold chain around their neck... and the list goes on and on. The reality is, we all do it, on different levels and to a different extent. Some of us would use a picture to learn more about the blogger, or simply put a face to the name. Others might read too much into it.

In a world where "labels" are over used, I am attempting to give the reader the most of my thoughts without the hassle of having to associate them with my picture or my name. I want them to read my blog because they like the way I write, or the topics I discuss, and not the way I look or appear to look. I know that is not the reason why most bloggers put a picture once in a while or in their profile, but I find that many readers do judge the blog by that picture. It doesn't really matter if the judgement is positive or negative, I simply find that it detracts from my goal of blogging.

The issue of anonymity also has regional dimensions, but I will save that for a future post.

So there you have it! Some of my thoughts on blogging "anonymously" (btw, anonymous commentators are a different story that will have to wait for another post!). I might change my mind down the road, especially in regards to my nickname which some might find confusing (but that's how it started and I wanted to stick to it). And I might change my mind about everything I thought I knew about bloggers and blogging. I'm open to that, because I find this such a fascinating form of personal expression and of course an emerging media outlet which will definitely be evolving in the years to come.

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13 Comments:

At 1:21 AM, Blogger Khalaf said...

Hello Moi. I have written about this before here, if you are interested. My point is to get my ideas across based on their merit. I don't see why people worry so much about it. Your credibility should be based on the ideas you present, not your age, gender, religion, tribe, geographic birthplace of your grandparents or any other of the criteria Arabs use to judge each other.

 
At 3:01 AM, Anonymous lammoush said...

well i am a blogger with my real name and pic on my blog,in addition 2 other info like where i live n all,
but come 2 think of it, i cant say ANYTHING i am thinking of on the blog, since i am a new blogger i havent really seen all aspects of blogging.
i checked a blog yesterday that caught my attention, the blogger wrote the things i really feel but rather keep 2 myself.. and i thought: she would never say anything even close 2 that if she declared any info about who she was at all...
i dont know if its right 2 have a clear blog as what i have now or an annonymous one, but as 4 now m ok with declaring who i am

 
At 3:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hahahahahah you will never know haaaaaaaaa3

 
At 7:43 AM, Blogger Fatima said...

Wow, great topic. It was actually a big thing when I first started blogging, even considered not telling my family/friends about it so that I could write whatever came onmy mind without taking a specific audience into account.
Also, on another level, if you take a look at certain bloggers, such as Iraqi bloggers, you find that almost none (who live in Iraq) have their names posted, for their physical safety. Even a famous blogger, Riverbend, has a book that has been published of her blog, with her blog name, not her real identity (www.riverbendblog.blogspot.com); again, as a form of protection.

But i know that if someone really wanted to find out who I am, or you, they could almost easily narrow it down.

 
At 8:25 AM, Blogger MommaBean said...

Moi,

Great topic. While I share my pic, I do keep my name hidden. Actually this is partially a holdover from my other blog that deals mostly with my kids. I didn't want any identifying personal information to ensure that their safety was not jeopardized. Of course, in Jordan, you can't just pick up the phone book (or ultimate white pages) someone to find out where they live, but... Some things are better left unsaid, hunh? I agree that your reasons make sense.

 
At 9:42 AM, Anonymous kinzi said...

Moi, I agree with you. Your annonymity decision is valid, and when I blog I will do the same. Like Mommabean said, for my kids sake too.

 
At 4:28 PM, Blogger الفلسطينية said...

u know its funny cuz i often have this same convo with myself...u are right tho, and thats why i remain annon. (somewhat)

 
At 4:37 PM, Blogger moi said...

Khalaf--thanks for pointing me to that post, it was definitely an interesting read. I agree with you that blogs should be judged based on the merit of the posts, and not solely on the identity of the blogger. You have one of the most well written and informative blogs around, so anonymity really hasn't hurt you from what I can see :)

Lammoush--Welcome to the blogosphere! It might be the case that right now you are not comfortable sharing as much with your readers, but I think that might change with time. Keep on blogging and updating about your life in Doha :)

Anon--LOL, thanks for the laugh :)

Fatima--I thought about it too, and didn't tell anyone I know about my blog at first because I wanted this freedom to express my thoughts. Now, I don't hide it, but I don't advertise it much either. The fact that almost all Iraqi bloggers have to remain anonymous really highlights the reality of the security situation. Their names are really insignificant compared to the experiences and news that they are reporting to us about. I am personally greateful for them as they present us with a perspective that is unheard of in the MSM. Keep on blogging, and stay safe!

Mommabean--blogging is great and I think anonymity is a privilege for many of us because we get to share our thoughts but not really put our lives or the lives of our families in danger. I can totally see how you being a Mommy blogger wouldn't want to reveal your name. We all have our own reasons, and most of them are reasonable.

Kinzi--Do whatever you want, just start blogging already ;)

 
At 12:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry but the US knows you.
Sadly I have read your blog and I support your cause. That means that the US knows my e-mail.
I don't care because the Palestinians are being persecuted by the Israelis just as bad as they were persecuted by the Germans.

 
At 3:50 AM, Blogger Abed. Hamdan said...

Im trying to read for ages ! there's something wrong going on ! maybe due to the scripts u use.

whenever Im in ur blog, the CPU Utilization becomes 100% and firefox takes all the CPU, the computer becomes almost frozen ! dunno why!

about anonymity blogging:
for those who think that not using their real name or photos will make them invisible from the "Authority", they should think twice. Im speaking from a technical background, nothing can't monitored, even your "favorites" or "BookMarks" are tracked regularily. There are certain ways, however, to completely hide ur identity, but they require paying some money to some websites whom will hide you. Those free ones won't work.

I don't consider you anonymous, you included everything but your name and pic, which are not that important :)

 
At 8:32 AM, Blogger Akram said...

Moi,

I agree that content is way more important than any sort of appearance. And although I see your concern for not posting your name because of the job hunt, I don't necessarily agree with the reasoning. Personally, if a potential employer (especially one that's political) or a particular government agency (wherever it may be) deems what I say too "controversial" or even "unpatriotic", then maybe I don't need to work/live there. I'm not saying that I don't somewhat "control" what I say, but I'm afraid that if our politics can't be expressed freely in public, even in our workplace, then we are at risk of living in an authoritarian society, like the ones overseas that we criticize.

I know that my argument is one of principle and not of practicality, so I apologize for that shortcoming.

 
At 10:22 AM, Blogger moi said...

الفلسطينية-- great minds think alike ;)

Anon #2 -- I am well aware that if certain government agencies wanted to know my full identity they could easily find that information. I'm not so much concerned with that because I don't think there's anything in my blog that would warrant such a fear. In regards to the I/P issue, I don't think you should be concerned about making a comment or writing a post that supports the Palestinians. Thankfully, we haven't reached a point in the US where bloggers might be punished for what they say, yet.

Abed--I'm really sorry you haven't been able to access my blog. What do you mean by scripts? (I'm not really great with this stuff, if you could send me an email, I will try to see if there's something I can do to fix it.) I'm not so much concerned with hiding my identity from the "authorities" as I am from readers. So for now, I'll pass on the costly stuff :)

Akram--No need to apologize, I consider myself a woman of principles, so I agree with what you said. However, I would say that it would be easier for me to make similar political statements when I have already secured a job, rather than before when everything about me is being scrutinized. Also, I would shy away from fully expressing such opinions, especially in my field, because I think my partiality might be questioned, and not because of any other fear. I don't want employers to think that I'm so biased to one party or issue that it would be useless for them to ask me to research a certain topic that I have already made up my mind about. These small issues really do matter, but that doesn't mean that I will compromise my principles in the work place. That's actually one thing that prevents me from applying to certain organizations and agencies that I don't feel I can honestly give a full 100% to. (I can talk endlessly about this subject, but this isn't the right place :)). Thanks for your always intriguing comments!

 
At 1:50 PM, Anonymous Moab said...

I agree with you and Khalaf too, at the end of the day it's free choice - isn't that what democracy is all about?

 

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