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.
[technorati tags: blog, blogging, anonymity, names, self-censorship, liberties, rights]