To blog or not to blog (anonymously)
November 2, 2013 9:25 AM   Subscribe

I'm starting a blog about a particular subculture. While there are a lot of blogs about this particular thing, there aren't any from the particular perspective that I'll be writing from. I'm wondering if it's best for me to write it anonymously, or to attach my name to it. Outside of my writing, I'm on the path towards a public(ish) career.

I have a professional blog which is strictly, well, professional, but my writing style in this new blog will be more conversational- blunt, sweary, sarcastic. Is it a good idea for this to be associated with me, or for it to have nothing to do with my public persona? (I don't mean public like I'm going to become a prime minister, but just what information is available about me on the internet.) I think this absolutely is a demographic of people that needs a voice and I want to be associated with it, but I wonder if my blunt style is something that would possibly cause complications in terms of my other career aspirations. Or is it something that doesn't matter if I'm producing good work in other areas? I don't think I'm going to have a readership of thousands, but I'm wondering if it would cause more harm than good to my other professional activities. What are the pros and cons of writing a blog anonymously?
posted by Enchanting Grasshopper to Writing & Language (16 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I google everyone I meet. If you blog under your real name, people will find it, and will judge you (good or bad) for it.

You can always out yourself later; you can't go anonymous after the fact.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 9:43 AM on November 2, 2013 [8 favorites]

Pros of not writing it as a blog: you don't have to worry about this at all. No internet drama, no uncovered identities, no active commenters with an axe to grind. No regretful hindsight about having said something offensive, no Google caching. Have you considered writing privately and compiling it into a book later on? That won't totally solve your problems, but it would certainly blunt the ones you're worried about.
posted by fartbutt at 9:44 AM on November 2, 2013

You can choose to go from anonymous to named. You cannot unname yourself once you've done it.

If you want to put your name to it, consider it as marketing. It is therefore not a place to vent, speculate about sensitive stuff or make enemies. It is an extension of you the brand or your business.

If you go anonymous you have more latitude to be critical of [potential] clients or customers, or to get things wrong, to talk about things outside your professional interest or expertise, to try a different persona, or to just be un-professional. It would be a mistake to think that if you pique people's interest or ire significantly that you could stay anonymous so blowback on your professional reputation still matters.
posted by MuffinMan at 9:53 AM on November 2, 2013

Would you be anonymous for for privacy - saying things you would say to intimates - or to hide because you are pushing an agenda thay you don't want public?

Sounds like you want to be yourself with a bunch of strangers and that seems like a good reason for anonymity.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 10:08 AM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

If it were me, and I had any doubts over whether or not I wanted to use my real name, I would err on the side of caution.
posted by something something at 10:17 AM on November 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: What do you have to gain by associating your real name with the writing you will do on this blog?

About this subculture: is it controversial, like s&m and kink? Would you want perfect strangers, upon being introduced, to say "Oh, yeah. I've heard of you. You're the guy who writes about furries"?
posted by jason's_planet at 10:24 AM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm on the path towards a public(ish) career

If by "publicish career" you mean anything in politics then the answer is not anonymous/not anonymous, the answer is that you should not do this blog at all.

Otherwise the answer is "anonymous if you can avoid making your identity obvious." If you can't, don't bother.

I google some people that I meet (mostly not, because I just don't care) and everyone (100%) I interview or otherwise am responsible for hiring. An overactive web presence sometimes implies self-marketing and distraction to pathological degrees.
posted by rr at 10:40 AM on November 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I wrote a very frank blog once about a paticular subculture. Later I was REALLY glad I had done so annonymously. What seems appropriate to declare publicly at one point in your life can seriously bite you in the ass at another point.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 10:41 AM on November 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

Mod note: I'd probably choose to stay pseudonymous in your situation and have a strong consistent identity across different social networks, but not my own real name. And if you're a woman, I'd be especially wary, very wary – about both ends of the gun: people being stalky via your personal blogging/posting to interfere with your professional work and via your professional work to seek out your online life.

Some people are able to weave their personal interests and online commentary with their offline and work identities and it doesn't matter because they are lucky to be self-employed in a way that gives them that freedom, or they have the sort of (rare) job that is pretty much bulletproof from weird internet combustion for whatever reason, but I think that you sort of have to imagine some totally crazed person making scores of sites that say "Enchanting Grasshopper SUX," "Enchanting Grasshopper KILLS PUPPIES," "Enchanting Grasshopper IS THE WORST JOBTITLE," etc., because you made a slightly salty comment about their favorite X, or just because they read your blog and imagined a personal relationship, and when you tried to let them down gently they became deranged. Or reasons not even so sane. How would your employer be with that, or possible future employers? If there's the shadow of a doubt, I'd pseudonymize. For now. Eventually internet/RL will evolve more on this axis, but for now I wouldn't unless it was definitely helpful/entwined with my career, and I knew my employer had my back.
posted by taz (staff) at 10:42 AM on November 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers so far, I just want to clarify that when I say public persona, I don't necessarily mean that I will end up in public office, but maybe more along the lines of people like Minna Salami, Jessica Valenti, or Chris Blattmanin case that affects your answer.
posted by Enchanting Grasshopper at 10:59 AM on November 2, 2013

Best answer: Your credibility as a blogger, as a spokesman or authority about this topic, will be undermined if you don't write about it in propria persona. The wild west Usenet days of staking out an identity under an obvious pseudonym are over.
posted by zadcat at 12:08 PM on November 2, 2013

If you're a woman, never blog under your real name. It's not worth it. And make sure you pay extra for anonymous domain registration.
posted by Jacqueline at 2:36 PM on November 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

You lose a lot of credibility as a blogger if you blog anonymously. If your goal is to be Jessica Valenti, you need to blog under your name. But that's not what you're asking, right? You're asking what happens to your other professional activities that are not blogging? You're a lawyer or accountant or something?

Of course people will Google you. Of course they will read your blog. Of course they will form judgments about you based on what they read, and that will impact their view of you as an attorney or accountant or whatever.

Is it worth it? That's a judgment call for you and you alone, but if it were me, I think it would matter what my non-blogging activities are.
posted by J. Wilson at 2:54 PM on November 2, 2013

Some food for thought.
posted by Dansaman at 3:12 PM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you feel unready to associate with your name with your blog for whatever reason, just don't because you can't undo it. As a beginner you could just stay private and if you feel really dedicated later on, put your name on it.
posted by superuser at 3:37 PM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks, these answers have given me a a lot of good insight.
posted by Enchanting Grasshopper at 12:05 PM on November 3, 2013

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