Being nameless and shameless: anonymity when blogging

It’s a rare (and lucky?) academic who gets to blog about sex, political corruption or criminal actions: the three things that get most bloggers in trouble.  I definitely don’t – or at least, the political corruption I talk about isn’t likely to stop me from getting visas to Khartoum or getting arrested by the current regime any more than just being British would, for instance.  But regardless, when I started my blog, I didn’t put my name or photograph on the front page.  I didn’t really think about being anonymous, but did it because of the sense of caution you get when playing with the internet.

At the launch of the HBP, some said they were anonymous out of choice on their blogs, and others were surprised at this – why, if we’re all sitting there talking about disseminating research and creating wider intellectual discussion, would we not put our name to our arguments?

The reasons to be anonymous online – and by this I mean serious anonymity, like disguising IP addresses or using false email accounts – are usually about the personal, sensitive or potentially dangerous things being written about.  Some bloggers risk losing their jobs, particularly those working as whistleblowers.  Others want to write with honesty about personal or socially sensitive issues, and now that everyone gets googled before a job interview, anonymity is often the only way to do this.  If you think this could in any way potentially apply to you, then it’s worth considering anonymity, and reading the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s legal guide for bloggers.

Some academic bloggers do post anonymously, including a large proportion of the female science community in the US, mostly because of discussions about sexism and glass ceilings, such as this post from FemaleScienceProfessor.

Just because you’re not posting, say, as a serving policeman, or as a student in Cairo, doesn’t mean that it isn’t a good idea to at least consider being anonymous when you post.

However, I’ve decided against being anonymous at the moment, partly because I don’t think I will be posting views that would jeopardise my position now or in the future.  Being anonymous also undermines your efforts to build a community on your blog, and may deter people from contacting you: it’s ultimately an issue of trust, and if we want our thoughts to be respected and given weight, it’s worth putting our name – and the name of our institution – to our blogs.

The decisive reason for me to put my name to things over the last few weeks has actually been more personal.  As well as being taken more seriously by others, I think that being known as the author of my blog means that I’m far more likely to take my own writing seriously, and therefore to write more measured and thoughtful posts.  My stance would be: be aware of your privacy and how your stance on current affairs and issues is presenting you to others; it’s really important to think about the consequences of writing under your own name on your blog.  But if you don’t have to be anonymous, then don’t be.

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Filed under Blogging, Procrastination

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