At the meeting some people expressed the opinion that they didn't like the number of anonymous blogs in Cam23, and that, by extension, they do not like people having 'anonymous' identities online. This was an opinion that I've heard before, including during 23 Things, but it's one that's quite different to my own.
Thoughts personalWhen I started this blog back in June this year, I made the deliberate decision to make it anonymous. I did this for a number of reasons:
- Because it would be easy to change my mind and attach my own name to the blog, but impossible to do that in reverse. Initial anonymity was a good hedging-my-bets option;
- Because I felt that the blog started out as a place to reflect on Things, not a place to reflect about me. I didn't think that my opinions would be significant enough to librarianship or the world at large to warrant being traceable to me;
- Because I wanted to make my mistakes in private. This is my first blog, and my first real foray into Web 2.0 as creator rather than consumer, and I thought that if I'd be more likely to experiment fruitfully if I thought no-one could identify me with my errors.
Thoughts generalThere are a multitude of other reasons for remaining anonymous online, far more than those I cite above. Few of these seem to me truly troublesome, outside deliberate impersonation of others and attempts at fraud, although many may give those in positions of power and responsibility cause to think. If someone is blogging anonymously about a service which you suspect may be your own, I can understand that you might be interested to know who they are. But, equally, I can see why they wouldn't want you to know...
It's worth considering that there are many different kinds of 'not-using-your-own-name' on the internet - thus far I've been using 'anonymity' in an unhelpfully broad-brush sense:
- True anonymity in which there's no consistent identity and no trail: this might be posting comments as 'anonymous', without any identifying name or image.
- Complete pseudonimity, consistently applied. This might be someone with a clear online identity in one place or across several places, such that their views can be examined over time, though there's no way of working out who their offline persona is.
- Pseudonymous but identifiable to those in the know. A consistent identity with enough details relased that those nearby in the offline world can identify the person.
|'Venetian Carnival Mask' by gnuckx on Flickr|
Having multiple identities isn't a new, web-based phenomenon. It's something most people do in most of their lives: one persona for work, one for home; one for friends, one for family; one for older relatives, one for younger siblings... the list goes on.
Thoughts personal, reduxThese days, as you may have noticed, this blog isn't anonymous - my name, in all its distinctive-surnamed-glory, is up there in the profile information. So why the turnaround chez Girl in the Moon?
- I wanted to participate in Library Day in the Life, and my job title and role is so distinctive that naming or describing it pretty much names me. So I included my name and job title on the Library Day in the Life wiki, and described my job and place of work here on the blog.
- I got involved in organising the Cambridge Librarians TeachMeet through commenting on blogs as Girl in the Moon, but the organising, and the event, happened in the offline world. At that point it became silly not to associate Girl in the Moon with Katie, at least in TeachMeet spaces such as the wiki.
- Once I'd done that, there was little point really maintaining the pretence over here. These days the blog has a more general professional development and reflective focus, and on Twitter I've got to know a range of librarians some of whom I meet at CILIP and LISNPN events. If I'm going to network with people then they will want to know my name so it might as well be available to them.
- Ultimately, I feel more confident now, in my technical skill and in my opinions. I'm happy for people find this online me and associate it with the offline me they might already know. Social medai presences are said to be an important personal and professional marketing tool, and I'll be hunting for jobs soon, so every little helps.
- Oh, and it's also just easier not to have to self-censor identifying information.
Final thoughts (and a new cat among the same pigeons)At the CILIP New Professionals Day and the LISNPN meet-up that evening there was some discussion about the value of having one's own picture as an avatar. Clearly having a mugshot as an avatar makes it easier for people you've not met before to recognise you, but a comment was also made that it's good to be able to look online people in the face when communicating with them. Again, there seemed to be some hostility to people who have pictures of cats, fish, cartoons, or whatever else to represent them. Is it duplicitous not to reveal if you're fat or thin or blond or auburn or black or white or green? I'm not sure how much it impedes communication if your consistently used avatar is not actually *you*.
With my personal name online I wonder why I feel cagey about putting my face up there to match, but for the time being I'm staying a brown-ish book, not least because it's a tad more aesthetically appealing...
Bibliography of posts that have inspired this post:
Thing blogging, 'Batgirl and me, or, The disorder of multiple personalities'
The mongoose librarian, 'Who *was* that masked mongoose?'
Discovery, 'Identity Crisis'
Books make noise, 'The paranoid post - or why I enjoy Librarians as a community of pure spirits'
Phil Bradley, 'Yes, but what's your real name?'
Jack of Kent, 'On blogging pseudonyms'