Many moons ago when I started out, no one ever considered blogging under their real names. We all blogged anonymously. Who knew what sort of criminals and weirdos might be reading, after all? Over time, writing under your real name seemed to become a requirement, but I don’t agree with that. You should feel absolutely free to blog anonymously.
Before we start talking about this, I want you to go to Google and type in your first name, last name, city and state/region. Most of you will be able to find your home address and your family’s names within a couple of minute (unless you already use a service like ReputationDefender.com, which I recommend highly). I’ve talked to a lot of webmasters over the years who had someone track them down and show up on their doorstep. Luckily, in the cases I’m aware of, the person who tracked him down turned out to be harmless. But that wasn’t the case for Kathy Sierra, and she’s not alone.
I am stunned by the number of bloggers who publish their real names, their kids’ real names, and their kid’s daily schedules. These posts give me the shivers, because someone could totally track these kids down at an afterschool function. Whatever else you do, please keep your kids anonymous. And if you’re blogging about your families daily schedule, either shift some things around or be vague. I’m sorry to say it, but you have to learn to think like bad people, and read your blog from their perspective.
Remember: what happens online, stays online. Forever. For all to see.
3 ways of identifying yourself
You have three choices for how to identify yourself on your blog.
- Your real name: that when self-explanatory.
- A pseudonym: that’s a name that sounds like a real name, but just isn’t yours. Some people use a variation on their real name that isn’t as easy to track down in real life.
- Anonymously: that’s when you don’t even attempt to use a human sounding name. On this site, for example, I don’t put an author’s name on the posts, and in comments, my name just shows up as BlogALiving.
There are advantages and disadvantages to all three approaches.
Why blog under your real name?
First of all, let’s talk about why anyone would blog under their real name.
- You’re an expert. If you’ve made your real name well known off-line, you might as well make it well-known online. You have made yourself a brand, and from a security standpoint, you’re already exposed.
- You anticipate becoming an expert. Basically, this boils down to wanting to get your name out there.
- You want to get famous. If this is the reason your blogging, I think you’re probably barking up the wrong tree, but there you go.
- Trust. Some people feel you have to use your real name if you want people to trust you. I say this is silly. No one can tell a pseudonym from the real deal, and I think the public is well aware that writers often use pseudonyms.
Why blog under a pseudonym?
Because you want to build brand around yourself, but not expose your real name to the whole world. Authors have long used pseudonyms to avoid stalkers, or because they write about sensitive subjects, or because they have a day job and don’t feel their employers would get it. Bloggers should absolutely feel free to do the same. If your brand needs the personal touch, but you don’t want to expose your off-line life or family details to trolls, potential stalkers or criminals, using a pseudonym adds an extra layer of security.
Why I blog anonymously
- Your website is a business. While a lot of people blog to support a business, my blogs are my business. Therefore, it’s the business name I want to promote, not my name. Just as Amazon’s website doesn’t try to promote Jeff Bezos, my websites don’t need to promote me.
- I have diverse, unrelated websites. If people connect your websites through your name, then any of your websites can damage the “brand” of all your other websites. The way I do things, I can always link my websites to each other when it’s appropriate.
- My websites aren’t personal. My websites are very topical. I’m not talking about my parenting experiences, or the results of my personal finance choices. My readers don’t need to know who I am in order to evaluate my posts.
- I want to be able to sell my websites, even though I have no intention of doing that in the foreseeable future. Because my websites are topical and don’t rely on my head shots or my name, a buyer could take over, change nothing and just watch the ad and affiliate revenue roll in. That’s a valuable business which I could sell if I ever needed to or wanted to.
- Personal security. I’ve had a landlord sell my credit card numbers to criminals. I’ve had a couple of brushes with identity theft. There are so many ways we’re forced to expose our personal information in order to do business and function, but I don’t take any chances I don’t have to.
One final thing to consider
This may surprise you: if you blog anonymously or with a pen name, you can share far more personal details. When no one knows who you are, you can talk about all sorts of things without concern. Of course, you can’t guarantee no one will ever figure out who you are, so keep that in mind. But what if the topic of your site is dating, or frustration at work, or your political position on a controversy? Anonymity makes it easier to tell personal stories without worrying your co-workers or dates will find them. Sometimes you can build more trust on sensitive topics by going anonymous.
There’s no one right answer for everybody. You may even find you want to use your real name on some of your blogs, and blog anonymously on others. You should feel free and empowered to do what you need to do, whatever that is.