I love when a blog post goes viral — not because of the post itself, but through the conversation in the comments. That’s what happened in my Say My Name, Say My Name post earlier this week, when I asked you to weigh in when it comes to privacy, separating your personal blog from your professional life and branding your space.
First, I thought I’d share my take on the issue, then a few good points raised in the comments. And of course, I can’t let you read this without directing you to a few good resources, so settle in for a long one, folks!
A reminder — the question from Raya:
I am changing my blog (and, of course, my domain name) to simply be my full name dot com and I was wondering-since you’ve done the same-if you have any advice on putting your full name out there for everyone to see. My family is somewhat concerned (and I guess I am too, a little bit) about me using my full name. But my reasons for doing so are to create a “brand” of myself and get away from simply being a runner’s blog (of which there are sooo many). Have you had any safety concerns/issues/feedback on using your full name? And do you monitor your name in any way?
**Note: I think there is a difference between an anonymous blogger, who wants to keep all information (even first name) totally cloaked, and a private blogger, who doesn’t mind some basic info being public (photos, first name, etc.) but doesn’t want all of their personal details out there.
For purposes of this post, I’m talking about private bloggers.
A bit of disclosure…I am not only allowed to blog for my job, I’m highly encouraged to. My boss even prints this blog URL on my work business cards. I’m also a technology reporter on our nationally-distributed television show (check your local listings!) and I blog for the company on several websites.
(Two truths and a lie, anyone?)
All that is to say that by design, my professional life bleeds into my personal life, and I’ve built my career in large part on being recognizable. By name.
I completely understand that this is not the situation many of you find yourselves in. When I was working in a newsroom, as an active journalist, I don’t think I would have been encouraged to blog about taking pole dancing classes or being mad at Food Network. Oh, heaven forbid, show pictures of my belly! I don’t have kids to worry about, and I don’t share stories that are overly personal or controversial.
So my experience does not have to be yours.
I think that name privacy is overrated, in many cases*. For example:
- Look up your domain address here: http://www.networksolutions.com/whois/index.jsp
If you’re like most people, your name, address, phone number, email address and much more are right there for anyone to find anyway. (In fact, I looked up the domains for 5 bloggers I know try to be anonymous, and in 4 cases, all of their details were posted).
You can pay money to be hidden from that listing — via private domain registration (it’s offered by most of the major registrars like Go Daddy and Network Solutions) — but it’s an added expense that I don’t want or feel is necessary.
- Google your blog name and see what comes up.
Often times, especially if you are a really popular blogger, someone has outed you before — even if it’s by accident! All it takes is someone sharing your real name, and it’s there in Google’s memory forever. If it’s not your name, it’s your city or other identifying information.
Assuming that I will be out there, like it or not, I’d rather build up a track record of good content that’s associated with my name so I’m not worried or nervous about what happens when someone googles me.
- Social media is so prevalent now that it’s nearly impossible to keep things separated anyway.
Can it be done? Sure…if you don’t ever want to post your blog links on Facebook or LinkedIn. If you don’t want to have real-life relationships with people you meet over the Internet. If you’re prepared to never speak about your blog, publish a book, appear on TV or Radio or do anything else that might connect you to your website.
I try to be smart. I lock my doors at night not only because of potential Internet stalkers, but because of my potentially nutty neighbors down the street. I clamp down on privacy settings, protect my social security number and don’t share information that I think would make it easy to target me. I don’t blog about being home alone or post a lot of details about vacations until I’m back.
In the end, maybe it’s naive, but I just don’t feel that I’m putting myself in danger, or that I’m giving out much more information than would be listed in the white pages. And the upside of letting the world know my full name outweighs any potential risk.
*If you blog about something that’s so personal that you really don’t feel comfortable being named, I totally respect that decision.
So many good points, y’all! A few of my favorites:
Carly: You can easily find my full name anywhere on the Internet due to my work at two different newspapers and other various publications, so I never really thought twice about using my full name on something like Twitter. My name is also unique … I don’t have a “Jane Doe” name! Sometimes I do pause, especially when I see something like the Craigslist Killer, but I really have no reservations.
Sue: I’m very concerned about privacy, not only my own, but also my family’s. I’m not sure what my current or future boss and company or my BF’s current and future clients may think of my blog, as I started it just for fun. Blogging is my hobby, and I want to keep it separated from my professional life.
Nicole: I never say where I work in my blog or my Twitter feed. That way, I feel like the thoughts are my own and don’t necessarily reflect the organization where I work. As a health professional, I try to keep my blog posts and tweets evidence-based, but I do have some opinions that fall outside traditional nutrition/health science!
Marci: I do worry about privacy, but you know, it’s an Internet world. People can find my address by knowing my name whether they read the blog or not. As far as safety, I never take pictures of rooms or things in my house, or the front of my house, and always talk about trips when I return, rarely while I’m gone.
Michele: My profession and my blog are the two things I spend most of my time on in life, and I’m proud of both. So there’s little reason to try to be anonymous. Too much anonymity in blogging (unless you need to be in a witness protection program or something) should lead one to question whether what they’re writing should be public at all.
Amy: I have tried to conceal my full name on my blog because when you Google my full name you get work related documents/sites AND my blog. As I blog only as a hobby I don’t like my personal and professional life colliding.
Carolyn: I don’t really mind if people know my name, but I don’t think I’ve ever posted it in text on the blog. It’s been in screenshots of race results I’ve posted and such, but not really Google searchable. I prefer that potential employers not be able to easily find the blog just by searching my name.
- Anonymous Blogging 101 (via ProBlogger)
- Blogging Privacy (via Jessica Gottlieb)
- Does Anonymous Blogging Make Sense? (via Blog World Expo)
- In Defense of Anonymous Blogging (via Reappropriate)
- Lessons Learned From Starting an Anonymous Blog (via Jennifer James Online)
Final thoughts: like everything else with blogging, my feelings are fluid. If I felt like blogging with my name out in front was hurting me or anyone around me, I’d consider putting it all to a stop. When I have kids, I reserve the right to change my mind and/or treat their privacy differently than my own. And I really am taking all of your comments into consideration, so if you disagree with me or think I missed a valid point — let me know!
P.S. Someone made a valid comment about not wanting to show her home on the blog…so I thought y’all would appreciate this picture of Lucas in front of our house on Google Streetview. Privacy? What privacy?