Who Am I?

Lately there’s been a lot of talk about anonymous blogging, most loudly because Google+ was requiring “official” names, and even before that I was feeling a little sketched out by the fact that once upon a time I connected my pseudonym with real name. Over the years, Google introduced products and services that conflated those identities (Blogger, Picasa, Buzz) and made it hard for me to reconcile the 19 year old wasting time between classes with the mid-20s job hunter in the time of an economic crisis.

Anecdotally, shortly before Google+ was launched on a half-asleep and unsuspecting public, I made the mistake of falling into the trap of believing that one chick’s blog who turned out to be a dude (there were a spat of these, but the one I’m referring to is the gay girl in Damascus, purportedly written by a Syrian lesbian blogger but in actuality written by an American grad student… dude). I felt deeply betrayed and deceived. I am also perfectly educated about issues of legitimacy and source reliability, which is why the fact that I believed in this fake person for as long as I did stung as much as it did.

When I told a friend about this, she shrugged, pointing out that it’s a blog, what did I expect? I thought about this. I expect great things from blogs! Contrary to what my somewhat rusty blogging skills might demonstrate, I’ve felt at times that blogging was the place where I’d reached my best in terms of expression. Some of the best parts of myself resided under a pseudonym. I grew up with a specific handle, came out, gained a reasonable comfort level with letting the people I actually knew see the blog. And as I went through grad school and became a young professional, my “unoffical” blog became the practice grounds for statements, concepts and ideas I was willing to make as my professional self.

I began to realize that I rehearse my authentic self through my “anonymous” identity.

I got to this blog post by Bernie Hogan via danah boyd, who puts it this way: “If these [names and pseudonyms] were mine, then the choice to blend them or keep them separate is mine. Real names and third-party curation takes away that choice. In their place they offer many advantages, but freedom is not one of them. And that’s why the imposition of one name, one network for all is an abuse of power. “

Bernie was reacting to danah boyd’s blog post that’s been my rally cry of one the past few days: “Real Names” Policies are an Abuse of Power. What she says, “The people who most heavily rely on pseudonyms in online spaces are those who are most marginalized by systems of power,” rings very true in the context of my life as I picked a pseudonym that served as the home base for the person I was learning how to be.

So let me see… I’m not trying to write a thesis or win an argument. But this is what I believe: with the freedom of anonymity comes responsibility. I understand that you can’t trust the legitimacy of my voice based on this post alone. But I would like to establish an “anonymous blogger’s code of ethics” with you, the reader. Such a code of ethics would include the following statements:

  • I am who I say I am. I have done what I have said I’ve done and experienced what I have said I’ve experienced.
  • I do no harm. This is almost spoof-worthy at this point given the whole Google “don’t be evil” thing. But seriously, my intention is never to slander another’s personhood or aspect of that personhood. I’m a thinker in the middle part of doing the thinking, and I prefer to speak kindly to the universe.
  • I do not waste. Generally I think before I write. I am leaving a digital footprint, and I want to make sure it is considered. I’m a soft-spoken person who doesn’t talk a ton anyway, and I’m careful with my words.
  • Basically, I won’t write anything I wouldn’t be proud to show my own mother.

So for now, that’s me.

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