Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Benefits of Not Being Anonymous

or, "How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Internet... Hard, Fast, and Apologetic Afterward"

I love anonymous bloggers. The mystery of who they could be, and if I might have already met them at some point in my life, and the openness of their stories (names excluded, obviously). It's great. but not everyone seems to agree. In some cases, a lot of negativity is hurled at these people who want to tell their stories and still have some privacy, and that's kind of depressing.

From the day that I started blogging, I've been out in the open. Even before then, on message boards like 9thWonders and a few others, I've openly listed my name, birth date, and the area that I live in. Maybe it comes from years of low self-esteem, but I figured that nobody would choose to track me down for murder-rape and any other bad things. Even my Twitter handle is my first and last name, just like my blog URL. I gave up on internet privacy a long time ago, and haven't had to worry about crazy people since... well, except for Kelly and Ralph, but I've grown pretty fond of them and their kids.

I think that the mystery of those anonymous bloggers, alluring in more than a few cases, is the problem and not just the draw. Most people aren't really the type to let a mystery stay as it is, especially not one as "minor" as who the blogger could be. Sometimes that results in wondering about your interactions with people ("could _____ be that cool blogger?"), and sometimes people unfortunately take it to the dark side, and get a little stalker-y.

The problem is that this "minor" mystery is only minor to these people. To the blogger, the mystery is their identity, their everything. Anonymous users can be - and have been - tracked down by their "fans", making the paranoid attitude towards the internet that much more reasonable.

For two years, I've aired out my "dirty laundry", on this blog and in the earlier days of Random Ramblings, and haven't had any problems. Maybe it's because I'm an uninteresting asshat (I'm willing to keep that possibility open), but the lack of mystery might have an effect too, even if my small readership never really thought about it that way.

How did I make the decision to be publicly me? Because I figured nobody would care enough to stalk me. What are my results? Local friendships, a visit from Australia, and a fantastic trip to the east coast, with a lot of fun spending time with Matt, Nikki, Sohail and so many other cool people that I met through them. I've had nothing but good come from my openness so far, and hope that continues.

So, to all of the anonymous bloggers - I'd love to meet you some day, if you're anywhere near my part of Washington, and I love your blogs. The internet doesn't all suck, and not everyone online is out to destroy your life. Keep blogging, despite your bad experiences, and I'll keep reading.

To everyone else, thank you for your impact on my life. You all are fucking awesome.


In the interest of continued openness, I'm going to start sharing stories that I haven't told yet, or haven't told the whole story. I've got a few listed, so you can take your pick of which:

    • Life Without Religion
    • Worst Stripper Bar Ever
    • Never Again, Greyhound
    • Better Off Platonic
    • Verbal Diarrhea
    • When I Was "The Other Guy"
    • Stupid Orange Bastards
    • You Got Some Nerd On Me


Nonsensei said...



Anonymous said...

You Got Some Nerd on Me. That sounds pretty funny, as a fellow nerd.

The Tsaritsa a.k.a. Alexandra Naughton said...

Life Without Religion, please :)

Great post! I'm pretty open about who I am on the internet, though I am worried about someone from my past tracking me down :/ I don't mind anonymous bloggers-- anonymous blogging can be useful for some people, and I don't get why anyone would be mad about that. Lots of people have employers who they wouldn't want reading their blogs.

Justin Barlow said...

@Em - You've probably heard some of that. I'll definitely have to talk with a certain Australian to remember it all.

@Alexandra - Thanks! The idea came from some tweets I've seen over the last few months from some anonymous bloggers who get a few stalkers, and a lot of people trying to accuse them of lying, etc. I haven't said anything I'd be uncomfortable with my current boss reading - at least, not that I can remember - but I still don't know how I'd feel about him reading it.

kelly said...

Great post! I was publicly Me from the get-go (even use my name on everything ... so I don't have to be creative) - which is more dangerous as a woman than as a man. I didn't give it much thought 8 years ago when I started blogging. But I wouldn't trade it for the world, now. "What have I gained", holy cow I could write for pages and pages.

And if by "crazy people" you're talking about me stalking you on teh Riverisde bridge at oh-dark-and-foggy-thirty then yes, be afraid... be very afraid.

And the subject I want to hear? "Better off platonic"!

Anonymous said...

Worst stripper bar everrr.

Anonymous said...

I like Better Off Platonic, too.

anonymous still

Sarah said...

I vote you post all the stories, but if I have to choose - You Got Some Nerd On Me.

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