Monday 4 July 2011

Should I go incognito?

For a long time now, I've been wishing that this blog was anonymous. I want to be able to write things as they occur to me, without thinking of the social ramifications of what might happen if I wrote about them. And it sort of brings into question why I blog in the first place.

I love that I have this blog as a record of what has gone on in my life for the last 3 years. Even now, I read some of the posts from 2008 and realise how much my life has changed since then. What will it be like in another 10 or 20 years. So that's partly why I write it. To capture life in a diary. And sure, I could do that privately, but it's so much more fun to get other people's view on something you're experiencing, whether they agree or disagree. It's like having a global sounding board.

I also write it because I love to write. I had a conversation this weekend with two girlfriends (and I apologise to those girlfriends for referencing it here because I know they are uncomfortable with me regaling things that we might have discussed, even if they are not referenced by name. Another reason anonymity is good) and basically they, like many, many people, they don't understand why I blog. I think it's universally perceived as odd. A little weird. And during this conversation, I said that whenever I do anything I am constantly thinking in my head about how I would write about it.

That makes me sound awful. What about living in the now and enjoying life as it happens, instead of thinking about how you'll report back on it? It is truly messed up. But I can't help it. It's the way my brain works. As I see a beautiful sunset, I'm thinking about the words I might use to describe it. And if I see crazy people in London holding 'free hugs' signs, I'm thinking about how I might weave that into a blog post or story. (Dammit, I just used that one up.)

I don't necessarily want to be like this. I just am. Some people paint. Some take pictures. Others knit or bake or add up rows of numbers or jump off bridges attached to pieces of bungee cord. Different things make different people tick. I write about life as it happens around me. I write it in my head and if I don't get it out, my brain might quite literally explode.

And I wish I could write about it exactly as I feel it, instead of tempering it so as not to offend anyone or reveal to much or be too public (some might say I already am). Hence the reason I'd like to stop Home Office Mum and start fresh with a new blog where no-one knows who I am.

But there are downsides to that. It's nice to know that people read your blog. Call it massively narcissistic, but it feels great to know that someone somewhere in the world has read what I've written. I've got 41 people who subscribe to my blog. That's probably a paltry number by most standards, but that is 41 people who have actively decided to click and subscribe to my ramblings. To start afresh is hard. What about all the friendships I've made with bloggers? How do I let them know where I've gone to? Do I let them know or is that entirely defeating the object of the exercise of anonymity?

I'm in PR for God's sake. I know what it takes to build up a brand. And while my teeny tiny pathetic piece of blog real estate doesn't justify the word brand, it still has three years of history and credibility behind it. Starting afresh and anonymous just makes those three years disappear.

I'm in a quandary. Perhaps I shall leave this blog as it is and simply attempt to put all those words in my head into a different format. Like a book. Or perhaps I should use the anonymous blog I have already created but not posted to yet, to write about the occasional thing that I really need to get off my brain without anyone being the wiser. I can rant with impunity. Oh the heady freedom.

So fellow bloggers, WWYD?


part mummy part me said...

Wow, my thoughts exactly. There are so many things I want to write about but can't because my mum/hubby/boss read my blog.

Perhaps you can keep your current blog going plus write a secret, anonymous one? Or go traditional and get a paper diary for your deepest, darkest musings..

I wait with great interest to see what you decide. I myself haven't yet decided at all ;-)

laurie said...

you are describing me (and why i blog) to a T. my blog started out anonymous and grew less so by the week. it was hard to write about my life without saying here i live, or what i do for a living, and then when i got a book contract, all bets were off and it was completely non-anonymous.

and i do miss that--that ability to write more freely. now i worry about who might see it, or how someone might feel finding a posting that includes them. it's difficult. but it's not impossible, and maybe it keeps me kinder (and less whiney) than i would be otherwise.

if you move this blog, I will have to find it! i enjoy reading it. and for what it's worth, you are totally anonymous to me. i have no idea who you are...

Jenny Rudd said...

I think that is the problem with blogging isn't it? Like you, I would dearly LOVE to write about how much of a twat I think someone is or some of my more naughty antics. Unfortunately that's impossible as, like you, I've chosen the option to have people read the blog. Imagine, though, if you wrote a blog anonymously; you would write exactly what you damn well liked, perhaps you start to build a following, perhaps you mention to a girlfriend over a glass of wine that you have two blogs: this one, and your uncensored one and boom, everyone you know is reading about you shagging the gardener. I think the answer is to keep writing this one and keep an old school, paper diary by your bed for how you REALLY feel.

Helen @ business plus baby said...

One of the problems I find with all this blogging and social media is that, to be interesting, you have to put so much of yourself out in the public domain. Of course that's often good thing (except when you read a post when someone has shared too much and think "yeaughhh!") But I'd love to start a blog under a pen name just to have a bit of mystery for a change.

Couldn't you start a 'semi-anonymous' blog by starting an anonymous blog then emailing your loyal commenters and telling them about it, but ask them to keep your identity secret? The new followers you pick up after that won't know who you are but could still enjoy your blog.

Alice said...

For me, I think having a 'known' blog much outweighs the plus points of being anonymous. I put so much hard work into my blog I want people to read it - and I want to be recognised for the work I do! That does come with the annoyance of censorship though I do like to maintain a level of outspoken-ness; however I never post things about people I wouldn't feel comfortable saying to their faces.

nappy valley girl said...

I often feel like that too - there is so much I can't say in my blog, knowing that not only does my husband read it, but so do my father and father-in-law plus countless others who have randomly found out about it. Believe me, there are things I would love to get off my chest.

But, as you say, the trouble with starting a new blog is that you have to do that new blogger thing all over again. (Plus, there are those of us who enjoy your current blog, so please don't stop writing that one).

You could always write a post for that Blogonymous thing - you know, where you can write anonymously? Or, as Helen suggests, start a new blog and email some of your commenters to let them know about it privately.

InvisibleWoman said...

Try it and see - what have you got to lose?. I started a blog just for myself to get things off my chest and felt the interweb was the best place to hide it. I didn't want anyone finding a paper diary round the house. I've never mentioned it to any of my close family or friends and would be mortified if they came across it and recognised me!. But I love the fact that I've got something that's all mine and can be as frank as I like without offending anyone. If you add it to your blog list as one you follow, who's to know it's you?

Metropolitan Mum said...

I can only echo invisible woman - go for it! Just don't give up this one here, I'd still like to know where I can find you :) xx

Iota said...

I like the way you explain all this. I've been round these hoops in my head many a time. I've always decided against setting up another blog (either as well as, or instead of, my existing one) as it seemed too much of a loss to abandon my existing one.

The way I've come to terms with losing my anonymity (which I guarded and treasured carefully for a couple of years) is this. There is always so much, much more I could write than I do write. For every post I publish, there are scores that are floating around in my head, that never get pinned down into words. So I just pick the ones that are ok for public consumption as my blog stands, and don't pick the ones that would require anonymity. That is a constraint of some kind, but it's not a huge constraint given the number of floating posts.

If I ever wonder about writing something, I stop and think "of all the things you COULD write about, why write about this one?" As Laurie says, the advantage of not being anonymous is that it keeps you kinder. It can be a positive check, I think.

I've used blognonymous once - it was useful for a rant that needed to be private.

One thing, though, that I can reassure you about. I really don't think you need worry that your brain will quite literally explode. Not quite literally.

Lisa said...

I know exactly how you feel. I read some blogs where they write in the most derogatory way about mother-in-laws, neighbours and fellow mothers and worry for them. I would be mortified if I was to have a complete moan about a situation regarding a friend and then she read it. There will always be days when people drive you mad and it's very tempting to write about it, but once it's out there theres no taking it back and it may come back to bite you on the bum.
I may be tempted on an anonymous blog though. I started my personal blog to separate from business as I wasn't sure that potential and current customers would want to read about my moans.

Nicola said...

Yes, I think you should do it. But you MUST text me with your new anon. identity! Okay?

I agree that I would probably write quite differently if I knew that my real life friends weren't reading. I would probably be more savage, caustic, exploratory in my writing...just for the sheer fun of it.

However, saying that I am not sure how good they would feel in the long run.

Oh - I blogged ages ago about my stint holding a Free Hugs sign on Michigan Avenue in Chicago!!! Yes - I was to be pitied. But I would do it again in a heartbeat, because to be that far out of your comfort zone, to be that mortified and embarrassed, can be incredibly exhilerating. I would recommend it...


About Last Weekend said...

Love this post, I"m constantly thinking during the weekend about what I'm going to blog about on Monday, honing down a subject. But I used to do that when I was a journalist, thinking how will I make that into a story. A couple of friends used to tell me I needed to be more honest about what really happened on any given night but noone wanted to be the subject of that honesty so bit of a catch 22.

Unknown said...

Oh, what to do? Some really good advice from others so far esp. fact that non-anon is a good check on being kind and use of bloganonymous. I swore when I started my brilliant very funny blog with free wine advice that I would leave my family out of it. After all, they didn't ask me to write this blog. It was my choice. But. But, they've crept in because they are my life. It does mean they now read it and I still get asked by mother if swearing is ABSOLUTELY necessary...anyway, as others have said, please leave a forwarding address if you decide to move.

angelsandurchinsblog said...

Yup, totally relate to this. Not least because it's so easy to offend people who know you. So much of life is funny or poignant, and it's a blessing to be able to write about it. Having an audience is what differentiates a blog from a diary, so I can't really recommend sticking to a for your eyes only outlet for your writing. So if you do move please let me know!

Home Office Mum said...

Thanks to everyone for all your comments. Still mulling it over. For now Home Office Mum shall stay. But I'm not ruling out going incognito or starting up something entirely new. Will keep you all posted!

Muddling Along said...

Having been sort of anonymous when I started (didn't have my name but a picture of me), anon can be deceptive.

It turned out that despite having not told people about the blog that various friends had managed to find me and were reading so despite my best efforts anon wasn't really anon