Is Blogging Anonymously Just an Online Urban Myth?

Cate Sevilla writes...

One of the biggest issues that every blogger will eventually face is the subject of privacy. How public do you want your personal blog and thoughts to really be? Even with new blogging websites that offer different privacy settings, such as Vox, many people are still getting "caught", and thus jump from one blogging platform to the next. Is privacy on the internet even really possible? Personally, I used to think that people who wanted privacy online were just paranoid.

With Myspace having an option to have a private profile and only allowing your "friends" (all 345 of them) to view your super neat widgets and totally awesome, pimped out "Pre-Made Layouts!!!1!!", I was very against private profiles. My reasoning? It's the internet. It's an online community that you voluntarily join, and voluntarily upload your drunken self portraits, and are therefore choosing to thrust your identity out into cyberspace. If you make everything private, than what really is the point of having something online?

However, after months of scowling at "You must be this person's friend to view their blog/profile" messages, I finally saw the light. Internet communities, message boards, and forums are just filled with people. The public. Anyone from anywhere. Then I thought, in real life, how many people do I know? How many people out of that number do I actually trust, and think are normal? Then I thought about all the people I "know" online, and I came to the realization that the Internet is actually just a breeding ground for crazy. Just because someone has a cute (and potentially fake) photo as their avatar and uses a clever pseudonym, that doesn't actually mean that they're sincere, nice, or even who they say they are.

After having my own personal Single White Female Internet experience, I had a much deeper respect for those who have private profiles and are struggling to blog anonymously. However, at the same time, I think people don't exactly have a proper grip on how to exactly remain anonymous. It can be tricky, and tedious, but it is possible. The problem is, is that when people initially say, "Oh I'm gonna start one of those blog thingies, but I don't want anyone to know who I am!" they don't really understand that they're potentially making the decision to start an unwanted trail online, if they're not careful. Most think they can just hide behind a fake name, and still remain anonymous. People also seem forget that if they really wanted to remain anonymous and don't want to face the consequences of their boyfriend or boss finding their blog, they need to really contemplate if it's worth posting a photo of them self just to get an ego stroke from their blog's audience?

There's a lot of advice for new bloggers online on how to remain anonymous. There are even blogging platforms that are focused on allowing their users to be as anonymous as they wish; the best of which is Six Apart's Vox. With six different privacy settings, and the ability to hide certain aspects, or all of your personal information, there's no reason why your own personal blog stalker should be able to find you. However, if you have a blog post set as public, and then decide that maybe you should just keep it private, it can be too late. Even if you freak out and delete your public blog entirely, it can and will still show up in Google as a cached page, or in other blog directories such as Technorati. Also, keep in mind that all email addresses, screen names, pseudonyms, and last names can and will leave a trail all over the Internet if entered into a forum, or even a blog comment. Therefore, just taking the time to create a new email address to use on Vox, or whatever else blogging website you use, can make all the difference.

I understand why people try to keep their personal blog private, especially if your family, work, or partner won't be too happy about what you're writing. However, we can't forget that it comes down to personal responsibility. When you make the choice to write about your personal life on the Internet, it must be kept in mind that whoever or whatever you're writing about, has the potential to be read by anyone, if you're not careful. (Have we learned nothing from Dooce?) Privacy when blogging isn't an easy task, however, it is possible. Ultimately, if there's the possibility that you'd be risking too much by writing online, you may have to stop and ask yourself why you're not just writing about your evil boss in a Word document where no one will ever find it.

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