Gagged

One problem with blogging rather anonymously is that sometimes it becomes difficult to impossible for me to have anything to say in this venue, when big things are happening in my job, or in some other aspect of my life about which I have chosen not to talk about here. So that’s the first thing on my mind right now, that big things have been going down, they have taken up a ton of my time in recent months, and there is very little I can say about it without giving away some of the details of my life that I have chosen to keep quiet. Let’s just say that this started with my moving house last summer, the first anniversary of which passed just last week. So 13 months of dealing with this thing has been rather annoying, every time I think I’ve sorted it all out something else happens, and I’m hoping for news later today that will let me see if and how this is going to get resolved in the future. And no, this is not something to do with my day job, which is very lovely and hunky-dory at the moment if a bit madcap busy. So there. The least informative update on the life of NFAH as there ever was.

(And don’t forget in the midst of this all I’m working through my permanent residency paperwork, which is another big thing keeping me busy. That’s something that I never really understood about living abroad until I actually did it: there is far more paperwork than if you lived in your home country. Taxes are complicated. Visas are complicated. Banking is complicated. Things that you would not normally think about living in your home country become huge time and energy sinks in a host country. So free time for blogging becomes a figment of your imagination!)

This does bring up an interesting point. I have, in the wake of the scandalous unveiling of a lesbian Syrian blogger as a married American man residing in Scotland, read various posts against anonymous blogging that have made me think about this quite a bit. I understand the point that if you are saying things that have political impact, it’s important to use your own identity. Similarly with science, medicine, and other such topics for which your background and position matter a great deal to your message. You might notice that, although I have a PhD and a Serious Scientific Job, I don’t often say much about the subject of science or medicine. If you know me and know what I do all day, you will also have noticed that I choose not to write much about the sector of the economy in which I work. Occasionally I can’t help myself, but I do actually try hard not to do so and certainly not to try and claim great expertise or authority in the subject since I am not revealing my face or position.

This makes things interesting. And I know people have varying view points on the subject. I don’t actually have a science or work blog, although I do have two Twitter accounts, one in my blog name and one in my real name. Most of the bloggers with whom I interact are using their own names and faces, although some do suppress some details (kids’ names, especially) in the interests of privacy and protection. I happen to know that if you desperately want to know who I am, there are enough identifying details floating around the four years of archives to figure it out, and I know that at least one person has. But I thought it might be worth revisiting the reasons for my standing behind the NFAH curtain. I wanted to talk about expat things without talking about my job. In my world of science, our names are very google-able and I wanted to keep this little expat blog project separate from that.

(As an aside, in the worst job interview I ever had for what turned out to be the worst job I’ve ever had, the person interviewing me had googled my name and came not just upon my various publications and things, but also on the website of my ex-husband all about pinball machines. At this point we had been divorced for five years and I was appalled to have him brought up in the interview!)

I’ve joked on more than one occasion that I have a grand plan that involves writing memoirs of my life in England at some distant point in the future when I’ve perhaps gone back to America (or not–but the memoirs would still be intended for an American audience). This blog is not actually likely to be much help with that, since there ARE so many things that relate to my job and my life over here that have NOT been recorded in any detail. I have tried hard to keep this about US-UK things and expat things, and other general life things that might interest someone who is interested in expat things (like my travels in interesting places like China and Australia). Yes, there are a few places where there are little hints to myself that may trigger my memory, especially in the very rant-y early years when things were a lot more difficult and lonely than they are now. But I’m quite interested in thoughts and feedback about choosing to be or not to be anonymous and pseudonymed in this context. I’ve clearly made my choice, and I’ve tried to explain why my real name is not plastered all over this blog. But I know lots of people have made the opposite choice, and I know plenty of people have negative views of my type of decision.

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8 responses to “Gagged

  1. Wow! Rant away… 😉 And although you didnt give much of an update, you did tell us a lot about you (but don’t worry, not *who* you are).

    I think anonymous blogging is fine, actually.

  2. I second pretty much your entire post. In fact, I’ve been toying with writing the same one. Now I will just link to yours.
    I chose to be anon on the web for privacy and security for myself and family. I knew what I was going to write. It is nothing I would not say to friends, which is why I am not totally anon, but it certainly isn’t popular opinion around here and I wanted someone who had an inkling to make problems for me to work for my ID. My theory is that the simple crazies would be too lazy or such to piece the clues together. If somebody really wanted to know who I was though, no amount of caution would keep me anon–remember that anon high end call girl? She took extreme precautions, but still had to out herself before some guy did.
    Sometimes I regret that I am not totally anon because I can’t write about some rather interesting stuff without breaching confidences. That is I have the limitations of both anon and ID. Still, my blog has made for a few interesting conversations that I wouldn’t have had if my friends didn’t know about my moonlighting.
    Regarding the concern that people might have about anon authority anon posts are less credible. Not that they aren’t true, but that you’d need other evidence. If I see some technical post by an anon author, even if I agree with it, I’d want verification or replication before believing it. That’s the responsibility of the reader.
    Short answer–too late–there are plenty of good reasons for being anon and in choosing anon we accept the limitations.

  3. As a fellow ‘anonymous’ blogger, (tho I know your real name and you know mine) I get exactly what you mean! I am not anonymous enough to blog about some of the topics that would make for good reading – but at least we both know enough to realize that we’re not all that anonymous really! I think my biggest regret is that I didn’t come up with a better name – Almost American works as a blog name, but not so well for my online nickname. I have recently started a blog related to my profession, and although I have a pseudonym there too it is really only related to the blog title as many of the people who visit that blog are colleagues and friends and they know the blog is mine. Having that blog associated with my real name could potentially be a good thing in terms of employment – I WANT people to know that it really is me writing it and putting all that work into it! Keeping it anonymous would be like publishing research anonymously!

  4. As seen by the previous comments, there are very few blogs that are truly anonymous. (I know who you all are.) That’s why many of the originally anon-blogs gave up and outed themselves. It’s just not worth it. Most bloggers (on both sides of the Pond) who vented anonymously were eventually found out and in more than a few cases, it caused major ructions in their lives.
    I just live by the motto that anything you write in the ethernet can be read and traced back to you.

  5. I try to be careful and have a dividing line between my personal online activities and my IRL work life. I don’t accept FB friend requests from coworkers, I don’t tell colleagues my personal email address or Twitter name (one exception: I freelance for a company in the UK and I was in contact with them via my personal addresses for 2 years before I started doing work for them), and only once have I told a coworker about my blog. My full real name is only connected to my Facebook and is common enough that it’d take someone a bit of work to figure out which Google results are actually mine – I’m even a conference center in Georgia! 😉

    Now that I’m about to re-enter grad school next month, I’m putting thought into creating my online “professional” identity to start preparing for my future career – a separate Facebook, separate Twitter, maybe even a new blog.

    It’s not that I really say anything online that I wouldn’t say in my everyday life (personal OR professional), it’s more a matter of my resenting the idea that employers think that what I do in my own time is any of their business. And since I’m entering the mental health field, there are considerations re: dual relationships, confidentiality, etc. There are some things my future clients don’t need to know about me.

    I don’t think there’s any one perfectly right or completely wrong way to handle online life (especially in the Social Networking Age). We all have to do what we’re comfortable doing. For me, that’s over-complicating my life with double accounts in order to have control over who sees what “face”.

  6. @ExpatMum, an excellent motto.

  7. I blog anonymously for different reasons. I happen to have a parent who is mentally unstable and has caused no small amount of drama in my life. I know full well that you can find out almost anything about someone if you try — and I try very hard to take great care to only write what I would be ok with on the front page (although I’m sure I’ve slipped a few times). But I’ve had to be cautious out of necessity — I don’t want this parent knowing anything about me because they would use it against me somehow as they have in the past.

    I do twitter under a professional account as well that is connected to me in academia and even there I don’t use my full name but I’m not as cautious because I don’t tweet about personal feelings, thoughts, details etc. In any case, it’s tough.

    I also want to protect my husband’s identity as well — should he change jobs or even in his current one, (and even though his name is about as googleproof as it gets — kind of like John Smith) I don’t want future employers to see what he does in his spare time or know anything about him other than what he chooses to share. The blog is mine and so it would be horribly unfair of me to cause him trouble in his work life based on something an employer found.

    That said, I try and keep it fairly innocuous and light and just a creative diversion and a place for me to process expat life 🙂

  8. I’ve been blogging only about 6 months. Writing about being a medicated mom can be controversial and I wanted to avoid too much contact with uninformed strangers. For friends and family – I’ve linked it to my facebook and everyone is aware that it is me. By remaining anonymous, I also avoid future employers from googling my name and discovering my health history. Whether or not these protections actually work – only time will tell, but they make me feel safer all-in-all.

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