No one can deny that blogging as a concept has exploded. Blogging statistics are probably meaningless because so many people start blogs only to abandon them in their infancy. Also, blogging appears to have grown exponentially, and numbers like that are hard to track. However, Technorati reported back in April (in blogging terms, ancient history) that they were tracking 35.3 million blogs. Technorati estimates that the blogosphere doubles every six months. If that figure is correct, then Technorati is probably tracking in the neighborhood of 135 to 140 million blogs.
I wonder how many of those bloggers choose blog anonymously.
When I began this blog in January 2004 (yesterday marked the third anniversary of my first post), I made a conscious decision that I would use my real name. I decided that I would own everything I wrote and not hide behind a fake identity. I also decided that I would not blog about something that could come back to haunt me in terms of career or family. After all, my name is on this thing, and a simple Google search for my name yields this blog as the number one result.
Not everyone who blogs feels comfortable using his or her real name, and indeed, I didn’t always feel that way either. But I have to admit the degree of discomfort displayed by some bloggers makes me wonder why they don’t just write in a paper journal and hang up the blog. For instance, some blogging software and sites, such as Xanga and Livejournal, allow users to block anyone who isn’t one of their “friends” from even viewing the blog. I have to admit that the harder a blogger friend works to remain private, the less likely I am to read his or her site on a regular basis. Logging in is just too much trouble. I like being able to keep up with my blogs on my aggregator, Bloglines, and anyone who makes that difficult for me to do probably doesn’t get read much. I haven’t found a host yet who I can’t make work with Bloglines — Xanga, Livejournal, Diaryland, WordPress.com, Blogger, Typepad, Edublogs.org, .Mac, MySpace, and various blogging software programs, such as WordPress, Movable Type, and many others all have RSS feeds or can create RSS feeds through services such as Feedburner.
At this point, everything I do online is done with my real name. In a time when many are concerned about eroding privacy and even safety, this may seem supremely foolish, but it is a choice I made knowing that nothing I put online would really be private anyway. If living with Steve Huff has proved anything, it has proved that all it might take is one person to put the pieces together and figure out who I was to blow my cover completely, as happened to notorious sex blogger Abby Lee (Zoe Margolis) whose career may be in ruins as a result. She’s not the only one who has been outed. Texas teacher Becky Pelfrey claims she was outed by her husband’s ex-wife, which led to her subsequent dismissal/resignation (depending upon the source). So I guess to my way of thinking, if you’re going to put it out there online, you may as well embrace it. Otherwise, I don’t think it’s wise to bother. There are all kinds of tools that savvy people know how to use to find things you thought you deleted. Nothing you write online really goes away unless you know how to keep search engines from caching it. Heck, even then, there is probably someone out there who knows how to find it.
I guess what I’m saying is that while I understand the need for secrecy, I don’t understand the need for hiding your identity and at the same time writing online. The argument can always be made that if you don’t want people to know you wrote it, you shouldn’t put it online. The good news is that the average person doesn’t know how to find cached blog posts or break through password-protected entries; however, if you are outed in a spectacular fashion, even if you delete your blog, those who know how will instruct others on how to access your blog. As a species we love dirt. Be careful about putting your dirt online, and if you can’t restrain yourself from doing so, maybe you want to ask yourself if you need to be blogging. I think the point of blogging is sharing your thoughts, and if you have to hide behind super-secret passwords in order to write, maybe writing online isn’t for you.
[tags]Technorati, blogging, Abby Lee, Becky Pelfrey, Zoe Margolis, anonymity, secrecy[/tags]