Do You Use Your Own Name While Blogging?

Bloggers practice varying levels of privacy when revealing personal information on their blogs. Some people are comfortable revealing their names, contact information and pretty much everything else, while others can go to the opposite extreme, use pseudonyms and in general be very protective of their identity.

In many cases privacy concerns arise out a greater fear of revealing too much personal information in case someone decides to come after you in anger (if you think that’s ridiculous, you haven’t been the target of such incidents – it’s very real, if not frequent).

However, as professional bloggers, there’s also another concern – do we want our names attached to our most controversial opinions / most personal thoughts?

I wrote about this last year in an article on managing reputation in which a lot of people gave good advice on how to deal with a situation where your personal blog can become a liability when people search for you online (especially if they’re looking to hire you).

In the comments, a Performancing reader linked to an article he’d written in 2005 about the same problem, albeit from a different perspective. Of note:

I remember telling someone at a dinner party years ago how, “Even though it’s after work, and we’re friends, for better or for worse, I still represent my employer, right now.” The response was an incredulous, “Are you serious? How can that be?” I went on to explain that, “If I act like a fool, you will form the opinion that my employer hires fools. If I act unethically or immorally, you will form the opinion that my employer hires unethical or immoral people. If you are a customer of my company, or were considering being one, or you yourself work for a company who is a customer, how would this impression influence your decision or recommendation to do business with my company?” From the pause that followed, I could tell that he got the point. Even though I was “just an individual contributor” working for a large corporation, I was representing my company even when I wasn’t working, even in times that many people would consider my own very private, personal time. And this was long before blogs existed, let alone popular.

He’s absolutely right – just as a person you are responsible for your own actions, you are also responsible for how your actions and words reflect on the people associated with you – whether they are your family, your co-workers, your employers (or employees) or even your religious or social community.

You might not like it, and you might not judge other people this way, but that is how most people make quick decisions and form biases. It’s not just about blogs, it’s about how we are in our daily lives.

But getting back to blogs, this raises an interesting question – I have a strong desire to use my own name everywhere and not ‘hide’ behind pseudonyms, but several times this policy has gotten me in trouble (a case of mistaken identity, or just because someone read something on my personal blog that they didn’t agree with).

The underlying lesson is that if you are pushing to use your own name and reveal personal information online (or anywhere else), you have to be prepared for the consequences and own up to what you say (whether it’s on your blog, in the comments of another blog, a forum thread, in a conference or even an email). Otherwise, you are best off by using a pseudonym or hiding your identity as much as possible. I used to think that it was the cowardly thing to do, but it’s not about being brave or not, it’s just a decision you have to make about which set of consequences you are willing to live with.

So what about you? Do you use your own name everywhere online (especially when you’re blogging), or do you take on a pseudonym and play it safe?

6 thoughts on “Do You Use Your Own Name While Blogging?

  1. Actually, now that you mention it, there was one time I left a fairly controversial comment on a blog, and someone who disagreed with me followed me through to my own blog, discovered I was from Northern Ireland and left a comment claiming I must be some kind of terrorist sympathiser! Painting with broad strokes there, I assure you!

    So I can imagine that there are instances where that Wikipedia entry has caused you problems.

  2. Well, not in *trouble*, but I’ve had a few people I’ve worked with ask me about it, and I guess there must be several others who read my blogging on seohotline, searchenginejournal or here and googled my name to find that page and formed an opinion about me on the spot.

    While writing on soccerlens I’ve had that ‘case’ thrown in my face almost everytime I write something controversial, so while it hasn’t been trouble I’m more than aware of how it can shape the opinions of your readers.

  3. That _case of mistaken identity_ sure is scary. Have you ever been into trouble because of that?

  4. I absolutely use my name for most of my blogs, I find it creates a level of trust between me and my community. There are benefits, for instance, people have sought me out and offered me jobs after reading my blogs. But it also has downfalls – like that messy little stalker incident. I suppose if someone wanted to give me a Google, he or she might turn up more information than I care to share. I do try and be careful about things. For instance, when I register for a domain I don’t use my real address or phone number. I also don’t name my town or even state unless absolutely necessary. When I blog about my family, I do my best not mention names, ages or schools. I think it’s one thing to have an online presence, but I believe in leaving private details to be private.

    With that said, there are a couple of blogs in which I only use “Deb” or blog anonymously. Those aren’t blogs where I give out advice however, those are more for celebrity blogs and fluffy stuff. It’s easy enough to find out which blogs they are though, I’m not doing it in secret.

  5. I started blogging with a pseudonym but have since deleted that blog. The only difficulties I have encountered in going from ‘secret identity’ to ‘known individual’ is criticism from individuals who noticed a shift in my blog content. For me, the experience of writing under a pseudonym, was negative. I found myself writing to match the expectations of my readers. Now, I write to satisfy my own goals and I have gained much personal satisfaction from this. I have also been able to develop some strong friendships online because of my openness. However, my cardinal rule about blogging is to not get specific about my professional life. For me, that would be unethical.

    However, I do not deny that there are many that require the guise of having a pseudonym. An online friend of mine recently had to shut down her blog due to an onslaught of the nasties from a number of individuals out in the blogosphere. For her, keeping her identity secret is now of utmost importance.

    I think writing online needs to be approached with an understanding of ’cause and effect’ realities. Anything can happen out here.

  6. I use my name everywhere online. I’m a co-host of a podcast with some colleagues and our show is not for young listeners. We established this early on in our endeavor. If a person decided to “research” me online to see what I’m like they may form a negative opinion of me after listening to our show. Maybe not though.

    I do have a (offline) day job that I keep completely separate from my online world so I wasn’t worried about my offline and online worlds merging but maybe I need to rethink that. I’m not a gambling guy. Thanks for posting about this.

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