Anonymity: Friend or Foe?

facelessI originally started this blog as a closeted gay man. It’s initial purpose was to talk about being closeted in the hopes that the self-reflection would eventually help me come out, and also that I might be fortunate enough to meet other gay men who would help me in my journey. At the time, I did not share my blog’s URL, or its existence, with any of my friends and family. This anonymity allowed me to speak my truth free from self-censorship. If I knew that people in my life were reading my intimate gay thoughts, if they were reading about things I am ashamed of and learning about my fears and insecurities, then I would be afraid of their judgment and their disapproval. So I directed my voice towards people who knew nothing about me and who were getting to know me for the first time through my posts. I suppose that sometimes opening up to complete strangers is easier than opening up to those who know us best.

Three and a half years later, not much has changed. To date, I have only given my blog’s URL to two of my friends. And I have very briefly discussed it with my parents. In fact, yesterday I let my mother see my blog for the first time. I let her read my post ‘My Love Affair with Peter Parker’ because she knows how much I love Spiderman and she has recently been very interested in my writing. So, otherwise, my blog is still mostly invisible to everyone in my daily life.

Today, my blog exists as much to help others who are coming to terms with being gay as it does for my internal processing and self-reflection. But in order for me to help people with my blog, they have to know that my blog exists. So I must draw traffic to my blog. Enter social media and… Facebook.

For some time now I have struggled with presenting my blog on my personal Facebook profile. This would immediately expose a wider audience to my message and thoughts. But although I do not hide the fact that I am gay from anyone, not hiding is very different from posting in-depth articles about the fact that I am gay for everyone in my life to see.

Internally, I am back and forth with this issue. “To Facebook Post, or Not To Facebook Post…” one could say. Part of me does not feel that my over 700 Facebook friends deserve to know the intimate details of my life. They don’t deserve a front row seat to an analysis of my soul. Even the ones I’m close to don’t deserve to know me in that way. What does that say about me? What does that say about my friends?

AnonymityIn our blogs where we write about personal feelings, desires and experiences, are we more comfortable remaining a faceless, anonymous voice meant only for strangers? Are our blogs meant only to provide people we have never met with our deeper truths, and not our friends and family? Do blogs that begin in anonymity due to fear and self-preservation eventually need to pull back the curtain due to increased pride and the inevitable need for courageous self-declaration? Is my message in any way diminished if my Aunt Ethel finally finds out that I sleep with other boys instead of pretty girls? Or is it just fear, once again, holding us back from evolving into all that we can truly become? Am I keeping my blog about ‘coming out’ in the closet?

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This fascinating conundrum was recently brought to the forefront of my mind by a truly honest post on a new friend’s blog. Check him out some time at Aaron In Wanderlust. And if you are curious about his post that got me thinking, it was titled ‘The Self-Censored Blogger’.

12 thoughts on “Anonymity: Friend or Foe?

  1. Interesting thought! I like the title, too. I hear you: blogs are the way to express our innermost ideas, and sometimes, knowing that you are ‘speaking’ to people you don’t know paradoxically makes it feel more compelling. However, I believe that anonymity isn’t always the best choice: why hide yourself, if you are wholly being yourself? Anyway, good post; keep it up!

    • Francis, thank you for your kindness and thoughts! I agree with you. I do want to always be wholly myself. It is an odd conundrum. We do need to be true to ourselves. But I’m glad you agree that it can be confusing. I know for some people who blog when they are closeted the anonymity can obviously be very important and freeing. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment.

  2. One of the best things about showing others (including family and friends) your blog is that usually the positive responses far outweigh the negatives. I’ve always loved the idea of starting a blog but never did it for fear of being judged, which sounds silly in a response to a man who has struggled with coming out as gay, but it’s true. Now that I have – I love showing everyone what I have to say and try to push my fears aside. I love writing and blogging and why shouldn’t I be happy with what I do? I believe there is going to need to be a point where you begin to share this blog with those around you. Whether that is now or in the future is up to you!

    • Jemma, I simply love your response. I love it’s optimism and honesty. I imagine that you are correct, that the positive responses will outweigh the negatives. I am proud of my writing so that is a fact to consider. As I wrote, its not even so much as being afraid of negative responses, as it’s about who I want to share the intimate details of my life with. I’m still working that out, but I agree with you. I have slowly started to share my blog with people in my life. I’m sure that will advance from here. And, as you say, the choice, and the future, is ultimately up to me. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and positive energy with my blog!

  3. Great post. Just like you, I’ve had reservations about allowing those who know me personally to view my blog. Some days I’ll write and think, “I should link this to my Facebook”, only to feel terrified at the thought of my friends and colleagues reading other posts. Those that are secret and reserved only for those who know me from here. I think it’s self preservation. We all need a place where we can be utterly and completely ourselves. This is that place, for me.

    • Exactly. You completely understood where I was coming from. Some of my posts I would more freely link to Facebook, but then I think of others just as you mentioned. I love several of your sentences in your reply. ‘…secret and reserved only for those who know me from here.’ I love that. I completely agree! I’m glad your blog provides you with a place to be ‘utterly and completely’ yourself. I also feel that way in my blog.

  4. I know what you mean. Sometimes I voice pretty strong opinions about religion, politics and sexism on my blog and I always wonder if there’s going to be a backlash from some of my real life family and friends, especially the ones I haven’t openly talked to about being an atheist. So far it’s been fine though and obviously it’s not at all in the league of revealing details about your sexual orientation to people though. I also found talking about my health and weight loss journey very daunting because I had to fess up to everyone (and myself) just how unhealthy I’d become. Oddly enough though the post I was the most nervous to share was one that I wrote about female body hair: http://wherethewildthingsare14.wordpress.com/2013/03/11/on-female-body-hair-and-why-it-just-isnt-fair/. Overall though I’ve found sharing my blog positive and I’m always amazed by how many people I know actually read it.

    • Abbi, thanks for sharing your thoughts. You make a great point. Our religious views, or lack there of, weight issues, body hair issues and talking about coming out are only a few things that can be stressful to open up about through our blogs. I don’t think enough about how brave bloggers are, but we really are gallant, aren’t we? Congratulations to you for all the bravery and strength you have shown by sharing your life on your blog. I tip my hat you, good lady! :-)

  5. Adam, like always you never cease to amaze me! In answer to your question, I think that each blogger needs to identify how they share information on their blog, and decide how to share it in a way that fits their style, but, also makes them comfortable. While it is very important for individuals to promote their work, sometimes it is fear, as you mentioned that holds us back. I have found, through my own experience, that posting links to my blog on my personal profile pages increases the amount of readership of my blog. For a long time, I debated whether or not it was appropriate for my friends and family to read my postings. Eventually I realized, that while I feared everyone would know my truths…only a select few have been interested in reading about my life. Like articles available in print publications…society has the ability to read what they want, when they want. As long as you are okay with “society’ reading about you…should it matter that the people closest to you not share in your experiences, emotions, triumphs, or tragedies? Removing your personal “fear” allows you to be true to yourself. Not that remaining anonymous is “hiding” it is just about accepting that some people will disagree, and some will agree with what you have to say, and being okay with that. Often, I do not share the very intimate details of my life in my postings—while I do share personal stories, I do not mention exact names, locations, or private details, as a way to protect myself and others. Ultimately, the choice is up to you—but, personally, i do not think you’ve written about anything too personal that you should be ashamed of sharing. In fact, your writing is very beautiful, and it inspires and encourages your readers to look at the world differently. to appreciate each other, and live more fully. Nothing wrong with that my friend :)

    • As always, thank you my friend. Your replies always make me feel like I am on the right track with my posts. With each new day I feel more and more sure that one day I will probably share my blog on Facebook, more than anything, because I do feel that I have important messages that are worth sharing. Internally, I will just have to work out any nerves, valid or not, that exist. I suppose you are right about the fact that none of my posts have been anything to be embarrassed about due to over sharing. And I would never use anyone’s real name or too much personal info in my writing. If I can inspire even one person to ‘look at the world differently’, as you said, then I will feel very honored and lucky. Thank you again.

  6. Hello again, great post. Such a big step sharing your blog with your mother. I’m curious if you ever do share on Facebook, what the reaction of your friends might be. Positive I’m sure. But always stay true to yourself and remember who you’re writing for. I would not be brave enough to share mine on Facebook as it would definitely hamper my writing.

    • Aaron! I’m so glad you liked it! Thank you for letting me know your thoughts. I thank you, yet again, for helping to inspire this post in the first place. It was a big step sharing my blog with my mother, and I barely thought about it when i was doing it. I guess that shows how far I have come. I’m still not sure if I will ever post this blog on Facebook. Something tells me that it will eventually be inevitable. Who knows? But I appreciate your support. I hope we talk more soon.

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