How I Lost my Voice: On Anonymity and Academic Blogging

Author: Psyc Girl
Original: Stressful Times


I haven’t been blogging much lately. And yes, these navel gazing posts about blogging and voice can be really irritating. For those of you who don’t want to read further, here is the TL;DR version:

I miss blogging, but I don’t know who my voice is anymore, and I miss true pseudonymity. I’m not sure what to do about this. 

A big part of the slowdown is the fact that several people I know IRL read my blog now – that means when I write I picture them sitting at home in their track pants reading my inner thoughts and feelings. Things that I might or might not want to share with actual people I interact with face to face on a regular basis. It’s like being tapped into my frontal lobe and I’m not sure how I feel about that all of the time.

There are also readers who know who I am from the blog – they don’t interact with me in a face to face manner on a regular basis necessarily, but they could follow the rest of my life online if they wished. And I follow their lives. All of these things I don’t really get that bothered by (I don’t have a lot of choice in the manner even if I was bothered, let’s be honest) but it does censor my writing, compared to 5 or 6 years ago when I was literally sending pseudonymous words completely into the unidentified blogosphere.

What if someone who reads the blog outs me at work by accident? What if someone decides they don’t like me anymore and they out me on purpose? What if that angry post from 3 years ago comes back to haunt me because someone is upset with me? I can’t help but think these things.

There is also the delicate balance between blogging the details of my “real life” vs. my pseudonymous, general writing. For example, early on I made the decision to never blog about my actual research area. Thus, Agricultural Psychology was born – I focus on cow studies, corn growth, and chick studies. These give me helpful labels with which to communicate the overall process of being a researcher – but it limits the exciting things about my research I can really discuss.

I also try my best not to blog about something I’ve said in person to strangers who could accidentally stumble across the blog (who I don’t want to). If I make a joke on twitter, I don’t make the same joke in class. If I tell a story to a colleague, I don’t tell it on the blog. And vice versa. Sometimes this level of censure gets difficult – but as I develop a more offline social network of professional support, I find myself preferring to turn to them in person vs. the blogosphere, if I have to choose.

Third, there are things I want to blog about that are very important academic causes to me – but doing so would make me more identifiable.

Both of these last two points relate to the idea of whether or not pseudonymity remains important to me. It gives me a great deal of freedom in my writing. And as much as people can say academic blogging is dying, I disagree – I know of 2-3 academics who, in the past year, switched from identifiable to pseudonymous blogging so they could have more freedom in their voice. And I know identifiable bloggers who will not touch many topics on their blog because they cannot (for whatever reason) attach their name to their opinions.

What do I want? I don’t know. I could remain the same. I could lock down any additional disclosures of my identity. I could be more loose with my pseudonymity and not care if I’m identifiable. I could blog under my name. I have been wrestling with all of these options since I became a faculty member – the only thing I seem decided upon is not blogging with my real name displayed. There are many topics I no longer write about – teaching, graduate student mentorship, my medical concerns, my love life – because I no longer have complete pseudonymity.

Fourth, I realized about 12-18 months ago that I was spending more time online than I wished. I wanted my focus to turn to my offline life. It was hard to really take a look at how much time I was spending attached to a screen and to let go of some of the online interpersonal connections that were very important to me. Twitter, in particular, has a short memory – after a year of less activity on twitter, including deleting twitter from my phone, I have much fewer interactions online. I miss them. But my offline life is a lot more consistent with the way I want it to look. I’m sad to have made one sacrifice for the benefits of the other. Less time online = less blogging.

Last, my career has changed. I still have issues and experiences related to academia that I think are helpful to others – I have no intention to quit blogging altogether – but I’m spending a lot more time crafting my career lately. I’m removing things, adding things, and reconstructing things. I suppose one could argue that I’m welcome to blog about those experiences. I’m finding, instead, I need to do a lot of these changes alone. I’m not discussing them with others, but instead quietly reflecting and tweaking solo.

To summarize: I don’t quite know where my blog is going. I know that I want to be blogging more. I think as my career changes, the things I have to share change. But my personal life will probably stay in the closet, at least until I figure out which voice to wear.

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