On Anonymity, Twitter and The Problem With Blogging

I’m quite a shy person. That admission might surprise people who know me, as I’m also fairly confident in many ways. Especially professionally. But probably my biggest weakness is caring too much what people think of me. Especially people who don’t matter. That makes me hold back at times, and makes me shy and nervous in certain situations.

And it’s that which makes me crave some anonymity online. That way, I feel much more free to share my emotions or intimate details of my life, without the fear of being judged by people I actually know, who might end up seeing me in a different light. Even though that’s probably unlikely, since my writing is very true to myself. But nevertheless, I worry about what people might think of me.

I’m clearly not anonymous here. The site is plastered with pictures of me and my son. I’ve given our real names (although I haven’t shared our surname, in order to google-proof myself that way) and identifying details of our lives for anyone who actually knows me.

And I like it like that. Honestly, I do, despite what I’ve written above. I’ve done completely anonymous blogging before, and it doesn’t really work. That’s the problem with blogging. You have to be genuine. It’s glaringly obvious when you’re not. And pointless to boot.

But the other problem with blogging is that to get the most out of it, you need an audience. Otherwise it becomes just like publishing your personal diary or journal online. I know that is how most of the content of this site started out, and I was completely honest when I said that readers or no readers, I’d still write for me. I think I’ve proven that!

But behind the decision to make this public was not just a desire to share an honest account of pregnancy and parenthood with diabetes. It was also a desire to attempt to engage in a community. But that desire turns out to be slightly at odds with the desire to restrict my readership to people who don’t know me and maintain my online partial anonymity.

I know that Twitter and Facebook are, these days, at the heart of online communities. The problem with both of these is that they are full of my real life friends. Advertising my blog on these platforms is like an open invitation for friends and family members to pop along and gawp at all the details of my life that I may not have mentioned in person.

Starting a new Twitter account is a solution that I’ve considered. But then, how do I create followers there? If it were that easy, I wouldn’t be having this problem! Simply following people and hoping they follow you back hasn’t worked on Twitter since around the time I first joined, over 5 years ago. I know the answer is to engage in conversations, but that is something I find difficult. When I send @ replies to people who already follow me, they often don’t get a response. And I’m not entirely surprised by that as there must be plenty of other people who struggle with Twitter in the way that I do: I feel a bit like I’m standing in the middle of Grand Central Station having multiple conversations shouted through me. And some of the conversations are between one person I know, and another I don’t and whose voice I cannot even hear.

So the problem is this: How do I engage readers and participate in community without relying on Twitter and without compromising my desire not to have my family and friends stalking everything I write?

I think the answer is that I can’t. Something has got to give, and my guess is that it will be my anonymity. After all, I don’t want to stop blogging. And is it even right that I’m prepared to share so much so openly without telling the people who really matter?


3 Replies to “On Anonymity, Twitter and The Problem With Blogging”

  1. Sorry I don’t have the answer to this, but I do share your dilema. My blog Twitter and Facebook are separate from my personal Facebook account and I quite like that. I assume that whatever I publish may be read by people I know, but in reality my diabetes blog is generally not read by my real life friends, which I quite like. Somehow it’s easier to be really honest with internet people than real life people.

    And in the spirit of not lurking but actually providing some feedback, I wanted to say thanks for your blog. I’m 6 months pregnant and it’s been really great to read your stuff. Its been so useful to hear what someone else went through. I did laugh when you decided to discharge yourself halfway through induction – only because I can see myself doing exactly the same thing. I’ve pre-warned the husband to have a blockade ready near the lifts!

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