Anonymity in Blogging

Some discussion here and there about some conservative blogger who outed some liberal blogger, then apologized for it later. People on the internet are anonymous, pseudonymous, and more-or-less real as they present themselves. Their choice–in theory I have no problem with any of these solutions. I choose to be upfront about who I am. Any enterprising sleuth could find my web site, my parish, my house, car, and family if they tried. (An amusing aside about someone in the Kansas City diocesan office several years ago who wanted to know who/what “Catholic Sensibility” was. All they had to do was scroll to “my parish” and look up one of many links to my parish’s web page. There I was, just as here I am now. But the person inquiring was clueless about all that.)

My wife gets nervous about internet connections. On a vacation a few years back, I talked about visiting another blogger. My wife was relieved no connections were made. She still views the world of the blogosphere with extreme doubt. It has led to some useful writing gigs, so that’s one good thing, in her thinking. Otherwise, I respect her wishes to keep family posts to a minimum. (She does thank all of you who posted in sympathy of Splinter.)

That said, my bigger problem is with bad behavior on the internet or off it. Cowardice is a problem. For decades I’ve seen and experienced it in parishes: people who prefer not to engage a person and want to make a big deal of bringing the pastor into it. This kind of anonymity is self-serving. People want to confront, but they demur going the direct route. They inflate their own sense of ego by drawing in the pastor, the bishop, or Rome. They want to hide behind others as they watch their dirty work being done for them. A cheerleading phenomenon.

Anonymity or pseudonymity works, traditionally, when a writer wants to poke at a powerful authority. A colonial American patriot, for example, might not want a legion of British soldiers tearing down a homestead. Understandable.

In today’s blogosphere, it’s not quite the same. You can get banned in Chinese cyberspace, okay. But largely, the government, the corporate masters, and the Church really don’t care nor do they take notice of critics. Some bloggers react by going after people they can touch or harm, or they attack with the intention of rendering punishment. Sometimes you know where the knife is coming from. And while I still part company with somebody like Deal Hudson on tactics (certainly ideology too!), the man is no coward because he’s not afraid to sign his name on the line.

It is a mystery to me why a few well-known Catholic bloggers have opted for pseudonymity given their penchant for attack. Oh, I can understand a spouse or family insisting on anonymity. My wife would definitely prefer I not use my real name and link to my real locations. The phenomenon strikes me as similar to the superhero alter ego. In a way, a man or woman becomes a different person wearing the mask, the costume, the pseudonym. If you’re fighting the minions of evil, fine. If the modus operandi is to disenfranchise one’s ideological adversaries, bad show indeed. It would be better for anonymous or pseudonymous folks to just refrain from attack unless they’re willing to sign their name on the line. Once I told an e-mail correspondent if they were unwilling to show their posts to their spouse and parish pastor, why would they expect me to take them seriously as a believer with a cause?

What does the commentariat here think? Do you read anonymous or pseudonymous blogs? Who are the best of them? What’s your take on not pushing your real name out there too much?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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9 Responses to Anonymity in Blogging

  1. I think there are many issues which need to be raised up.

    First, I do think there are times when one might want to be interactive with others, but, because of one’s job, they can’t be on the net with their own name. They might even be told this, but they are free to write if they follow that rule. I know some like this. I don’t think they should be silenced, but I also think, they are the best kind, if they keep consistent with it, so one can get to know them in a way, if not entirely.

    Second, I do think if there is no good reason not to, one should use one’s name. I know I use mine. I know many who do.

    Third, then there are the attack-cowards. I say they really need help. Pray for them.

  2. The only anonymous blog I read is Clerical Whispers. It’s good source of news items.

    My identity on my blog is right up front. It just never occurred to me to do otherwise. In my earlier days of commenting on others’ blogs, I did so with a screen name but now I automatically show up as Concord Pastor so it’s only a click to my page

  3. Susan Stabile says:

    I agree with the first two commenters. I dont’ tend to read anonymous blogs, unless it is clear to me there is a good reason for the author to be anonymous. My identity on my blog, Creo en Dios!, is right there and my “About Me” section links to my law school webpage. I present one person on the internet – myself – whether it be via my blog, facebook or law school page.

  4. Cautious Man says:

    All I really know about the bloggers I read, is what is on their pages. Whether they are identified with a real name or not, or provide personal information or not, their worth comes not from who they are (or how important they may think they are) but from what they write. I don’t have time to just read mindless attacks, no matter how they’re signed. There can be as many false accusations in a signed piece of writing as an unsigned one – sometimes more, if issued by some of the more self-righteous commentators.

  5. crystal says:

    I feel nervous about putting personal stuff on my blog – my profile has no info ecept my first name and country. What’s important to me is what people write in their posts, not so much what their personal lives are like, although I guess that personal ifo would shed some light on why they write what they write. Maybe I’m just a scardicat :)

  6. Ujin says:

    Thank you for the article! By my opinion the people who want be anonimous can do it. And we must respect their mind about it, becouse anyone can has his opinion about this in the world…

  7. Gavin says:

    I agree with crystal, although I don’t take blogging as a medium very seriously. If anything, it seems egotistical to put one’s real name – as though we should care what this person says because of who he is. No offense or disrespect, but who is Todd Flowerday that anyone should care what he says? I say let his ideas be his identity, and if Todd has fame on the internet it’s for his ideas and not his identity, location, or career.

    Public figures ought to publish full names, I would say. Only so that their comments can be identified as theirs. Examples are Rod Dreher (journalist), Bp. Sean, maybe Dawn Eden (author). But aside from someone who has outside work they should be associated with, I say pseudonyms are enough – although I despise absolute anonymity.

  8. Jimmy Mac says:

    In the interest of full disclosure:

    Jimmy Mac – Jim McCrea, Piedmont, CA.

    Adapted from the R&R favorite of my youth?

    “Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy Mac, are you coming back?”

  9. RP Burke says:

    I’ve always used my real name and an accurate e-mail address, believing that anonymous comments and complaints belong in the ashcan.

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