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Anonymous Blogging 101: a Quick and Dirty Primer

A Guest post by Treacle from The Lingerie Addict.

When the internet first became popular, many people loved the idea of creating a new identity online. Name, gender, age, hobbies …anything and everything could be fabricated. But in the era of Web 2.0, people have a new fixation–authenticity. Nowadays, your readers want to know that you are who you say you are, and for a lot of bloggers that includes using your real name.

But some folks, for one reason or another, just aren’t comfortable attaching their given name to a blog. Perhaps they’re blogging about sex or eating disorders or unfair corporate policies, but whatever the subject, the one thing they all have in common is a behind-the-scenes writer who wants to blog freely but not have to worry about some of the potentially negative consequences of blogging.

As one of those anonymous bloggers, I want to share with you the reasons why some people choose to blog this way, a few different methods to hide your identity, and a couple of things to keep in mind if you decide to go the anonymous route. Because this article is just a basic primer, we won’t talk about proxy servers, re-routing, and all the other technologically elite methods of making your online trail invisible. As the title says, this is simply a “quick and dirty” guide for people who want to know how to get started.

Why Blog Anonymously?

  1. Privacy & Safety—An anonymous blog allows for the most complete separation between your blogging life and your personal/professional life. For example, the once anonymous author Belle De Jour completed her PhD and began her career as a scientific researcher while blogging about her other job as a sex worker. Being public with her identity from the get-go would almost certainly have limited her career options. As another aside (and this is especially true for bloggers who write about sensitive subjects like sex, sex work, and pornography) blogging anonymously helps to control the risk of stalkers—those people who are determined to pay you unwanted and uninvited attention. Finally, anonymous blogging makes it clear that you’re only writing for yourself; your place of employment needn’t worry about people thinking you’re a “representative” of them.
  2. Honesty—Anonymous blogging allows some people to be more than honest than they might be if their real name was attached. For example, if you’re writing a blog about relationships, you may not want your name attached to that essay about your terrible date over the weekend. A blog identity that’s separate from your personal identity gives you a bit of breathing space that lets you write more openly and honestly.
  3. Personality & Character—Writing under a different name allows you to express different aspects of your personality, including parts that may not be appropriate to show at other times. In the same way that Superman was a cooler version of Clark Kent, your blog identity can be a cooler version of you. For example, my alter-ego Treacle is mellower, sexier, and more outgoing than the chick who shows up at my dayjob. Writing an anonymous blog gives me permission to play because I’m not dealing with the constraints of my already established “mundane” personality.

Ways to Blog Anonymously

  1. Full-on anonymity—This style of anonymous blogging uses an obviously fake name (think John Doe), no photographs, no birthdate, no city, no hobbies, nothing identifying whatsoever. This is actually how I started blogging, and I don’t recommend it. Unless you are really, really, really good…it’s hard for people to feel attachment to a question mark.
  2. Semi-anonymity—In this type, you use a false name but share some identifying details. This is how I blog right now. Treacle isn’t my given name, but the photos of me are real. So are other details like my hobbies, interests, relationship status, and so on. You might call this “everything but anonymity,” as in I share everything but the name on my driver’s license.
  3. “Secret identity” anonymity—I know of quite a few anonymous bloggers who do this. In this style, you choose an authentic sounding first and last name, complete with its own Twitter, Facebook, mailing address, activities, and so on. A side effect of creating a new and fully-formed identity is that people believe they’re already interacting with the real you, and so don’t go looking for it. But the downside is that if it ever comes out you created a fictitious personality and put it out there as your own, your readers can feel massively betrayed. You also have to start doing this from the very beginning of your blog for it to work effectively.

How to Blog Anonymously?

First of all, you want to set up a separate e-mail address just for your blog, register your blog’s domain name anonymously (I think most folks do this anyway), and consider using software like Tor to make your IP address untraceable. Some bloggers refuse to blog from their personal or home computers; they’ll only use the libraries computer, for example. Other bloggers write while offline, and then copy and paste the entire post into the blog while Tor is turned on. You should also consider setting up separate Twitter, Facebook, and Paypal accounts and perhaps even buying a P.O. Box if you’ll need to send or receive goods later on.

Second, spend some time thinking about your pseudonym. Whatever you pick, that will be the identity always associated with your blog. In the same vein, spend some time thinking about your boundaries. What are you okay with sharing? What is absolutely off limits? What are you unsure about right now but will revisit a month or two down the road? For example, I never share the names or any identifying details of friends, family, and intimate partners on my blog. I don’t even make up pseudonyms; I just call them by nouns like “The Boyfriend,” “The Best Friend,” or “The Cousin.” You want to work out the answers to these questions before you start posting.

Third and finally, just keep your mouth shut. If you don’t want anyone to know who you are, don’t tell anyone. Plain and simple.

What are Some Other Things to Consider?

  1. The only foolproof way to keep from being found out is to never blog at all. Therefore, you should start blogging under the assumption that you’ll be discovered one day. It’s depressing, I know, but it’s important to think about. One day, someone will recognize you and very possibly expose you. So, before blogging about anything, think about the potential consequences of that exposure. Whether it’s losing your jobs, losing your kids, or losing your freedom be prepared for the worst possible outcome.
  2. Anonymous blogging is not a free pass to be an asshole. Aside from the possibility that you’ll eventually be found out (see above), you are what you blog. Nice, nasty, or in between the people you attract are going to reflect what you write.
  3. It’s easier to start out with a lot of anonymity and open up over time than to do the reverse. If you’re not sure exactly how much you want to share just yet, start out by sharing a little less. You can always give more, but you can’t take anything back once it’s out there.

I hope this article helps you understand a little bit more about why some people prefer the anonymous approach, and, if you’re thinking about blogging anonymously, I hope it gives you a solid place to start. If you have any questions (about lingerie or anonymous blogging!), feel free to write me at [email protected].

anonymous-blogging-101.jpgAbout the Author: Treacle is a 25 year old knickers junkie who started blogging because her friends threatened to tape her mouth shut if she didn’t stop talking about her underwear. She welcomes lingerie lovers of every nation and persuasion to her blog, The Lingerie Addict.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. I just want to say THANK YOU! I’ve been battling this in my head for two years, and have a blog that stalled over a year ago because of it.

    My semi-anonymous blog is a religious one. And not because it’s a wacky religion (though some say all religion is wacky ;) ), but because of a combination of 2 things:

    1- My faith is at the core of my being, which means I’m going to be completely honest and open.
    2- People of faith tend to be the most critical, judgmental, and harsh jerks ever. And being that mine is a particular niche, it’d be quite easy for people who know me to find me, and I’ve got enough to deal with in life, I don’t need dealing with people’s ultra-conservative judgment on top of it!

    I had resolved to re-launch the blog at the beginning of October, but was still beating myself up over the ‘honesty’ of using a pen name. I didn’t think anyone was doing that anymore, and that it was completely and utterly unacceptable. (I guess that was a bit naive, when I actually think about it!)

    You have just relieved me of that burden. *happy sigh*

  2. Treacle says:

    @Febap–I think that’s a great point. I personally know of several men who crossdress and/or identify as women who blog under a pseudonym. It’s not because they get their jollies from being “fake,” it’s because they know that 1) people can be extremely cruel…especially to those who are outside the mainstream and 2) these biological males may not be ready to expose themselves yet, and writing under a pseudonym lets them control who, how, and when people find out about this aspect of their personality.

    @Jeannie–I’m so glad you found the article useful! To me, using or not using a pen name isn’t what makes your blog honest. Being real, being authentic, and being true is what makes your blog honest and you can do that without sharing the name on your passport.

  3. Febap Liew says:

    @Treacle
    Yea somehow the more I think of such, the more *heartbreaking * it gets for me.
    Somehow for people as them, what is ‘real’ now? Living digitally or physically in this world?
    What can be more ‘real’ then? To live in reality hiding your true personality away or masking yourself online digitally with the freedom to express your inner state.
    Yea, this world can be so cruel =\
    *sob*

  4. Anonmouse says:

    Great points, but here’s the problem I’m having. I use TOR and even blog on masked.name, but I would really like to have a mainstream blog on blogger or wordpress, etc. But they all require Javascript to be turned on. Javascript can easily compromise one’s anonymity because it can go around the TOR tunnel with things like DNS requests etc. A malicious javascript can even go around your TOR tunnel and report information about your computer including MAC and IP address, etc.

    Do you know of any decent blog sites that one can sign up on and use without having to have javascript enabled?

    I was able to get an account setup on blogger.com but I can’t get it to update any profile settings. I don’t need anything fancy, but I do wish to setup and use the blog without ever revealing my true IP address or risking other privacy breaches.

    Anonmouse