Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Power of Anonymity

One of my students mentioned to me this week that he had found my blog. Knowing that he might be reading any of these entries has caused me to think twice about what I write about.

When I first started this blog, I made the very deliberate decision not to hide my identity. For the most part, this hasn't caused any problems. Only a handful of people read this anyway, and it's easier to write knowing that they know who I am. In addition, some old friends from way, way back have "found" me via this blog, and it's been good to get reconnected with them. However, I also realize that this decision to be fully public has limited what I can write about. I can't really talk about my work colleagues or students, for example, because it's pretty easy for someone at my university to figure out whom I talking about (the same goes with family members and friends). And, yes, there are certainly times when I would love to share more of my inside view on university life. One of my favourite bloggers at the moment is FemaleScienceProfessor. She is completely anonymous, which allows her to complain (if she chooses to do so) about her co-workers, students, and even her general profession in a highly informative fashion. Although she's a senior professor in the "hard sciences" at an American university, she writes about many things with which I can identify. I imagine, however, that it would cause her some grief, both professionally and personally, if her identity were now made known.

Maybe I'll start another blog where I'll adopt an anonymous pseudonym. The problem is that I won't be able to tell you about it...

4 comments:

your friend from down the hall said...

back when blogs didn't exist and you had to come up with the format for your own webpages in a text editor, I used to make public all sorts of details about my life - I guess I was just over-enthusiastic or had too much time on my hands. I stopped doing it when students started to send me emails along the lines of "Hey I was just reading all about you on your webpage..." as I wasn't really writing it with that audience in mind. I've also been toying with the idea of starting an anonymous blog as well...

FSSSL said...

Well after reading FSP's blog today and after the conversation at lunch yesterday, I'm beginning to think that you are she....

And 'your friend from down the hall' those webpages served you very well over the years

Audra said...

Personally, I have a gossip policy which also applies to my blog where I will not say anything behind a person's back that I would not say to their face. In reality, this doesn't offer me much protection, because I will say just about anything to anyone. I would urge anyone to consider the usefulness of 'venting' about difficult people, anonymously or otherwise. It is distracting energy that could be spent on more productive tasks.

I'm not sure why it might be uncomfortable to have your students know your personal details. How does it impact you negatively if your students know that you eat tropical fruit or are afraid of spiders? It's not like you blog about child pornography or hide links to terrorist networks in your posts...

When I was a student, it was always odd and a bit startling to discover that my professors and teachers were human beings with lives that unfolded beyond the classroom, but those are the teachers that left lasting impressions on me and helped me truly develop. The robotic and distant teachers are remembered as cold and fearful in my mind.

Again, personally, there are few details of my life that are too intimate to share with strangers, but everyone has different comfort levels for privacy. (It drives my husband nuts that I tell everything to everyone.) But as you mentioned, if you keep a private blog, you have to tell someone about it, and then you have to keep track of who knows what and always wonder if someone is sharing it with someone who isn't supposed to know...who can keep track of that!

The Prof said...

I'm glad that my blog is a site where young marrieds can come together!

And, Audra, you're 100% right. I am not about to write anything in 'private' that I wouldn't write here. Let the dirt fly!!