I was reading this post on GoogleBlogoscoped earlier today, and I’m all in a tizzy about it. I’ve been thinking a lot about online privacy and public life lately, and I feel uncomfortably conflicted about it all. I had a kind of funny experience on Sunday that sparked some of that thinking, but it’s also that I’ve started using several social networking sites using my real name, and it’s making me think about things that I don’t have to think about when I’m blogging anonymously here (or elsewhere).
When I first decided to launch my own mommyblog, it seemed logical to me that I would adopt pseudonyms for myself and my kids. Content lasts for a mighty long time on the internet—if I do a google search on my real name, I can find email postings to listservs that I did more than five years ago—and I didn’t want to write things about my kids, using their real names, that would affect them negatively later in life, either in personal or work-related settings. That meant I had to give myself a pseudonym, too.
In most of my web-based existence, I’m landismom, mother of two kids, who writes semi-regularly about the joys of working parenthood. In a small portion of my web-based life, I’m my real self, a person who has occasionally been quoted in the newspaper, or has been listed as an endorser of political events, or has given money to particular charities. In my book-trading universe (which has to be tied to my real name, for purposes of sending and receiving books), I have a different handle—but that’s just a screen name, not something I think of as a real identity.
In the past year, though, my ‘real self’ has started to do more social networking sites, like LinkedIn and Facebook. I’m much more conservative in my content production on those sites—mostly I just joined them because someone I know in real life invited me, and then I found them to be useful in some way. I’ve communicated with my youngest brother on Facebook more in the last six weeks than I did in the previous six months.
There’s a part of me that wants to have some cross-over between my two online selves. I’d like to be able to share my blog, occasionally, with family members, but I also like the absolute freedom that blogging pseudonymously allows. I don’t want to have to censor myself, the way that I censor myself in the online content that’s attached to my real name, and the more people who know who I really am, the more I’m going to feel as if I can’t.
Then I surfed over to SoloMom’s blog today, and read her story about having her online profile modified by ivillage (and her firing by ivillage for complaining about it), and the whole thing came back up again. I guess I can’t call her SoloMom anymore, but wtf? Who actually owns her identity, her or ivillage?
I realize that the questions of navigating online identity and privacy are only going to grow more complicated as teh internets get more and more intertwined into every aspect of our lives. Entire college courses will be taught (if they’re not already) about the implications of what we reveal, or hide, from the online world.
It’s enough to make me want to pull all my online content down, whether it’s attached to this identity or my real name, until some more cogent method of dealing with online identity is contrived.