After six years of anonymity here at Writing Privacy, I’ve decided that it’s time to reveal myself.
Since migrating here from LiveJournal in 2009, I’ve always left signposts about my identity. Something about full anonymity leaves me uncomfortable. How can you expect anyone to subscribe to your integrity if you cannot trust a reader with as much as a real name?
There’s always been enough here to uncover my identity if anyone looks hard enough. But blogs shouldn’t be about challenges. They should be about engagement.
The issue has always been twofold. Firstly, I can be maudlin. Poetry has often been a shield to hide behind here, but it’s not always possible to mask the obvious. There’s a lot in life I have struggled with, from accomplishment to companionship, and it’s not always easy to write about – or, indeed, to read about.
And that’s not a comfortable identity to uphold in public. Do I want Google-happy employers to know about my PhD struggles or mental health revelations? Do I want judgements or presumptions made about the way I operate because of what goes here? Distance has always seemed a sensible, if not the only, option.
Secondly, it was always a marriage of convenience (or a happy coincidence) that a blog dealing with privacy in some way should have anonymity as part of its fabric.
But behaviour does bind us to our ways. When I’m drawing up strategies at work to make huge advances in our web delivery, I feel the doubts from within – from someone whose own site is quiet and obscure.
Since I was challenged to make advances at work and some of the shackles have come off, I’ve started flexing my writing arm. Two posts of mine this week have helped to raise over 1,000 hits. Not spectacular by any means, but as our blog averages around 1,500 views a month, it’s quite a leap.
Suddenly, you remember that you are capable, and that you don’t always need to hide.
Every Phrase Can Have Value
One of my chosen extra-curricular activities is monitoring the department’s social media channels out-of-hours. I like the thought that we’re not some sort of automated device that stops once the clock reaches 17:30. As long as I have the energy and the availability, I’ll be at hand.
This week, a Twitter exchange with one of our most engaging students triggered a whole new way of thinking for me. It may have seemed fairly innocuous, and I’m sure poor Lucy was completely baffled when I waded in and broke the news.
What happened was that I realised how much the voice of reassurance from the department account was just what I, myself, needed.
We’ve recently released some promotional videos for our Masters courses, and there are invariably a few fun moments when students spot themselves. Admittedly, I’m slightly envious that they have these wonderful testimonies which emphasise the significance of their degrees and achievements, while I, the holder of a doctorate, have so long mourned the insignificance of my own.
However, casting that aside, in imparting success against a note of insecurity, I realised that if the same man behind the department’s Twitter account turned his voice to the insecurities that @WritingPrivacy has, I would be saying exactly the same as I did to Lucy.
Take your achievements, and own every foible you have. Who’s going to care about the way you type, or the posts you’ve written on solitude? You’ve done great things. Take ownership of whoever you are, and a measure of pride.
It’s time to do that now. There’s enough for a leap of faith, and for once, I shouldn’t let the opportunity pass.
Writing Privacy is, and has always been, Keith McDonald: a well-intended, oft fatalistic, maudlin fool. For better or for worse, that’s how it’s going to continue. Stick with me, and the sun might come out around here.