An End to Anonymity

After six years of anonymity here at Writing Privacy, I’ve decided that it’s time to reveal myself.

Andrew Marvell Plaque, Waterlow Park

I’ve always found full anonymity problematic, and since migrating from LiveJournal in 2009 I’ve always left enough signposts to uncover my identify with a few searches.

But blogs shouldn’t be about challenges – they should be about engagement. And to those ends, how can I expect a reader to find any integrity if I cannot trust them with a real name?

The issue has always been twofold. Firstly, I can be maudlin. 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 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 someone whose own site is quiet and obscure.

At work, 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 formerly averaged 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.

Hilton Hotel Cobham

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.

I realised how much the voice of reassurance from the department account was just what I, myself, needed. If the same voice behind the department’s Twitter account addressed the insecurities behind @WritingPrivacy, it would be saying exactly the same as I did to Lucy.

Take your achievements, and own every foible. 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.

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