Monday, June 18, 2007

anonymity


I am not anonymous. When I started to "blog," I used "pastor diane" for a few days, then I dropped "pastor", but used my whole name in the "about me" section of my blog. When I first blogged, I even told people in my congregation about it, thinking they might read what I write. I think a few of them do, but I don't know for sure. I didn't really think about being "anonymous" then.

I thought about "blogging" for a long time before I started actually to do it. I started thinking about it because a) my step-son, who is a writer and journalism major, started talking about his blog, 2) I read about the "revgals", women in ministry who started a webring, 3) I read about "blogging" in a book called Writing to Change the World, by Mary Pipher, 4) I wanted a venue to get me writing again, 5) I wanted to "get out there" in some way. I didn't do it because 1) I didn't have any idea how to start a blog. I thought I needed special software and would be creating my own web-site. 2) I am not awfully computer literate. I know how to do word-processing. I don't know from hyper-links.

I bugged Journalism step-son for a long time, "teach me how to start a blog." Finally he gave me http://www.blogger.com/ I kept it on my desk for about 6 months, before one afternoon, I started. I started with an article I had submitted to our local newspaper. I had never done anything like that before, and of course, they didn't print it.

After blogging for oh, about 5 days, I discovered that many bloggers are anonymous. Maybe most are. So why didn't I think of that? Sometimes I kick myself now. There are things perhaps that I could write about if I were anonymous. It really would then be an on-line journal, and I could get advice from my new virtual friends. And I am enjoying the "virtual community" of bloggers I have discovered who read and encourage one another.

I tell myself that I chose to use my name because I think of this as a public venture. When you go pubic, you always have to choose -- what is safe to reveal (for yourself and for others) and what you need to hide. Those of us who use our names are still anonymous, in some ways. My secret desire has always been to write a book, and get it published. And of course, I would never use a pseudonym if I published a book. There's a part of me who wants to be famous -- maybe not with my picture on the book jacket, but at least with my name on the cover.

But RealLivePreacher went public too, but without his real name. His desire was purer, perhaps. His writing is strong, and poignant. I could have done that. I could have written for the pure desire of it, just put it out there without a name, and seen what happened.

But I didn't.

I think that all of us, whether we are "anonymous" or not, are always choosing: what will we share, and what will we hide? This is of course based both on considerations about ourselves and others. At a blog I discovered recently, the author pointed out that in order to remain anonymous, she needs to make sure she doesn't share certain things about herself. I had never thought of that before.

I still blog because I want to write, to go public with my thoughts, ideas, opinions. I fancy that others will find them edifying, maddening, enlightening. I hope so, anyway. And I remind myself that this task, done well, takes a certain amount of courage: whether I am anonymous or not. It takes courage to be honest, really honest about ourselves and about the world.

And I want to remind myself that there are people who are anonymous because nobody knows them or cares about their fate, because they don't have a voice in the world. They don't choose to be anonymous, and anonymity isn't safe for them. Think Darfur. There are times when it is safe to be anonymous (fleeing domestic violence). And there are times when it is dangerous. Help me to remember that.

20 comments:

Pastor Eric said...

I am not anonymous either on my blog...and I never considered it. I am not trying to be famous but rather trying to be personable. But I do understand why some people like to be anonymous.

I too have told my congregation about my blog but I don't think many people from Salem or Belmont read it. I have written my blog for over a year now and people still have no clue. Oh well...

Why I blog? At first I thought it was "cool". I love technology. Soon my blog turned into work because I did not have a clear focus. Then I attended an evangelism seminar and found my new focus. Since then my blog has energized me and I look forward to writing when ever God places something on my heart.

I appreciate your honesty and openness. Thanks for writing your blog.
Eric
P.S. If you do write a book, can I get an autographed copy?

Diane said...

The evangelism workshop sounds like a good idea. I'm not sure I have a "focus" either. I have a lot of ideas.

David said...

I have been blogging for nearly a year now, and it has been semi-anonymous at best. (David is my real first name) I guess the reason for this is because I am still in seminary and not actually serving my own congregation. I am finishing my internship in seven more weeks of so.

But you know, I have looked back over the posts I have made on my blog and there is really nothing earth shattering. I don't mention names of peole unless they give me permission.

As the months go by I have loosened up some by talking about the area where I live. Perhaps it is time to come out of the blogging closet and attach a last name to my profile.

Diane said...

boy, I'm not against anonymity. I'm kind of surprised I didn't think of it.

Hot Cup Lutheran said...

Good post! I am fairly guarded I'll admit... and mostly b/c blogging for me means I can escape the sometimes limited boonieville - I need that. Actually ALL pastors need that wherever they serve.

AND there's a yearning for connection I think- hence the popularity & success of RGBP because like it or not our profession can be isolating. So thanks for the community, the conversation & the exchange of thoughts & ideas... all good.

mompriest said...

I'm with Hot Cup Lutheran in the anonymity blogging. Actually, I think I am just a conformist. All the blogs I read before beginning my own were done anonymously, so I just followed suit. I'm not sure what I'd do if I were to begin knowing what I know now. But, since I have used my blog to complain (once of twice) about my congregation, to reflect on job search processes, and to ponder what is going on in the life of the Church, being anonymous has been a little easier. I already live and work in a place where I am very careful about what I say, it's good to be more authentic...(although the irony of be both authentic and anonymous is lost on me...hee hee). Who knows, maybe I'll choose to "out" myself one day. Thanks diane, for this reflection and conversation.

Diane said...

I think it's interesting. I used to live in "small town" didn't have internet then. My next-door neighbors actually would say, "hey, you usually turn on your lights at 7:00 a.m., and you didn't turn them on until 7:30. what's up?" So I get the need for anonymity.

It's just interesting... what we choose to reveal and hide... each of us... no matter which way we go.

The Unlikely Conversationalist: said...

I am anonymous, sort of. I let people know that I am a pastor and that I have ideas to share. Other than that I use my old seminary nick-name, "unlikely." I have told members in my church and my family about my blog, but as my wife says, everybody who knows you will hear that anyway.

I like the chance to just bounce ideas and to let the ideas stand alone and I have been blessed by the ideas that others have shared with me along the way.

Diane said...

anyway, my original idea was that maybe if I was "purer" I would have left my name off and let the writing stand on its own. (like RealLivePreacher). Then I thought about: what do we leave out to make sure we are "anonymous" and what do we leave out IF we sign our name?

Cathy said...

Please allow me to add one more thought regarding anonymity: I participated in a an email-based discussion group using a a book written by a Catholic priest but he never made a contribution to any discussion. As I thought about I realized that anything he would have said would have stopped discussion right there. After all, priests are always right. Right? Fr. Charlie is a wise man.

As for me: well, I am not really Cathy for one thing. But a second note needs to be sounded. Once in a while, during a small group discussion, I find myself saying something that seems at once wise as well as foreign. Where did that come from, I ask? One answer is that God speaks to me (all of us) so quietly that I often miss the message although it becomes imprinted on my soul nevertheless. At those moments I can hear God speak even if it is my own voice that greets my ears. It is with that expectation of surprise that I will appear on blogs from time to time. In that respect, anonymity has a real value if it can keep my ego in the closet.

Diane said...

WOW, very thoughtful.

Serena said...

Very interesting discussion. I too am not very computer-literate. I started blogging originally as a part of church web page for a place to share reflections for members of the congregation. It was the idea of the Chair of our Evangelism committee ... and we thought maybe as new people joined our faith community,this would be a place to be in touch. New people didn't come, and that blog page was closed when I moved to Seattle.

This was still before I knew about RGBP or so many other anonymous pages ... so didn't even think of going anonymous when I started "Serena in Seattle" ... just a place to share thoughts.

And, since I really hate secrets and long for authentic relationships, I think I would still choose to not be anonymous in hopes of being more real.

And, I guess I really don't believe any of us have much privacy these days anyway ...

I'm trying not to say anything I wouldn't want God to hear me say ... and if it's okay if God hears it ... it's okay if my readers hear it. (can't please all the folks all the time, right?)

zorra said...

I like to think I am anonymous except to a few, but I am sure that's not really true. There are enough clues, if you will, on my blog that anyone who really cared could easily find out who I am. I sometimes feel a bit constrained in what I write because of that, but I'm not sure that's a bad thing.

mompriest said...

Regarding your question on my blog about a poetry conversation... I've been thinking about it. I thought I'd get Ciardi's book so we have a common playing field and language to begin. Or, while I wait for it, we could begin by discussing a particular poem and what it means and what we get from it.

For instance, I've been thinking about the phrase from George Herbert's poem "A True Hymn" which says: "Joy, my Life, my Crown!"...what does he mean by crown?

I mean in the USA the image of crown has lost much of its potency. So, how might we understand it now, in the context of this poem?

How's that for starting a conversation? We could walk through this one, and look more deeply at the characteristics of poetry from one genre or kind or whatever (see, I am really struggling 'cuz I don't know exactly)...what ideas do you have? I'd love to do this, just don't know where to begin!

Diane said...

two things:
1. There are at least 2 people in my congregation who read my blog. One has a blog, so she stops in I know from time to time. One person I know told me, and commented once. I think there might be a few others, but I only know really from comments.
2. I had no idea the response to this. I go back and forth on what I should have done. What's done is done; it's a good discipline; I'll try to have less ego about it.
3. (oh, I guess three). Mompriest. I'll come over to your place and comment under the poem. Maybe that's the way we should do it. One or the other of us can post a poem and comment on it.

Cathy said...

I envy the two of you that you can express yourselves in verse. I lack both the imagination and the rhythm to do that. It has always seemed to me to be a gift that would take me beyond the structural limits of conversation and into the creative world of who I might be. On the other hand, I make a pretty good omlette.

But, then, I could get into the diversity of gifting and begin to sound like St. Paul (not Minnesota). I will just be happy with the old stand-by: "We are all made in the image and likeness of God so how can we be anything other good regardless of how we might behave?"

Diane said...

oh cathy... I can't make an omelette (my husband can) and I actually don't write poetry... I do read a mean poem though...I wrote some poetry in high school and college...

Marsha said...

I'm glad you didn't choose to be anonymous. I'm glad I have the chance to know who you are, even if on a limited basis.

My blog is not anonymous either.

Gannet Girl said...

I am pretty anonymous, although a few people know who I am and, as with most of us, there are enough clues that someone could come close.

But if you read my blog today, you will see why I choose anonymous: confusion, arrogance, and pain all in view. Not in full view since, even as an anonymous writer, I screen constantly. I reveal very little of an exacting personal nature, and I would not want to identify anyone else in conjunction with anything that might be perceived as a negative.

Wenda said...

Interesting post. I don't blog anonymously, but I do have private thoughts, of course, as well as public ones and I don't tell all about everything. I have similar pockets of privacy in my real life. In the end, not everyone knowd the all of me (least of all me).