Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Using your "real name" on your blog

Do you use your "real name" when blogging? Why did you make that decision, and do you feel it was the right decision? Has there been any fallout, either positive or negative?

I think that it's probably a worthy exercise for newer bloggers to hear why some of us choose to use our real name, and why some of us don't.

I'll start:

When I first started blogging I purposely did not use my given name. I just wrote "jen" everywhere, and kept my last name far away from my blog. I mostly did this because I wasn't initally sure of the direction the blog was going to take and I didn't want anything nefarious to be tied back to my career or used against me.

About 2 years into blogging, I realized that I was really proud of what I had been writing -- I don't use blogging as an avenue to vent against people or to say things that I wouldn't say in public -- and decided to switch everything over to my full, given name.

So far, I think that blogging using my full name has brought only good, and I hope that it continues. I do feel that the decision to be completely open about my blog ties my hands in a few ways -- it's that feeling that, even if I wanted to, I couldn't use my blog for something intensely personal or secretive. Some days I do dream about a "secret" blog where no one knew who I was and I could write exactly what I think, but in general I am happy with my decision.

My advice for new bloggers? It's much easier to start out by not using your full name and then making that decision down the road if you want to. Search engines these days are so thorough that making the change is quick and painless once you decide you want to "go public".

This post was written by Jen Maiser from Life Begins at 30.


drbiggles said...

I started using a handle online back in about 1988 when I was running a BBS. It's just what you did and it looked cool. After giving it a little thought, I think I'd still start with a handle. Besides, anyone who has emailed me, knows my real name. I'm not hiding, just creepy.


Sam said...

my own experience reflects Jen's exactly. I started off anaonymously, and then soon realised if I wanted to be taken seriously, I had to put my name to it - and I was proud to do so.

mrs d said...

This is a great post, Jen, & I have to say I'm right about where you were when you decided to "go public." I too was reluctant to use my own name at first, and -- for reasons I can't quite piece together anymore -- I wanted to keep various parts of my life separate, even though I've got other websites that would benefit by being linked together. And yeah, I had a serious fear of complete suckage.

One thing Dave and I realized right from the start: We live in a very small community, on a rather small island, which means that even if we don't tell people who we are we could never get away with the sort of snark that some big-city blogs can. (waiterrant on this island? Hah. He'd be fired in a heartbeat and everyone would know his name!) Point is, because we don't write about things that could get us in trouble (and Dave rarely ever writes about work), our transition out of semi-anonymity should (I hope!) be relatively painless. I'm looking forward to it, actually. Soon as I get my frelling long overdue website redesign done!

(Robin, aka Mrs D.:-))

kiplog said...

In the annals of internet history, there are countless stories of anonymous authors being 'outed'.

You have to do quite a bit of careful 'witness protection' type fact changing if you really want to remain anonymous forever.

So it goes without saying, it's best to write as if it were appearing in print, with your byline.

(I'm tempted to use the anonymous identity here, but I won't, but I'll use my nome-deplum identity which isn't very anonymous since it has my picture)

Rachael said...

Funny, I started out with my full name and links to my business site, but over time have made changes so that its no longer THAT easy to link from my blog to me. The reverse - looking up my full name does link to my blog still though.

For my new job, the blog could be construed as, well, I'm not sure what, but "unethical" and "not good" comes to mind, so I am going to continue to just go by my first name.

Plus, you know, those pesky stalkers have to be thwarted SOMEHOW...

L said...

I use my real name, although I typically sign everything "L" as that's what my friend's call me. I haven't had any problems, and well, I already had tons of email spam so that hasn't increased.

Winslow said...

Actually, I do use my real name on my blog - it just happens to be my middle name. :)

I started blogging under an alias in 2004 because I already had a known internet presence under my real name. My real name has a track history of interests and posts in various venues. Cooking was not part of that, but it was something I started taking more and more pleasure in (in my offline life), so when I finally decided to start blogging, I did not start a blog about one of my more obvious interests but went for food instead.

Part of why I decided to use an alias was that in the rest of my life, I tend to be a perfectionist. In cooking, however, I tend to be a happy experimenter. Using an alias was just one way of setting up a "test universe" to play with things in an unthreatening way, things that my "real life" attitude might insist I needed to be good at before I started writing about them. I also like a name that's gender-neutral, although that does limit my blogging in some ways (lest I out myself).

I'm still happy blogging as Winslow and don't intend to change it any time soon, but I also recognize that anyone with a suspicion and only average Google search skills could probably figure out "who I am," which is fine (I think). The day may come when I want to bring my online personas together and out myself, but it hasn't happened yet.

Andrew said...

dont understand why you would want to hide - are you not proud of what you write? are you ashamed?

Sylvie said...

I looked upon my blog as a journey through my food experiences. Most of these experiences are family or familar experiences. As such I use the name of familiar calling. Auntie Sylvie is what my neices and nephew call me so I just dropped the Auntie and use the Sylvie.

When I got into this blogging, I wasn't particular about being anonymous though I have had requests from some family to not use their names in my posts. Therefore, for example, I may refer to the husband as G.

Kevin said...

I've been on-line since the BBS days way back in the early 80s. Although handles were typical even back then, I've always used my name -- not doing so feels less than completely honest to me.

Kevin said...

Oh, and Biggles is creepy.

sarah said...

jen - this is an awesome topic!

i too use my real name, but also don't hand out my last name, just because i think i watched too many movies about weird internet creeps. LOL!

the thing you said about using your blog for something really personal or secret - that kind of struck me. if it's personal and secret, then it shouldn't be on a public blog anyway - that's stuff that you write in your diary or tell your teddy bear (that's what i do - LOL!). you should feel like you could say anything you wanted to on your blog. then again, just like in real life, we are always using our subconscious filters when we speak to one another.

does it really have to do with honesty vs. dishonesty? everything i write on my blog is exactly how i feel. it is me, and i don't think it matters that i am just "sarah" or "sarah from the delicious life." that IS me, i don't think having my last name on there is important.

okay, i will probably have more thoughts in about 15 minutes after dinner, but posting this comment anyway...

Amy Sherman said...

I always used my real name and can't find any great reasons not to do so. Even from day one. What are y'all afraid of? Someone finding out you have a blog? Isn't that the point?

Oh and one other thing, Biggles is not creepy. He's a real sweetheart, for a carnivore. Plus his real name sounds more like a handle than his handle does.

Sheri said...

Great subject. I use my first name only. I'm uptight when it comes to maintaining my online privacy.

My last name is pretty unique, and a Google search of my name reveals more information about me than I'd like to share with the world. Nothing interesting, mostly mundane, but I had a semi-creepy experience with an ex-boyfriend a few years ago that made me even more uptight ("Hi, Sheri, guess what I know about you? You live in... you buy these types of books... here are some of your hobbies..."). Shudder.

Also - there are old newsgroup post of mine from 1997 that still show up. Stuff stays out there for a very long time.

Also, Amazon is one of the WORST offenders of online privacy. It took me a long time to get them to remove my full name from a couple of reviews and a list I had put together. I had to really fight with them over it.

Jennifer BB said...

I think about this all the time. I actually just signed my name to a rather personal post for the first time on Saturday. Part of my signing was to make it more personal because I had been anonymous--tired of folks writing about "this guy's crazy bacon cookies". One of the other things I've had to consider is that I'm a very public figure and wasn't sure how that would vibe with my having a blog. Now that it is getting more attention locally--I'm not so worried about it--everyone knows who I am.

My bigger issue is whether or not people would still read my blog--outside of my geographic community--if they knew what I did for a living.

mrs d said...

Sheri's semi-creepy experience with an ex-boyfriend is one of many completely understandable reasons why a blogger would choose not to use his or her full name online. Other reasons may have to do with ethical conflicts with work (as Rachael hinted at in her comment). Still others have to do with difficult family issues. Not all of us have tidy lives, and sometimes we have to make choices that protect ourselves from needless complications. Are those sorts of choices dishonest?

(Also, a blogger without a tidy life should not feel compelled to forfit her right to blog simply because it would be problematic to do so under her own name. Hell, if we said the same for novelists, we'd lose some pretty damn fine novels off our bookshelves.)

kitchenmage said...

This is such a good topic!
how good is it
It's so good that I have a half-written post talking about it that's been sitting in my drafts folder for a good six months.

I write under a 'nym for several reasons:
* I write professionally under my real name and have decided that as I branch out I want to keep the various kinds of writing a bit separate. Not "hiding" separate, more professionally compartmentalized.
* My 'regular work' is highly technical and some people treat me differently when they see me as a 'food writer' than when they see me as 'author, consultant, network engineer.' By not writing my food stuff under my real name, I avoid the casual Googling turning up too much noise for my technical clients.
* My food writing is about the food and not me; insofar as I must be present to do the writing, I try to be there as a role rather than a person.
* kitchenMage is a title bestowed upon me and I value it greatly. grin

Having said that, I don't feel like I am hiding at all. Nor am I afraid of being found out, although I do live in a place that is even smaller than Mrs. D's hamlet. I hand out business cards with my blog name on it so it's clearly not that.

I am pretty sure that my domain is registered in a way that would let someone figure out who I am (via my company) fairly easily. I've also got at least one link at my site that goes to an article written under my name.

I do, however, have a totally disconnected blog. Not under my name. Very few people know it's me.

And another one where nobody does. Literally. grin

~km (aka beth)

Kalyn said...

This is an interesting thread of comments. I use my real name and always have, although I have to admit it's not something I gave a lot of thought to. I guess one reason I did was because when I started my blog I didn't even know about the whole food blog community; I just wanted a place for friends to find my recipes. So far I haven't had any problems with using my real name.

This is something I've been conscious in Weekend Herb Blogging. People send me entries by e-mail and often sign the e-mail with their real name. I don't use the real name in my post about the submissions unless it's posted on the blog itself. I try to be careful about it. (It's kind of fun finding out people's real names and once I joked to Cookiecrumb that I would never reveal her real name, even if I was tortured.)

Kevin said...

I didn't mean to imply there aren't valid reasons for not publishing your real name, I tried to phrase my comment so that it only related to me.

And clearly Biggles "real" name is made up. Layer upon layer of subteruge there. I'll bet he's actually a vegetarian.

lucette said...

I'm a newish blogger (since October '05). I use a pseudonym, I think for 2 reasons. One is a kind of shyness--I felt sort of technologically out of it, not a typical blogger type, which rightly or wrongly I think of as younger and more technologically savvy than I am.
The other reason is the freedom a pseudonym can give you--I'm a writer, and one who is prone to writer's block--it's been very nice to have a place to write where there are no expectations or pressures. This is clearly a psychological freedom--because like kitchenmage, I don't mind being found out.
That said though, I can imagine giving up anonymity at some point.

David said...

When you use your real name, you become a magnet for all sorts of, um...interesting people. Since I'm published, I get e-mails from frustrated first-grade teachers who correct my punctuation, strangers who want me to plan their vacations, or people who want a complete print-out of recipes for the holidays. Instead of ignoring them, I do feel compelled to respond. Kindly, of course. When you're in the public domain, the expectations become different.

Since I started my site in '99, I used my real name in conjunction with my published works. Now I am trying to separate the two a bit; the blog is for fun and my other writing is how I make a living.

I know a few women bloggers who've had unpleasant experiences so I don't think you really need to use your name. If you're writing your blog as a resume, yes, go ahead and put your name up.
But if you're just doing it for fun, who cares?

Isn't a blog supposed to be whatever you want it to be?

drbiggles said...

Hey Kevin,

Smoke & Mirrors baby, smoke & mirrors.

You used your real name on a BBS? AHAHHAHHA, "I am Kevin! Tremble upon my ever utterance of verbage!"

I semi-recently got my old BBS number back from 1988 and I have an old PC set up with Telegard running. I will not be using my real name as Sysop. HA !!! I believe my new handle will be Meat is Death.


kitchenmage said...

biggles...telegard? OMG! i have a functioning citadel bbs on a disconnected harddisk somewhere... and i can't even remember what i was calling myself then... LOL

Cate said...

OK, since this is something I think about a lot, I can throw another slant on it. Obviously I don't use my real name, and my site is named after my son. He (and sometimes his girlfriend) are the only (first) names out there. That being said, since his picture is pretty much all over my site, I take great pains to keep our identity private. Yeah, I watch too much CSI, Law & Order and the like, but someone's gotta worry about the stalkers, and my Mom makes me more paranoid than I normally am. If we lived in a more populated area like, say NYC or San Francisco, it would be different.

I started contributing to Paper Palate recently and am using a pen name there, Cate O'Malley. I despise my real first name anyway, and have always used Kate as an alias of sorts when dealing with salespeople, etc. And in restaurants, when putting your name on a list, it's SO much easier to say/spell Kate than my real name.

I will be using Cate for other freelance writing stuff, now that I'm starting to get back into it.

So, no, I don't use my real name, but you can call me Cate. ;)

Barbara Fisher said...

Well, for the record, Barbara Fisher is my real name, and I have used it for almost all of my freelance writing, and I have always used it on my blog.

When I interacted in BBSes and many online communities, I went by a handle--several of them, actually. And when I admined BBSes, and later, online rpg's I obviously used handles.

And frankly--the only online stalking I have had issues with have come out of venues where I used a handle. I have yet to have my blog attract anyone creepy and stealthy.

I have used a nom de plume a couple of times for published works, and that was as much to protect the identities of the people in the article as to protect my identity. I was writing about some pretty sensitive stuff and I didn't want to out anyone or hurt anyone's feelings.

But other than that, these days--it is all under my own name.

Santos said...

i don't use my real name because it's the same name as a famous (notorious?) professional dominatrix.

now on your knees, slaves!!!!

Rachael said...

I've always suspected Biggles was really a vegetarian! Now I have my proof!


I notice I am totally alone in my whole blogging mentality, but I have to say, I NEVER tell people I have a blog.

I like it as my hobby, and the friends I have who know are all somewhat supportive, but at the same time mock the hell out of me. Am I really alone in this? Maybe its the aging hipster factor, but seriously, I routinely catch hell from my friends for the entire premise.

As for my work, there is a conflict (of sorts) and I do think my clients/bosses would be a touch agast over it, (knowing I am not the oh-so-together executive they think I am.) so I remain just Rachael (which is my real name, and Ms. Ray should consider revising her spelling, thank you very much)

kitchenmage said...

Rachael, you should get new friends. grin

I have another question for you though, Rachael.

You have two food blogs that seem (from the names) to be associated with a catering business and personal. (You don't have a last name, business name, or other such on either of them so my catering theory may be really thin.) While I haven't read through all your archives, and maybe it's apparent if you have been reading it from the start, but what's your actual dividing line between them? How/why two sites?


Rachael said...

KM - There was a connection originally...since up until late last year I gave private, in-home cooking classes and I created the site as an extension of that. I have since changed jobs (sigh) and removed all references to that business site, (which never was catering, but there you go) since as I said, my site is my hobby now, and not for generating clients.
Now that there is a potential ethical conflict with my job and my site, I am making sure not to overlap my work with my blog.

cookiecrumb said...

Eventually there is porosity between an alias and your real name. I would never disrespect the real people I meet, through my blog, by not giving them my real name. So I expect my cover to be thoroughly blown at some point, if I'm still blogging long enough for that to happen.
My choice in picking an alias at first was that I used to work in the food section of a local newspaper, and I was sort of scared that I'd launch off into scathing critiques of former colleagues or the food writers at the "other" paper. I just didn't want to do it under my own name.
Well, it hasn't happened anyway. I guess I'm mellower than I thought.
But the other cachet of a nickname is that [inappropriate giggle] it's cute, and I suspect it draws people to check out my blog.
Biggles: 1988? I go back to 1987. :)
My real name is George Eliot.

kitchenmage said...

Rachael, got it now, thanks for the explanation.

culinary bookworm said...

This is a topic I've been thinking about a lot too, although I'm coming to the discussion quite late!

To answer Rachael's question: you are not alone in your approach. I rarely tell people about my blog either. My family and most personal of friends know, but people I meet in my everyday life do not, and I'd just as soon it stayed that way. Not because I'm hiding anything but as other people have indicated, I like the freedom to express this food part of myself without the pressures of who I am professionally intruding. I will be looking for an academic job in the next few years, and university search committees (as are many other types of employers, I'm sure) are notorious for googling applicants. Blogging about anything other than one's academic pursuits is not well-respected by some (snobs!), and in my field, a person's writing and research contributions can make or break her hire-ability (a word I'm sure I would be shunned for using!)

The other reason is that I teach college students, who are also notorious for digging up virtual dirt about their teachers. Moreover, I teach writing, and I don't want those standards (the nasty academic ones I have to promote in my classes) to creep in on the creativity I feel free to indulge on my blog. I also don't want my students to have free access to my personal life, and the nature of blogging is that I often write about personal things, particularly my family and friends.

I have not been blogging that long, and I've been highly ambivalent about what to call myself. I started with the Culinary Bookworm because I wanted a more memorable moniker than my first name, which is Jennifer. But I vacillate between the two in comments on other people's blogs and in emails to other bloggers, which is obviously not helpful to anyone. Jennifer feels more authentic, but there are so many of us out there...I go back and forth.

Like Santos, I also have the honor of sharing my full name with a renowned porn star. Everyone has her reasons...

Kevin said...


If your real name is George Elliot then you go back a lot further than 1987, though I must say you don't sound a day over 80.

SaltShaker said...

I use my real name, and my real picture on my blog. I couldn't really think of a reason not to - anyone who wants to be creepy about things is probably going to be able to figure things out anyway (especially as my blog isn't hosted on somewhere like Blogger, but is an independently hosted site, therefore registered to me); I'm proud of what I do; and, given that I'm in the food/wine industry, I think/thought it added to the blogs credibility.

I do tend to use the blog's title, saltshaker, as a handle on other boards, but it doesn't take more than a click or two to find out my identity - it's more for almost to advertise the blog than anything else.

Peter Cherches said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Peter Cherches said...

I recently started a mostly food blog, and there was no conflict about using my real name. I publish fiction & prose poetry, but I never wanted to devote a more formal career to food writing. Ultimately the blog form seemed the best way to write quirkily and serendipitously about food without marketplace pressures, but I had no interest in anonymity. I provide links to my other writing life.

I did start using only a last initial for bbs posting after several people told me that searches on my name turned up countless bbs posts.

Peter Cherches said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Pamela said...

What a great topic!

I am a complete newbie to the world of blogging and only started up my Blog at the weekend. I have used the alias which I'm known under on a few other sites and also my real first name.

Dagny said...

I use an alias. I have met other bloggers, some who use their real name and ones who don't. So far we have all respected the decision of those of us who choose to remain anonymous. Although there is this one blogger who did post photos of the anonymous as well as the open bloggers. She just chose not to identify the anonymous ones in any way in the captions.

Raspberry Sour said...

This comment is probably a wee bit behind schedule by now, but here goes anyway. For me, blogging anonymously largely comes down to a sort of psychological freedom- I'm not trying to hide outright, but I value the freedom to babble without attaching the name I use for professional writing/editing. I'm also finding that wearing a completely different name when I blog means I get to be that other person for a brief time everyday, which is fun. It's not just another form of writing, it's a whole other being. One of the reasons I started this blog was to keep my daytime concerns from leaching into my soul, which is why the separation is so important to me.

That being said, I would certainly use my name for any personal interactions with food bloggers, but for now, I like being someone else for part of every day.

Monkey Gland said...

er..am I not taken seriously using the name monkey gland?????? Nobody told me this!!! I would use my real name but nobodu would believe me.

Jennifer Maiser said...

Just keeping track of this thread ... Tea of Tea and Cookies wrote a great response to this question on her blog today.

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