From the beginning, I felt ambivalent about whether to reveal my identity or not. I am still not resolved. What is my blog for but for me to make the best use of it? So, I am taking a detour from organizational issues to contemplate the issue of blogger identity, and as always, I welcome your input.
Initially, given that I wasn’t familiar with the blogosphere culture (assuming there is such a coherent set of values), and that I felt (and still feel) the professional obligation to voice only data-and-reference-driven assertions, I felt timid about voicing what were “only” my opinions and reflections. By and large, I still restrict my observations to those supported by facts and data, but for the first time in this public space, I allow myself to opine about something based only on what I have heard or observed. While it’s been liberating, I have to say that I use this space still with some trepidation. I do often wonder how those talking heads in the media live with themselves, blasting and bombasting away with impunity and utter disregard for inconvenient facts. Of course, my blog comes nowhere near 24/7 media exposure to hundreds of thousands of viewers. I am responsible for my words, but one does have to ask the question, how to hold someone accountable if that person’s identity is hidden?
Equally important, if not more so, is my need to observe absolute confidentiality of my sources of stories that I use. Where I have named names, either organizations or individuals, they are used in the original context for public eyes. I am not a journalist who might have thousands of sources; mine are rather limited and therefore have higher probability of being identified. That ultimately decided me to remain anonymous…for now.
Some friends have urged me to stand up in the public, with pride. That does make me pause: Am I not proud of what I do and say here? Everything I have written here has been done with integrity; I mean what I write. My professional colleagues may quarrel with certain points, but I doubt that they’d bother with something so far removed from academic pursuit. Besides, there are always quarrels in the academic world, from which I have been removed for quite some time.
Some other friends urge caution; there are nut-jobs out there. True enough. I can’t imagine my words would attract any attention from such a quarter, and my topics are not controversial by nature. But that’s based on my logic and limited imagination. If someone is inclined to stalk me, while I laugh at the very idea and image, by definition, I cannot predict his/her behavior nor the reasons behind it. And I don’t know if one can protect against such improbability. If I want to feel 100% safe, I should live in a cave and not interact with people.
And other friends suggest that if I use Facebook to promote my blog, I’d get more connections and boost my readership. That’s very inviting, and I could easily take out a Facebook page to do just that. When people know you, they’d want to connect, and the ever-expanding connections would increasingly legitimize my blog and reach more people who might not have otherwise come upon my words.
And it is this notion, that somehow my true identity together with an ever-expanding network of connections would give more credence to my words, that’s been troubling me. Does anyone – should anyone — really need to know who I am to give credence to my words? and do the same words somehow acquire more substance if more people read them?
It is true that in the academic setting, we more or less know who’s researching what and what are their publication records. It is granted that we have a sense of so-and-so’s reputation through various grapevines, and when she/he does voice an opinion, her/his track record does play a role in our estimation. But if we don’t ever meet at conferences, it should not lessen by one iota the importance of people’s work. In social settings, we usually but not always take our friends’ opinions more seriously than we do strangers’. When it comes to something that’s particularly important to us, we may consider a stranger’s feedback more objectively precisely because the stranger’s words aren’t likely to be mixed with emotions (e.g. “therapist”). Transcending therapy, when we want to gather information for new adventures or to consider something outside our usual paths, we seek input from beyond our circle of friends.
A sociologist, Mark Granovetter, wrote a seminal article, titled “The Strength of Weak Ties” in which he precisely illustrates the above point. Our strong ties, friends and relatives (not all relatives are strong ties), tend to be similar to us, especially in our ways of thinking. So, if one wants to push one’s horizon, one is likely to find sources of innovative ideas from friends’ friends’ friends, weak ties who otherwise have not been readily available to the person.
That was a bit of a digression. My question remains the same: Does it matter whether you know my identity to read and reflect on what’s in my blog? If so, why? If not, why not? Please comment. Remember, your identity is protected in this blog. But if you feel more comfortable, you are welcome to shoot me an email directly. Till I hear from you,
Staying Sane and Charging Ahead.
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