On Anonymous Blogging

typewriter

It’s the mid-noughties. I’m at university, London is blowing my mind, and I’m tapping away on my LiveJournal like my life depends on it. I’m documenting all of my experiences, preserving them through writing, and reading the blog posts of strangers around the world doing the same. I’m reading (and writing) about breakups, sex, mixtapes, road trips, family drama, and beautiful vignettes about places visited, or wild nights out, or a feeling.

I treated my LiveJournal as a kind of late night confessional, a place to process and unpick and get things off my chest. There was no Twitter, no Instagram, no Snapchat back then. Facebook was just taking off, the wifi connection in our halls of residence was patchy at best, and everyone still spent hours creating MySpace layouts. People didn’t think about ‘managing’ their online presence. Anonymity still had value on the internet, in fact it was the norm.

Skip to 2017 and almost all of that is gone. Reddit is the only mainstream site that springs to mind when I try to think of an online community that has anonymity at its core. Everywhere you look now people are creating glossy narratives about their lives on myriad social media accounts, and the kind of unfiltered ramblings that were the norm on sites like LiveJournal are just a dim memory. Selfie-consciousness reigns supreme.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what all this means for writers, and for me as a writer. My writing developed through the act of ‘journaling’, particularly online journaling; it’s the kind of writing I know best and am most comfortable with. As I’ve got older I’ve journaled less and less (something I’m trying to remedy with this blog), mostly, I suppose, because of time restraints and the fact that life becomes kind of routine with age. But the changing landscape of blogging and the relentless rise of social media has also had a huge impact.

The move from long-form writing to ‘micro-expression’ on sites like Twitter was the beginning of the end for the traditional personal blog. No one wanted to read a page of text anymore, why would you when everything can be neatly expressed in 140 characters? I fell into the habit of tweeting and found that I wrote – and wanted to write – less and less. After a while this left me feeling kind of empty. I can’t help but think that in the process of cutting down the amount we write we’re forgetting how to meaningfully write about ourselves and our lives.

Perhaps even more damaging than the micro-expression exodus has been the move towards almost total non-anonymity online, a change which has radically altered how people write about and present themselves on the internet. We have lost something in this merging of our online and offline selves. Anonymous blogs (even anonymous social media accounts, trolls aside) can be very engaging because there is less of a tendency to present yourself or your life as a ‘brand’. You’re completely free to be honest and vulnerable. This is what lies at the heart of good writing, and so by extension good blogging.

I miss the abundance of thoughtful, honest, creative writing that was around in those LiveJournal years. Yes, there was a lot of guff in the mix, a lot of badly written, ‘I’m bored so I guess I’ll write this post’ posts, but when it was good it was really good because people really opened up. The combination of anonymity and long-form writing being the norm created something beautiful and real. Thankfully, this fragile thing still exists in various corners of the internet, not least here on WordPress (LiveJournal has long since become a blog graveyard). For that, at least, I am grateful. I look forward to reading about your messy, imperfect lives soon.

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221 thoughts on “On Anonymous Blogging”

  1. This really resonates with me. I’ve spent the past several years blogging about how I’m not really writing anymore — at least the type of writing that you describe here. I was immediately reminded of my Diaryland site, which is what I used instead of LiveJournal, from about 2001 to 2006ish. It’s password-protected but I’ve forgotten the password, so there’s all this early online writing of mine — raw, unfiltered, automatic — that I can no longer access!

    Thanks for this post — it makes me think a lot about how much I’ve sterilized my personal writing online, as well as heavily curated my online presence, mainly on my blog.

    Liked by 24 people

    1. I used to blog too around 2005-2008ish but I can’t remember which site anymore and I even kept journals or more commonly known as diaries even when I was younger. Those were definitely raw writing… Just getting things off one’s chest, to voice out without censors.

      Writing before was much more carefree unlike now that we have to customize everything for the sake of social media acceptance. But then again, all things change.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. This was great and so true. Most posts on social media these days are an act or an attempt to fit in with the norm. There is so much less creativity these days. Everything just feels like a recap, rather than a story.

    Liked by 18 people

  3. It can be scary to use your real name on Twitter or share your true opinions on Facebook when there could be repercussions. Can you be your “true self” when everybody knows your name? Can you be your “true self” when no one knows your actual name? Some anonymous presences online can develop a consistent voice readers can trust and follow without suspicion (which is what it sounds like you’ve done to great benefit to you and your readers), but there is a real ugliness in some of the anonymity out there. Sometimes anonymity is used as an excuse to be mean.

    Liked by 17 people

  4. I wholeheartedly agree. It is as if ‘we’ shirk the prospect of reading anything that requires any focus or mild dedication anymore. But I guess this is just the start of it. What’s more frightening is, where will we be once this reaches a precipice?

    I am a teacher and I can already see that kids are struggling more and more with longer forms of text. They want something bite size that is easy to digest. So if that is where the younger generation is at.

    I don’t even want to predict where we are going to end up.

    Liked by 9 people

  5. So true ….now a days these things are so common everyone is just posting rambling things on blogging site…feelings and truthfulness is just vanished from people…some people use this blogging just to get a game on social media sites and posting shitt on blog site..I have two blogs one for fashion and one for feelings..becoz sometimes I am not able to express anything so this WordPress site is really awesome for that ..awesome post I must say

    Liked by 8 people

  6. This is so spot on. Sometimes I find myself getting too caught up in the “micro-expressions” (especially on Twitter) and after a 140 character reflection or reading others’ short statements, empty is the perfect way to describe how I feel. It certainly doesn’t leave me anywhere near as fulfilled as sitting down and working through a personal essay, or writing about why something in a book I read captivated me. Thank you for this post!

    Liked by 9 people

  7. You captured the exact meaning of my blog or better yet the reason for it. I miss the feeling of being known by another name and being able to express myself without worrying about someone being able to track me down in “real time”. Much appreciation for this space being created

    Liked by 7 people

  8. This is all so very true. I’m pretty new to blogging but now I’ve started I can’t stop. I also find myself rambling. Whilst I’m conscious that I shouldn’t write too much – I just can’t help myself. I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing and I’m really not all that fussed about whether people do or don’t like what I write. The most important thing for me is that I really needed a creative outlet and blogging seems to be plugging that gap for me. I used to write in a journal regularly, but over the years have done so less and less. I’ve still got all of my old journals, but I don’t read them – perhaps I should.

    Liked by 4 people

  9. This is very true. When I came back to blogging recently, from just a five year hiatus, I couldn’t believe how much things had changed. No one was really writing. Instead, they were creating PInterestworthy graphics and adding some text to beef things up or just making lists. Everyone is a “lifestyle blogger” now. I don’t even know what that means. I just want to write and I want to read what writers have to say.

    Liked by 17 people

  10. Agreed. Don’t be a brand. Don’t cultivate an online platform. Or do. But know what you are doing, and might lose in the process. Every time I think about casting off my online anonymity, I think better of it. I’m essentially a private person and an observer, with no desire to put on a show.

    Liked by 5 people

  11. The radio had an opinion call in the other day regarding a man who was uncomfortable with his wife anonymously blogging about their (his) infertility. Many gruff men called in to reinforce that “that’s private and you don’t share that with anyone but your closest family.” My girlfriend has a similar feeling about my blogging.
    Facebook vetting makes the world a funny place, and by way of being stalked -by my family- I committed Fb suicide. Thanks for your endless political memes, but I have a real life to attend to!
    I think in abbreviating everything, we have led ourselves away from the whole point of writing. We write to express ourselves, share ourselves, our experiences. Not to tell the world some vague, condensed generality of our current state of being. Good writing paints the picture, takes the reader by the hand, and walks them through a vivid experience, whether real or fiction. Great writing invokes emotion and teaches lessons. I’m so glad this is still valued somewhere in the digital world.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. I think you are right. And trying to “fit in” and be “liked” and “famous”. It is part of the reason this time around in the blogging world, I decided I wanted to remain anonymous. It is very freeing!

      Liked by 8 people

    2. Couldn’t have put it better myself. It’s true. Outside approval disguised as false self-confidence that the only approval required is by one’s self. Often accompanied by “Just doing me” or “All I need is me” etc. Yet an inadequate number of likes or hearts will cease the post to be a subject of the recycle bin.

      Like

  12. So true! It has all come to creating a cool online image these days. The essence and originality is on a brink…yet still at times I do come across real and touching life experiences that at least feel a little honest. There is always hope.

    Liked by 11 people

    1. I agree with these sentiments. There is more artifice than art around. It is such a waste of the extraordinary opportunity this platform affords.

      Liked by 6 people

      1. I’ve honestly found the people in this comment section to be of truly valuable insight as their views clearly carry more weight than any cool online image. Well done with this post. The people involved here are genuine. Character, life, personality. Written words speak volumes, they always have.

        Liked by 3 people

  13. I keep a pseudonymous poetry blog that no one I know knows of. I chose anonymity for the same reasons : to stay true. Poetry is the way I deal with not writing long-form. I think longform list its hold as people started using smartphones. the devices are just not conducive to reading or writing long texts the way a computer is. The tool is shaping the medium and the message.

    Liked by 10 people

  14. This was a lovely find! thank you so much for writing it. I’m a new blogger, and I find that I love just the writing of it as a journal, a repository of my thoughts and lessons learned. I am a middle-aged wanna-be “real” writer, and right now, I just love getting the words out of me, you know? But constantly I am thinking about the end-game: am I branding? will this make me money? is anybody reading? am I posting often enough to get noticed? And get noticed for what reason, for goodness sakes? It is so exhausting.

    I am taking your post as permission to quit worrying about those things. 🙂 Have a great Friday!

    Liked by 18 people

      1. Hi Tiffany – it’s so nice to hear from other new bloggers! It is a great thing to do for yourself, to write out your thoughts. It’s very revealing! I learn a lot about myself. Happy blogging! 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

    1. Your response really spoke to me. I too am a middle-ages wanna-be ‘real’ writer that loves getting the words out of me. I too am thinking of all the things you mentioned. However, the real reason I was drawn to blogging was to talk and express myself and share what I have learned and am learning with others. It is at the end of the day a creative outlet. I so needed this at this time of my life!
      Happy blogging!

      Liked by 7 people

      1. Thanks, Susie! I was feeling like I was the only one out there who wanted to blog as a creative outlet, not a business enterprise. I mean, if I should happen one day to make money with it – hooray! It’d be great. But to start with that end in mind just feels false, somehow. Anyway, thanks for connecting! I’m heading to your blog to read your work. I bet we have a lot in common. 🙂

        Liked by 6 people

      2. Hey Stacey – Yes, I get what you mean. I think trying to blog for popularity points/money/etc is a fast way to become unoriginal in one’s writings, because then one would be pandering to a perceived popular opinion, rather than writing great things.

        Liked by 4 people

    2. Yes your words ring true for me as well! Except maybe the part of a “wanna-be ‘real’ writer”. Not the point of my writing this time around. It is really the repository aspect, and the ability to learn from my own thoughts even. Does that make sense? I

      Liked by 6 people

      1. Oh, yes, it makes so much sense. When I write, just free-write, I often don’t know what I think till I finish. Just like writing a character in a novel – you don’t really know what they think until you write it! Writing is weirdly magic like that. 🙂 Love it.

        Liked by 4 people

    3. Thanks for stopping by, and welcome! I know, it is so exhausting trying to balance all those things – I just had a long conversation with my OH about all of it…I just end up going in circles. My conclusion was that I will just stay true to myself and focus on my actual writing rather than how to “brand” it. Hopefully everything will fall into place from there and an audience will grow organically.

      Liked by 3 people

    4. I too am a new blogger and am currently just enjoying writing about my everyday life experiences and yes, I have also been thinking about the end game. You are right! It is so exhausting. Thank for your comment. I am giving myself permission to just immerse myself in the process and just relax and enjoy it😁. Thank you as well to the author of the post. Great read!

      Liked by 1 person

  15. As a brand-new blogger, I really appreciate this post. You articulate something I’m becoming aware of. To me the primary use of blogging is to get me writing, something I haven’t done much of for 40-plus years (life did get in the way). I’m already appreciating the value of reflection and the insights that I develop in the process. And at the same time, I’m noticing how easily I can be captured by “stats” how many views, any likes, what topics draw more, etc. I frequently need to remind myself of my intention in doing my blog, and that I wish it to remain primarily for me, and if others are interested and want to check in periodically, thats fine, and it isn’t the point.

    Liked by 8 people

    1. I completely agree…I am in the same boat exactly. The value of reflection and the insights that develop as a result… sooooo true! I’m curious, did you tell your friends/colleagues about your blog? This too changes how we write. When we know who is in our audience, our voice changes don’t you find?

      Liked by 6 people

      1. Susie, I have told friends about my blog, and yes, I think its had a bit of an effect upon my writing, although as I continue with it, I notice that I am not particularly concerned with their responses. When I remind myself of my purpose in writing, then I think I’m pretty true to my voice. Its definitely something to watch, as it really does tie into the “Like” thing.

        Liked by 7 people

      2. That’s an interesting thought. I too have just started my blog, yet it never occurred to me that my audience (once it grows) may have an effect on how I may write. This could be a positive I suppose. Whether or not, as well as to what extent that it may change someone could just be in fact a reflection of the writer being open to new ideas and views on something.

        Liked by 1 person

  16. I remember when I first wrote a personal post, not many followed my blog and I spilled everything on my mind carefree that ‘nobody’s going to read this anyway’. That one post (however) was read by friends and family, people that I never though would read it. Although I felt appreciated, every personal post since then has become less and less personal, with less of me in it.
    And I’ve been worrying over it, how I cannot write freely anymore. You seem to have written about something I have been thinking over. I think you nailed it.

    Liked by 10 people

    1. Thanks for the kind words. Only a few people in my life know about this blog, so I’m hoping I’ll be able to keep writing in the way I want. Staying true to myself and authentic is something I’ve really struggled with on on other blogs I’ve had, I really want to get back to that.

      Liked by 4 people

  17. I’ve been blogging for years. I originally started off on Live Journal, like so many people did (I still get birthday notifications from my friends on there! We’ve all since fallen off the face of that website), but I also had two blogs on Blogger before I moved to WordPress this year. (The Blogger blogs, only one is still up. The other was deleted a long time ago. Sometimes I wish I hadn’t deleted it, but it all centered around an ex, and it was so therapeutic to delete him from the internet.)

    It seems like a lot of people are trying to find ways to “shiny up their life,” so to speak, to make themselves look better online than offline. And that’s dangerous to everyone’s self-esteem. Those who look at the shiny blogs and think, “I can never be like that,” and those who create the shiny blogs who know that’s not really them.

    Liked by 8 people

    1. That’s the funny thing about shiny online personalities. Most buy (literally buy) into that lifestyle, and are forced to maintain it for the sake of face. It’s dangerous. There’s a real life to lead. And I for one would rather have a legacy written through life experiences, blogs, photographs and the memories of those around me, as opposed to some shiny false profile picture gaining 10K likes over a forced-lie.

      Like

  18. All this is so true. It is hard to find poetry with real form, poetry that sings and rings true. Just imagine what the blogosphere could have been if it had been available in another age.

    Liked by 4 people

  19. Thank you for sharing these thoughts. I wrestle with these kinds of questions daily. How can we hold onto creativity and uniqueness if we are trying to promote our writing? After all, don’t we want to reach a healthy audience? I like to hope that there is a sweet spot for all of us, but – as you express here – it doesn’t come easily. Your journey is an encouragement!

    Liked by 8 people

  20. Reblogged this on Tripping On Words and commented:
    I guess, at one point or another, almost every blogger has had these thoughts in their minds. And you nailed it down to the last word. The constant filtering that we tend to do, the amount of care we put into maintaining our brand and being consistent, it just takes us away from the main goal of writing: self-expression. Instead, as you said, we’re more self-conscious now. Or selfie-conscious.

    Liked by 8 people

  21. I agree. Social media has changed everyone’s way of thinking and the reason we wrote. I kept my blog anonymous as I’m not in it for the likes or awards. I’m here to express how I felt that day and hopefully my post will touch someone. Great post overall.

    Liked by 3 people

  22. I’ve recently read some e-books on blogging and they all get you to ask yourself, ‘What is your brand?’ and ‘What can you offer people?’ I felt dismayed because I don’t have a brand and I can’t offer anything except my writing. I understand what you say about anonymity – it allows you to be yourself … but without revealing a name to go with it.

    Liked by 9 people

    1. All the advice I’ve ever been given about blogging or freelance writing has said to focus on your niche and brand too. I understand it’s important to some extent but I do think it’s also extremely damaging and leads, in most cases, to empty writing. In the end what matters is that you’re happy with how you write and you enjoy what you write about.

      Liked by 3 people

  23. Think of it this way: we were cutting our teeth on Diaryland, Live Journal, Blogspot, Xanga and the like. You need somewhere safe to “fail”… something small circuit, out of the spotlight. We got to fail, and grow, anonymously, which led to something special that cannot be recreated on the spotlight platforms of today. Don’t be sad it’s over; be glad we had it at all.

    Double spacing is in honour of the typewriter, the item shown in the photo 😉

    Liked by 5 people

  24. I really do think this blog post holds a great deal of value. Sites such as Twitter while being of great use for alternative things – really did assist in the degradation of personal blogs as well as the platforms for writers to create valuable pieces of work. Not only that, but it shortened the attention span and tolerance for what people would be willing to read or even look at – hence the 3 min fluff videos on Youtube – let alone the 140 character counts on twitter. Language FFS – see what i did there? – Disregarding the entire phrase “For F… Sake” (I’ll not swear on your blog) But that in itself, the shortening of words to three letter word dribbles is a direct result of how blogs have been on the down spiral. It’s a shame….think I’ll blog on that…thanks. You have a great blog here. I’ll be sure to follow. And if you have time for checking mine out, I’d appreciate that too. Thank you.

    Liked by 4 people

  25. I totally agree! Writing should me meaningful, not just for show. Writing should be helpful, for everyone to know. It should be something from the heart that the writer lets go. It should leave the reader yearning to read one more.
    …That’s what I’m trying to do with my now blog for making an impact on the world. @myhelpingworld.wordpress.com
    It would mean so much to me to hear your opinion on it, from the writing point of view. My goal is to be helpful to stressed students and to help the world’s environment.

    Liked by 4 people

  26. I LOVE THIS!!! I wrestle with a feeling of wanting to write about my life but also I do not want to be forced to compete for readers in a selfie rich content poor subscriber base. The new age of social media communication SUCKS. It’s more about making yourself a brand than sharing anything of value. Selling your face, your body, and combining it with some niche content to market a book or webinar or marketing strategy for Facebook or YouTube. Long story short it’s grown too commercialized and downright fake which as a writer we tend to want to express the truth that bubbles deep within…not paint on a face and smile for a camera to produce click bait traffic. As I said before, I LOVE THIS POST. You are not alone in your conflicted state!

    Liked by 6 people

  27. Yes! I just started blogging again in efforts to help my freelance writing career & it’s completely different from when I use to blog. I did all this research to help promote my writing and I feel out of touch because I’m use to raw emotions, long paragraphs. I feel slightly out of my comfort zone!

    Liked by 7 people

  28. As someone who is blogging anonymously, I love this (even though I can see how self-serving that is). I think you’re completely right. People feel free to be honest if they can wear a mask while they’re doing it. Now we have social media accounts that we use to create a mask of perfection for audiences of people who know our faces and names. Where should people go to be honest anymore? Confessionals?

    Liked by 9 people

  29. Social media are just the background noise of our time. Nothing is created, nothing will remain. But yes, as you said, we can still remain true to ourselves, not expecting any instant gratification. The tide will possibly change in the future.

    Liked by 7 people

    1. Yes in this time of instant gratification, many want validation just to feel important. I have seen people become angry because they didn’t receive any likes on a post.

      Liked by 4 people

  30. I remember when I had an online journal, early 2000’s. People did share more personal things. I think it was because of the anonymity. It was just different back then, social media existed but it was different. I don’t know to explain it. I still have a journal, however it’s not online. To be honest, I have always had a handwritten journal. I don’t know if writing was better in the past than now. I do know that writing helps me get through life. So, I will continue even with all the changes.

    Liked by 9 people

  31. I love this post. I began blogging only two years ago. I hesitated for years. Afraid of being judged because of my thoughts and ideas. I was afraid of being transparent on my blog. I wish I would have begun in the pioneer days of blogging when freedom to write what you felt was the norm. Social media creates a place for people to air dirty laundry and create facades of who they truly are. Social media is filled with actors all looking for light on a huge global stage. This post is resonates with me. A guy who began writing when he submitted a little story to a contest as child in the southern United States. I didn’t win but my passion was born then. I have abused many blank voids of parchment with my scribbles. Thanks again for posting this.

    Liked by 7 people

      1. Thanks. I read what people post on social media and some posts I don’t need to read. Privacy does have its place and in my opinion there is a beauty to it. Thanks again for your blog and your deep thoughts on being anonymous.

        Liked by 1 person

  32. Absolutely!!! So beautifully written!!! And you could not have been more right!! I choose to remain with my poetry blog because I take situations and circumstances in my life with other people and write it in letter form to point out lessons to myself, and undesirable reflections of myself. I make it public in the hopes that people will understand that while it may seem like I’m speaking on another person I am in fact speaking on the reflections of myself that I see in that person. I do it publicly in hopes that someone could see that and look for their own reflections and fix whatever it is they’re unhappy with. If I didn’t approach some things anonymously I wouldn’t be able to be as honest as I need to be because it would seem like I was public bashing people.

    Liked by 6 people

  33. I really love this post. Thank you for this. I have to agree with you that anonymity gives one freedom. I myself go simply as bookmaidenblog and yes it has been easier to open up. Thank you again for a lovely post 😄

    Liked by 5 people

  34. You put into words what I’ve been feeling lately, especially since developing a chronic pain condition. If you look at my blog, I started out writing about one aspect of my life and, since the diagnosis, it has completely changed. It’s brought me back to my days of Xanga (remember that?) Sometimes I wonder if I’m being too raw, not making it neat enough, but there’s no liberation in being neat, no healing. Thank you for this reminder.

    Liked by 6 people

  35. Absolutely loved this post. I have been thinking about this a lot lately, so it was nice to come across your blog post about it! Though non-anonymity has become the trend, I still find myself holding onto it. There is just something nice about privacy, something nice about not trying to keep up with what everyone else doing, and staying true to yourself.

    Liked by 4 people

  36. I loved my Livejournal because I always felt more comfortable sharing information behind a screen instead of face to face but you’re right, it’s become like a blog graveyard. More and more of the community I followed and communicated with stopped using it and by extension, I stopped using it. Then I started a blog long ago and then I stopped that too, afraid and uncomfortable that people I know would read it. “You’re completely free to be honest and vulnerable. This is what lies at the heart of good writing, and so by extension good blogging.” Yes to this. Yes to this lovely post. Thank you!

    Liked by 6 people

  37. I love this post because that is exactly the kind of thing I was looking for on this site. People that tell their story openly and honestly. I’m new at it but honestly it’s already been a huge stress reliever.

    Liked by 5 people

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