By Meredith Farkas | September 17, 2007
If you believe what some people have been saying, maybe so. I didn’t want to be on an Annoyed Librarian kick, but she commented on something that had been bothering me for a while; the assertion that people who blog anonymously (or pseudonymously) are cowards.
Considering the number of bloggers who do not identify themselves on their blogs (almost 1/4 of blogging librarians), I am loath to believe that it is all about cowardice. There may be a lot of reasons why people blog anonymously. Lots of people work in libraries that would not be comfortable knowing that their employees were writing blogs (even if they didn’t blog anything inappropriate about work). Some people are looking for a job and are worried abut how people might look upon what they write. I’d say people who do not identify themselves on their blog to protect their careers are smart, not cowardly. But that’s just my take.
Who among us has wanted to post something but didn’t because you knew it could be bad for your career? Are we cowards for not posting it? Nah, I think we’re smart. I know I find myself in the position sometimes. That’s why some people have additional LiveJournal blogs or MySpace blogs that they keep to write the things that wouldn’t be politic to put out there for anyone other than their friends. I’ve sometimes thought it would be nice to have an anonymous blog in addition to this, but I really don’t have the time or energy to lead a double life. My first life is enough work.
The Annoyed Librarian has made a lot of people think. The Annoyed Librarian has written a lot of things that have really stirred up interesting debates or have made people say “that’s exactly how I feel, though I’d never say it.” As the Pragmatic Librarian wrote:
Contrary to what some have stated, I believe that anonymity and pseudonymity do not automatically negate an opinion. Granted, you might not know the background or the biases of whoever expresses such opinions, but the validity of their claims should become clearer through further discourse. If someone has compelling or interesting arguments, the discussion should focus on those, rather than on the “personalities” involved.
In addition, there’s a difference between one who writes offensive things designed only to hurt people anonymously and one who writes criticism anonymously. We often don’t distinguish between the two. You can’t lump what the Annoyed Librarian writes in with the anonymous comments from some of her readers that are downright nasty.
What I find most interesting is how many people are identifying anonymous or pseudonymously written blogs as their favorites in the three favorite blogs survey. Obviously, many of these are touching a chord. That says something. I look forward to tallying the results of the survey in early October.
There will always be topics that people simply can’t write about under their own names because of the nature of the topic or because of the position they are in. It’s very easy to be a journal editor or a tenured professor or a former president of ALA or someone else with very little to lose to make bold statements about the things they believe in. It’s also easy for someone to make bold statements on topics that are less than taboo these days. It is not so easy for someone who relies on other librarians (who may not agree with him or her) for employment to make bold statements about things that are thought of as sacred cows. And yet, if no one was writing this, we wouldn’t have the lively debates that the Annoyed Librarian has stirred up. I don’t think someone could write what she does and put their name to it. Similarly, I don’t think people can criticize job searching and the tenure track in academia under their real name in the Chronicle of Higher Ed (as Annoyed brings up). It tells me that we are living in an age in our profession where people with certain opinions need to blog anonymously or pseudonymously. And there will probably always be certain things that people will feel the need to blog anonymously about depending on how to political winds are shifting.
Frankly, what does it matter that we can’t put a face to the writings of the Annoyed Librarian? She is a person and like many people we interact with online, a person we don’t know. So many conversations go on online with people we’ve never met. It’s the nature of the medium. Does knowing her name, her face, and where she works really make a difference? How many people do we interact with on listservs that we don’t know and aren’t the least bit curious about? How many blogs do we read where we really don’t care who the person behind the writing is? My friend Michelle was “Jane” for the longest time on her blog until she “came out.” I enjoyed her writing just as much as Jane as I do as Michelle. It’s mainly when someone writes something we don’t like that we really want to know who they are. Isn’t that interesting?
What I love most about the library blogosphere is that we’re not judged by our CVs, but by the content of our writing. Were that not the case, I’d never have gotten an audience at all. If it didn’t matter to people who I was when I first started blogging, why should it matter who the Annoyed Librarian is? If you don’t like her writing, don’t read it. If you like it, it shouldn’t matter all that much who she is.
If you do blog anonymously (or pseudonymously), why do you do it? I know there must be a whole bunch of reasons I can’t think of and I’m curious to hear what they are.