Stage 1: Complete Anonymity- In the beginning, it was simple. No one knew I was writing a blog. Not my husband. Not my mother. Not my best friend. No one. I started it when I found out I was pregnant and wanted a place to sort through some of my thoughts on what this new stage of my life meant for all of the roles I played. I could have just written it down in a journal, but a blog seemed like a good way to include links to sources that inspired me and informed me.
Stage 2: Almost Complete Anonymity- I was a creative writing major as an undergraduate. Maybe that training is why I absolutely crave feedback on my writing. It doesn't have to be good feedback. In fact, critical feedback is usually more helpful. I wanted people to talk to me about what I wrote. I wanted to be able to say "Hey, here's this thing I wrote. Let's talk about these ideas." So I told a handful of people about my blog: my husband, a few friends.
Stage 3: Online Community- Shortly after I told a few people about my blog, I wrote a post responding to blue milk's 10 questions about feminist motherhood. That post also signified a major moment when I began to shift my thinking about why I was writing to begin with. It started to become more than just a blog I used to vent my personal frustrations; it became a blog I used to vent my frustrations (and sometimes joy) with the world at large. When blue milk linked back to my post, I had actual readers.
Stage 4: Sharing in Real Life- At some point, I gained enough confidence in my writing (or lacked enough common sense to care what people thought), and decided to share my blog posts on my personal Facebook page. At that point, everyone on Facebook knew both my online identity and my real life identity. This included people I went to high school with, family members, and classmates. From there, people shared my work (thanks!) so sometimes people who I didn't know knew about my blog would ask me about it.
Stage 5: Weirdness- Then things got weird. Some people knew who I was; some people didn't. I had people reading my blog that I talked to online and considered friends and people who I knew in real life but didn't really talk to. I liked knowing that people were reading my work, but I was still scared to just put my real name on it for the world to see. I was afraid of what it would mean for me professionally if someone googled my name and saw my ranting about Kraft's racist Milkbites or even my reflections on my own body image. At some point, my first name became attached to articles that were cross posted elsewhere or when I was featured on other sites. Then, to further complicate things, I presented research at a conference that was largely based off of work that I had done through the blog, but I couldn't really talk about that on the blog without saying who I was. My professional, academic, and personal lives were all converging into this blog, but I didn't know how to handle it.
Stage 6: Google + Bullied Me
I signed up for Google + accidentally. It was a literal accident. I clicked the button when I was trying to click something else and then I thought, sure, why not? Well, Google + requires you to use your real name. I didn't like that, but I didn't want to lose access to all of my Google products, which include this blog, so for a while I was listed there as "Michelle Jane." Recently, I've been wanting to be more active on Google Plus because it looks like a platform with a lot of potential. Plus, I'm really pretty angry at Facebook and its completely misogynistic principles, so an alternative would be nice to have. When I went to fiddle around with Google + (because I honestly feel like my mother who can't figure out how to turn on our TV without my teenage brother's help when I'm on there), I ended up hitting something that linked my Google Plus account with this blog. I could have undone it, but I decided not to. I'd been thinking about just putting my name on the thing for a while now, and if not now, when? So, here I am: Michelle Parrinello-Cason.
I still have some misgivings over how I might be viewed by someone just searching for my name. I think I come across as angrier with the world in this blog than I am in reality. It's not that I'm not angry over the things that I say I'm angry over here, but I'm also happy a lot, and I don't tend to write about that as much.
Still, I don't say anything on this blog that I wouldn't say to your face. I don't say anything here that I'm ashamed of or want to hide. I have said things here that I have since shifted my thinking on, but writing about them and getting feedback is what made me shift my thinking. As far as I'm concerned, being willing to talk and then listen and learn is a strength, not a weakness.
I'm an academic. Much of what I write about here I also write about professionally. Having the two platforms under the same name makes my life easier when it comes to publications and references. Plus, blogging seems to be getting more and more legitimate in academic circles. If academics are supposed to share their thoughts with a like-minded community, isn't this the way to do it?
Finally, part of me is just so cynical about online security that I took a stance of inevitability. Chances are that if you really wanted to know who I was before this big reveal, you could have figured it out. I'd left enough clues about my identity in enough places and people are savvy. It's better to own my own identity than have it crafted for me.
How have you handled your decisions about how to manage your online identity? Did you go through stages or have you stuck to your decision?
Oh! And feel free to come hang out with me at Google + even though I don't know what I'm doing yet.