The blog of photographer and musician, Kim Ayres

The dangers of not being anonymous...

I received a comment today on my post about the Anonymous Blog. As I started to reply I realised that I had more to say than just a couple of lines, so I've put it as a posting. Immediately below is the comment I got from an Anonymous Blogger, and below that is my reply.

One reason that occured re family and friends not leaving comments is fear of letting something slip about you...or saying ring me on 0845478904...oops...or the textual equivalent of pointing to you in a photgraph (naked, aged 24 months) amongst a roomful of your co-workers.

The anonymity in weblogs is a natural reaction to other things apart from losing your job, friends, etc. Fear of who is out there in iWorld ought to be roughly the same fear of that at the funny looking bloke lurking at the bottom of the tube station platform. Often this is set aside because typing in a warm room of one's own chosing seems safe.

Everyone who has blogged has experienced comments spam...
This is an invasion of your space because you did not set up the blog for this reason. It was to air your views, say something funny, and get a response to them from time to time from people roughly like you. But hidden in there is an idea (false) that only people who are like you or understand you will be commenting, when in reality it can be anyone. You are after all doing the equivalent of writing it on a piece of paper and dropping millions of copies from a light aircraft over London, Cairo, Baghdad, or Penge - with your name and address and telephone number on it (for those who understand computery things).

The flaming commenter is a lesser species of the comments spammer which can be the result of being insufficiently technically knowledgeable. Real techies are instantly (it seems) aware of such potential nuisances or traps as the automated comments into weblogs which are actually something quite other : someone trying to get your email address, or advertising or with links which can lead not to to weblogs like your own but to ones consisting of some wierd repetitive code or multiple copies of one post (it can seem).

A lot in weblogs ( can't use the term blogging anymore: just read somewhere non-British people are confused between blogging and 'dogging'), can be about things like new software, hatred of Bill Gates,etc, which are in their turn often actually self-promotion vehicles, acting like a kind of demented accumulative CV [mostly American].

In the arly days when i went on line i came across peculiar academic or sub-academic websites where suggestions were made about the value of the internet for developing multi-personalities. We, here, in the UK sent these people to loony bins, when we still had them (pychiatric hospitals not people with multiple personalities...)


Hello Mr/Ms Anonymous commentator! You sound like an interesting, informed and lucid person. I would invite you to comment with a name (invented or not, so long as it's consistent) so that I can separate you from other anonymous commentators (although in truth, this has only consisted of spammers to date).

I understand the fear of being noticed, or specifically the fear of being noticed by some nutter who may wish to do you harm, but I believe it to be largely a fallacy.

Our fear of the dangerous stranger has reached ludicrous proportions in our society. We fear that if our children walk to school they might be kidnapped; we fear that if someone is videoing them at the school concert then they might be jacking off to their image; we fear that if someone looks "a bit foreign" then they could be a suicide bomber.

Xenophobia and paranoia are tools manipulated by those in the media and in authority who prefer us to live in a state of constant mild anxiety. In this state we will consume more – whether that is more media, or more food/gadgets/lifestyle items for comfort and so keep the economy going.

The perception of the dangerous stranger is a far cry from the reality. Drugs are mostly sold to our teenagers by their friends, not strangers; the vast majority of children who are abused, are done so by people who know them, not weirdos we don't know; suicide bombers affect a tiny, minute percentage of the population – we are far more likely to be killed by a car, or even win the lottery for that matter.

We can live our lives in constant fear and paranoia, or we can enjoy the company and diversity of people, cultures and beliefs, which can enrich our lives beyond telling.

Maybe I am naïve, and maybe this will come back to haunt me, but I feel that the really dangerous people are few and far between, and more likely to have their sights set on winning the next election than worrying about personally attacking me. Yes there are psychos and offensive people out there, but they are not as commonplace as we are led to believe.

If there does come a time that I feel worried or intimidated by blogging (web-logging if you prefer) then I will stop doing it. At the moment I feel there is far more to gain and the risks are minimal.

I would welcome comments from others on this topic - are we right to be wary, or is most of it overblown hype?


Belovedlife said...

I don't know Kim. I personally am wary in my blogging. That is to say, I don't like to post pictures of my kids, or give too much information regarding where I am and exactly what I am doing. Of course if someone were really intersted in finding someone, It wouldn't take much in this day and age. I think even the most careful of bloggers may let out too much on some occassions. However it brings us to the important question you posed the other day as well as the question when do we blog anonymously and lose the reality to become essentially liars.
As far as family and friends, I too find it odd that they have told me how mych they love to read my blog, yet never leave any comments or hint that they have been visiting. Eerily enough they will comment on how busy its been or how was the md appointment, to which I look quizically at them, wondering how they know about it since we haven't spoken in a while. Odd, yet I think they are a little uncomfortable, as I am very open about my feelings in my blog, so they may very well feel voyeristic, reading my journal, my "private thoughts". Unsure how to deal, they just pretend that they haven't been reading. Kinda like mom may have done when going through your backpack and finding a note from a classemate....

Tara Marie said...

My family and friends say the samething "I read your blog daily,,,I love it"...but never comment [or rarely]

My name and address is in the phone book, my pictures are in the yearbook and from time to time, we even get in the newspaper or on TV.

Before blogging, if you typed my name in a search engine you got hundres of hits because I was a media relations specialist for some major companies [Oracle and Cisco systems].

I love reading....whether it is a real person or ficticious.....I'm a reader and dreamer and this medium suits me just fine.

Ramana Siddharth said...

hi kim..1st time i am at ur blog..i totally agree with u..the media/governments,etc want 2 promote the mean world syndrome..the chances of a blogger revealing his identity being at risk is just the same as any journalist who writes under his name 4 a we dont blog from war zones :)..and the minute risk like u say is worth taking..anyway only if a person reveals his identity will he be responsible in what he writes..

did u follow the ashes?

BStrong said...

This is a topic of discussion where my wife and I don't see eye to eye. She doesn't necessarily believe in complete anonymity. Everyone at blogger knows our name and knows our kids names and where we live. She just has this rule about posting pictures; it's a no no for now. I on the other hand will not give in to the fear that society drills into us daily of the shadows lurking in the dark ready to strike at any moment. I agree that many of these fears are manufactured by our local media. Fear is what captivates and sells not fluffy feel good news.

Tara, I feel the same as you do. If you really want to look me up and find out about me and my family, it's pretty simple. I still work in the media business and have had many stories written about me and my company, with pictures. All one needs to do is type in my name and yahoo or Google will spit out quite a few pages on me. My kids have been in our local paper and when that happens we are all excited, but if a picture is posted on the internet we all get freaked, I DON’T GET IT.

Whether its fictional or real, doesn't really make a difference to me, if it's a good story I'll read it.

Great post Kim

Kim Ayres said...

Siddharth - welcome to my ramblings, and thank you for taking the time to comment!

I'm afraid I haven't been following the ashes. I was a rather uncordinated child and as such grew up with a passionate loathing for school sports - specifially football (soccer), cricket and rugby, and avoid them if at all possible.

That aside, I appreciate your input. As you say, we are not blogging from war zones, and we are no more exposed than any journalist, or someone who writes for a living. I do truly feel that the risks are exaggerated and the quality of our lives suffers if we give into it.

Bstrong and Tara Marie, I agree that most of us are exposed already if someone wants to find out more about us.

However, I don't know what you do for a living, Tara Marie, but Bstrong runs his own business and I used to run my own web design business, and as such we are probably more used to being in the spotlight. Indeed, we know that we can gain more business if we are known better, and so are not so averse to seeking publicity. For those not used to being in the limelight, having strangers suddenly turn around and notice us can be a little intimidating.

I can understand the fears, but I still feel they are unnecessary. I read so much about your children, Bstrong & Belovedlife, that I would love to see pictures of them, and do feel a bit sad that you are fearful of putting them up. We all love to see pictures of wee Emma Sage on Tara Marie's site, and I'm sure she would be the first to tell us if there have been any detrimental effects in posting all those images of her daughter.

I have had the occasional comment from people who want to leave an abusive message, but I have the power to delete their messages. After being deleted a couple of times, they seem to have realised that it takes them longer to write them than it does for me to delete them and they've eventually given up and gone away.

Like Bstrong says I don't feel the need to give into the fabricated fears

Natalia said...

Do you think I am crazy for having my blog be my real name? I mean, I have nothing to hide...but do you still think I am crazy?


Kim Ayres said...

I'm probably the wrong one to ask that Natalia, as my blog is my real name too. No, I don't think you're crazy at all (although they do say that philosophy graduates have a tendency to struggle with their own existence in the universe...)

The point I've been making is that some people would think you crazy for being completely upfront and open about who you are, because there are nutters out there on the web who might become stalkers.

Personally I think it's just fearmongering.

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