OFFICIAL LIVE BLOG: Room of Your Own: Blogging Identities and You

Session Description: Do you blog in secret, under a pen name or completely anonymously? Have you ever thought about coming out of the blogging closet, changing your blogging direction or your identity? Or do you blog openly, using your legal name? How do you handle self-censorship, if at all? No matter how you deal with your blogging identity, there are pros and cons ... What’s your story?

Come dish with Anissa Mayhew from Hope4Peyton, Tanis Miller, the blogger behind Redneck Mommy and Janet Dean, who writes The Caffeinatrix and IzzyMom, and hear from other attendees whose online identities range from those who hid their online life until recently, those who gave up everything to come out of the closet, those who let it all hang out no matter what and those who grapple everyday with how much of themselves they want to share for the sake of keeping it real when everyone they know is reading.

Tanis – I started off blogging 4
years ago, totally anonymous. I made the mistake of telling my sister
about it. She read my blog and didn't clear the history. Then went to
find my blog and my dad read it, beat me up, and sent me to the
hospital. I subsequently lost the baby we were going to adopt.Now I'm very open and everyone knows
who the red neck mommy is. I am very open. And sometimes my red neck
mommy persona.

JANET - I'm Janet from Izzy Mom and Green Mom
Reviews. I started blogging at the end of 2005 at my husband's urging
which was his way of saying I don't want to listen to all you have to
say! My blog was just a blogger blog and I
knew that I didn't want to use my real name because of my experience
on message boards. I used an old nickname and everyone knew me as
Izzy. I didn't want these crazy people to find me. I write about my
kids, my job, his job.After a while I stopped blogging, and
had a mini blogging breakdown. That was the cathinatrix then I went
back to my old blog. I'm not so hidden about my identity anymore.I'm a completely different person than
is the real me on my blog. Different than who I am to my kids'
teacher, my playgroups that's the clean sanitized mommy friendly
version of me. On my blog I curse like a sailor so if you know any
of the people in my real life, please don't rat me out.

ANISSA:I blogged for three years as Hope for
Peyton, when my youngest daughter was diagnosed with cancer. It was
just meant to be a family blog to keep the family in the loop. It's
grown from there. I was very open about where the kids go to school,
evetrything. I was very out there. You could google what type of
underwear size I wear. I am the opposite of Izzy. My blog is a
very family sedate version of me. If you follow me on Twitter after
being on my blog, you won't like my Twitter stream! My 92 year old
grandfather reads my blog and he doesn't need to know about my
vagina. My daughter is doing well, she's in remission and it seemed
like a good time to retire it. That's when I started my new blog FREE
ANISSA which is more about the real me. Just started a new blog
called AMY LO. It's about a lot of us embracing that high
expectations suck and it's all about.

Catherine/Her bad mother – my blogging
identity is a character, just a portion of who I am. Janet – is
your anonymous blog a partial identity as well? Yes. Definitely

Anissa – I would say mine is very
partial as well. Can't complain about your husband's job when his
co-workers read the blog.

Catherine/Her Bath Mother: Do you find that the people in your
community react to your partial portrayal online?

Tanis – if you've read my blog, I
tend to be quite crass. My husband's family is very Christian because
they don't think it represents my life. They would prefer that I stop
to talk about blue thunder or the nipple rings and focus instead on
... God. My husband's construction co-workers don't mind. Most of
what I write is true but it's always spun to be funny or whatever.
The ones who don't like me just don't read it. Mostly my parents
reacted the most strongly. I am disowned. I have no family and I
don't see my siblings. But it's who I am. But there was a cost for
me. I have best friends like the ladies on stage with me. But I lost
a kid, because the government believed the site. I don't cuss as
much, don't talk about drinking as much anymore because we have a new
child that we adopted. At the same time, I won't let anyone take my
words away from me but I'm more sensible now.

Catherine/Her Bad Mother: To what extent does your online
identity have an effect on real life relationships? Things get spun,
things get enhanced – and how do people react to that?

Janet – my husband doesn't read my blog. Long ago I told him to not read it and so he doesn't really. My
best friend I told once when I was drunk. Everyone else in my life,
they just don't know. I so respect Tanis for being so out.

Anissa – I am the complete opposite
of Janet because my husband reads my blog and not only reads it but
also says “when are you posting next?” He got to read it like
eveyrone else does. He didn't know when I would post and when I would
post again. My family all read it. My grandfather reads it. My
friends know its there. And sometimes they say “wow! You really
went there!” My boundaries are pushed way further out because it is
a cancer site so I can't talk about how much the Publix guide pissed
me off today.I was writing about my real name about
my family knowing at any time people could connect me with my family.
It is really hard when you blog about who you really are. It is very
personal. It is like slashing your wrists open and letting it all
out. So when somebody harshes on it, it is very personal. There is no
caricature. It's just me.

Catherine/Her bad mother – I'm one of those
people who find it easier to say something I'm feeling on the blog
rather than in person. So what about you, how do deal with expressing

Participant Question: I am a journalist and have been out
there for years and have lost all chance of anonimity. I would love
to have a chance to be anonymous. How do you do that?

Tanis – I failed miserably.

Janet – Use a pseudonym and tell the
people that you care about that you are writing it. It is very
freeing for the people to know who the person is behind the blog.

Catherine – I run Her Bad Mother's Basement
about people submitting questions anonymously. When you blog, even if
you blog as anonymously as you can, you will always live in fear like
Janet because there is always the possibility that you will be found.
On the Internet you will be found.

Janet – one of my friends is
interviewing and was grilled by many interviewers about whether she
had a blog or did Twitter. It made me glad that my name is out there.

Anissa – I will never have a paying
job ever!

Participant – I got my job because of
my blog.

Participant – I blog under a
pseudonym and dole it out carefully. But I live in fear. The story I
had to make up about why I was coming to Chicago for 4 days and
leaving my children to my in-laws. It is so freeing in one sense but
so paranoid in the other. How do you balance that?

JANET – I say this conference is a
graphic design conference. I am just very vague about what I do.

Shannon, Phat Mommy – My initial
purpose about my blog was to keep my family in the loop about what
I'm doing. But every time I posted, someone in my family would attack
me. And now I have pulled back and I'm blogging here and there and a
little lost. My question is – do you regret how you blog?

Anissa – there's a neat feature in
Wordpress where you can blog an IP.

Tanis – I regret losing a child. I
would choose a different blog title. I wouldn't call myself the
Redneck Mommy. I might not be as funny but I wouldn't have lost a
child. I got home from Blogher last summer and two days later the
baby was taken away from me. I shut down until October. I had to make
a choice. When I lost my child 4 years ago, this was my outlet.
Nobody is going to like everything you do. You don't have to read it.
My husband's thoughts are the only ones that I let direct my blog. I
owe him that, I agreed to marry him. I don't have to obey him but I
can respect him. I agreed not to talk about his penis or our kids'
names. My kids know I blog and tell everyone at school.

ANISSA – my kids know about it too.
My oldest son got into huge trouble last year and I wrote a big post
about how awful I felt about punishing him. I said to him I wrote
this post and your grandma and your teacher will read it, I won't
post it if you don't want me to. He said, “I like it when you post
about me.”

Catherine – her bad mother – I am
one of the few bloggers who blog using her chidren's real names. I
thought about it a lot and am very comfortable with it. I was calling
Amelia wonderbaby and she wasn't a baby. It felt wrong to call Jasper
sprout. It felt contrived and I wanted my readers to connect more
freely with them.

Liz from this Full House – I started
bloggign 6 years ago and I had the nicknames. My two oldest girls
asked me to use their real names. They are 13 and 16 and asked. They
read my blog. They like to know what I'm thinking and like to be in
it. Mom, please don't call us Thing One and Thing Two. I send my
friends to your blog and they are like “Ewwww!” There's certain
things I know to keep to myself. If there are some things I'm not
sure they'll like I ask them.

Have you ever been asked by friends and
family to unpost?

All panel participants said yes.

Tanis – what set my mother off was I
wrote a letter to my daughter and it was all about how I hoped we
would have a better relationship when she was older. I said screw
you. I wrote the entire post about what happened with the beating. My
husband also asked me to take off a couple of posts that he felt
reflected badly on him and I did. I eat from his work so I owe it to

Janet – a couple of years ago, my
husband cheated on me. I wrote about it on my blog. It was very
therapeutic. We worked it out and I have since deleted the posts. He
never knew I had them up. If he had asked me to take them off I would
have done it.

Anissa – I unpublished one that my
friend wrote for em and another one that I wrote myself. My daughter
was doing terribly and the doctor said we might want to make
arrangements. I wrote a real raw post about if you're going to die,
just die, don't have it drag on. I unpublished it because I don't
want another parent going through it to read that. It was too close
to the heart.

HBM – my husband told me he was
uncomfortable when I wrote about our financial worries. I kept it up.

“What if some of your kids' teacher
or playgroup friends stumbled on your blog, could they realize it was

Janet - Well, I use my kids' real
initials and if you click on Twitter there is my real picture.

The names of your children, are they
the ones they chose?

Tanis – no, they were too little. I
chose them.

Anissa – my kids go to a Christian
school. Some of my kids' teachers found me on facebook and I told
them to unfriend me if they're uncomfortable with it. Don't be
surprised if I'm not who you really think I am because you don't know

Janet – is the Nickelodeon familiar
with the parents connect website? They went to each city and picked 4
or 5 bloggers for each city and asked parents to vote. I was
terrified that people would find out who I am, and I asked them to
please take it down.

Do you feel yourself connecting more to
a blogger who uses their real name or it doesn't matter. Majority say
it doesn't matter.

Participant – I censor myself and
what I put out there is there for everyone to see and it is a very
freeing thing.

Catherine - well I think that's a wonderful quote to end on. Thanks to everyone for such a great turnout!