Monday, January 19, 2009

Personal Identity Should We Shield It?

I've explored numerous blogs, and many shield the identity of the blogger. I've got it all out there. Jen Carbonneau that's me. What's my worry? Should I become a Mrs. C or another pseudonym?

All I can think of is the Ender's Game series by Orson Scott Card. Two of the characters, Valentine and Peter Wiggin, use various names to establish online identities. Eventually, their true identities are revealed and they end up in powerful places.

My questions to all of you: Why do people hide themselves from the online community that they influence? Do you? Should I? (I know that it's a personal choice on my part; I just want to explore possibilities.)


  1. I can tell you that when I started out, I decided to shield my identity for many of the same reasons I do so on Facebook and MySpace.

    1) I want to keep my work and home lives separate. I know that might seem ridiculous, as I am a teacher who writes about teaching and education, but I want that to be a one-way relationship for the most part. It is a very personal passion of mine and I'd rather keep it to myself.

    2) I don't want to get fired, reassigned or be the victim of politics. I have been very critically of many district initiatives and curriculum decisions in the past 2 years, and though my criticisms may be valid, it's politically dangerous to be outspoken. I might be paranoid, but I've seen people suffer for less.

    3) Although I am very open with my students and usually answer their personal questions, I don't want to make it easy for them to track me online. Unlike social networks, my blog is open to anyone; all you need is the address. Sometimes my students are the subject of my posts, although usually only when they're giving me feedback. In my experience them finding the site would lead to tons of questions that I'd have to answer, deflect or otherwise deal with, which might help build classroom culture but ultimately is just kind of annoying.

    Now, keeping all that in mind, after almost two years of blogging, I don't see as big a deal about revealing my real name as I once did. It's not too hard to find it--if you look up my book or correspond with me via email you'll know.

    Not to mention that "Mr. D" is what my students actually call me. So in that way, it's kind of a window into me and my teaching life.

  2. Well, Mr. D has a point, if you're using your blog as a sounding board or letting off steam. Actually, I think blogs, facebook, and all other writing entities should be used with caution. We can get carried away with critisisms.
    A word of caution: If you wouldn't say it in public, why express it where others may view it?
    Just food for thought.

  3. Hi Jen,

    I just had this conversation with Jeff and Kim via email. I had a few comments and a follower - I was thnking only people in the course we are taking would be following me. It made me revisit my profile to make sure I don't have personal information "out there". I am a crazy user of all things Internet but am still careful about very personal information getting out there. Sometimes it can't be helped. I have had people track me down because of public obituaries posted online (not mine, obviously!). My thoughts I can share with anyone - criticisms or gratitudes don't impact me either way - jut don't want some whacko showing up at my door (that, has happened!).

  4. Thank you for all your insight. I'm looking forward to more input and deeper self-reflection on the topic.

  5. I felt the same way as Sharon. I thought only those in this class would be "following" me. So, I also revisited my information and personal Wiki that I posted. I guess if some quack wants to find you bad enough they will. It's just so hard to be involved with all this social online stuff, only to have to remain mysterious and incognito. It's weird to "Google" oneself and find all these links directly to my blogs, Wikis, etc. I really don't like it, but I guess I opened myself up to it once signing up.

  6. Ah....yeah...then there is me. A simple google search basically reveals my life. But that is how I have chosen to live.

    The bigger question is our students?

    1. Is anyone teaching them this?
    2. If not why are we surprised when they get in trouble?
    3. There is no such thing as private on the Internet. Facebook in their user agreement states that anything you upload to Facebook, becomes property of Facebook, which means they own it, which means you can't delete it from there server....ever. Many other online services have the same user agreement...but we don't read them, we click 'agree' and go on our marry way.

    I think it's a personal choice and a personal comfort level. My wife and I get into discussions about this often as she is more shielded with her identity....although it can be found, it's not as public as mine.

  7. I believe that I have decided in life that anything I say I want to own up to it--that is where I am with life. However, I am aware of the challenges we face when trying to embed the notion of safety to naive students. Since our school set each student up with their own email accounts, we have had some success when we let them know that their email is subject to being read without notice. However, this is a little piece of something bigger.

  8. Great discussions here! I would like to think some people are out there explaining this to their students. I know there is a great group started by Vicki Davis through diigo about digital citizenship and teaching our students how to be careful with posting "anything" to the internet. Here is the link.. great resources. I actually pride myself on these discussions with my 6-8th grade students as well as my own children. With our ever changing digital world these days, it is all too easy to hide behind a text or an instant message.. or how about the racy photos being sent via text messages these days? Yikes.. too much too fast..

  9. "I don't want to get fired, reassigned or be the victim of politics."

    Personally, I think this is one good reason. I too am outspoken and write often on "my space," bulletins...since I have started working where I work, I have deleted all of them.

    Freedom of speech might be valued in this country...but it is not valued in the workplace.

  10. I have found that prospective employers I have been interviewing with now "google" the names of applicants, both married and maiden names. For some it's no big deal, for others, it can mean disaster, or at the least, information will be found that the employee wished to remain "private".......whatever that means anymore!