What is Anonymity?

// May 14th, 2007 // Blog

I was going to write this as a comment in response to Unique's latest entry, but decided that it might be worth an entry of its own.

The question i have posed in the subject, is not the most profound. In the end, a dictionary will provide an adequate and straightforward answer:

a·non·y·mous
–adjective
1. without any name acknowledged, as that of author, contributor, or the like: an anonymous letter to the editor; an anonymous donation.
2. of unknown name; whose name is withheld: an anonymous author.
3. lacking individuality, unique character, or distinction: an endless row of drab, anonymous houses.

Anonymity has its uses, and can be quite empowering. But what is the point of anonymity, with people whom you have developed a bond of trust? The sisters who have access to my protected posts know my real name, my location, my job. Has it affected my writing? Not that i can tell.

So, why did i unveil the blogger's mask?

Because i have already revealed so much of myself to them, that i am no longer anonymous. They know enough about me, that they can imagine me as a real person. My personality comes through clearly on the page, even if they have never seen my face. I am not my name. I am more than a/s/l. I have already unveiled the most significant part of me: me. Most other things are just superficial add-ons, so i can be differentiated from the other six point whatever billion inhabitants of this planet.

The only real concern one should have about sharing one's identity with fellow bloggers, is security. Y'know, stalkers, identity fraud, being added to annoying mailing lists (send this on to 10 friends in the next hour, else you'll be cursed, blah blah blah). Funny how we don't care so much about sharing personal details in the 'real world', where bad things can happen just as easily.

You tell strangers your name, without them even asking for it:

“Assalamu 'alaykum sister, I'm Sairah. Pleased to meet you.” (Btw, that's not my name).

You give away your telephone number to people who you've just met:

“Hey babe, call me!” *wink* (You know i'm just joking in this example, right?)

How many of you shred your old mail? That can be used by dodgy people, to steal your identity. We send our life stories to prospective employers, in the form of a CV, who don't give a damn that our favourite hobbies are reading, ice-skating, and miniature golf.

But we have problems sharing personal information with genuine people who care about us, have listened to us whine and moan, and cheer us up when we're feeling like something unsavory on the bottom of someone's shoe? Why? Because they're on the other side of a computer screen? That doesn't make much sense to me.

I cannot claim anonymity on this blog. Not only because at least one reader has met me in real life (though not entirely sure that they are still reading), but because a part of me exists on these pages. I haven't pretended to be more or less kooky than i really am (scary, i know). Ok, so I am not about to divulge my personal details here, in the open, because i do have fears for security. But when it comes to people with whom i have built a friendship, then i think the least i can do is tell them my name, and maybe give them a phone number, even if it is just so i can get to hear their funky Arab/ Scottish/ Danish/ American/ Canadian/ Northern English/ Southern-English accents! I'm afraid mine's not so hot, though. :(

So, whaddya think? Am i just a trusting fool? Or is this considered safe and acceptable territory for blog-based friendships?

13 Responses to “What is Anonymity?”

  1. AnonyMouse says:

    Yah… I was wondering about this too… so far online, I’ve given out my real name to only two people (you’re one of them! :) ) – but even that, excluding my last name – and am paranoid about revealing details like, say, the name of my old Islamic centre… yet if there’s anyone reading my blog who actually *knows* who I am in real life, or even just knows *of* me, then they could probably put two-and-two together and figure me out…

    I think there’s only one person I’d really trust with my personal info online… and that’s you! :)

  2. iMuslim says:

    Awwwwwwwwwwww!

    That is so sweet! I feel honoured! :D

    Well, i suppose it is only natural that you’d want to share personal information with your big, twin sister. ;)

    I don’t think you should write about specifics on an open blog, such as the name of your old Islamic center. If you had a private blog, or private posts (not available on Blogger though), then it’d be OK.

    I’m just talking about sharing personal info with people you have come to admire, and love. :)

  3. organicmuslimah says:

    I was about to respond to Unique’s post as well. But as you saw sweets. I emailed you from my email (not my handle) and you now know my first and last name. And can easily do a google search with my name and find my location.

    Hell, I would give it to you, because I DO TRUST YOU.

    I have developed the bestest of friends off the Internet and blogging world. It’s a tool to meet people, but as you said, you just have to be cautious.

  4. Sanix says:

    Anonymity everywhere … and what I’ve perceived is that *TRUST* is the only relationship available that can be told about the *real* yourself…

  5. hema says:

    hhm interesting how everyone trusts you as i think you are the only one of my blogging friends that knows my real name too! i’ll “reveal” it to the other sisters in your next pasword protected post though, as i really don’t have a problem with people i trust knowing it!
    anyway, i’m going to add the rest of my thoughts to unique’s blog now, so you can read it there!

  6. Sumera says:

    It really used to bother me if close friends and family read my blog – I still have a problem with family reading it; seeing as the kinds of topics I discuss they’d be shocked :p

    But if they find out – so be it. I dont mind anymore :)

  7. iMuslim says:

    organic: Funny – i never thought to Google you! I liked the subject heading for your first “real name” e-mail: this is Organic, ya iMuslim! haha :D
    I am too easy to find as my first name is not so common. If it was Fatima, or Ayesha, then i would have used it in my blog ID! However, as it stands, it is safer to keep such information on a need-to-know basis. :)

    Sanix: I think in this messed up world, such information has to be earnt. There are a lot of internet horror stories about, unfortunately. May Allah protect us from harm. Ameen.

    hema: I’m not sure whether you revealed it to me on purpose, or whether it was accidental… either way, i once again feel honoured for knowing something about you, which others don’t (yet). :)

    Sumi: You’re freeeeeeeeeeee! Still, you do make the most of password protection. ;)

    There are bloggers like Faraz and Farzeen, who have family members reading, and regularly commenting (i wonder if it has anything to do with having an ‘F’ and ‘Z’ in your name?). My dad knows that i blog… i told him pretty early on. He even tries to suggest topics, sometimes! However his taste is quite political, and i’m not the best person to discuss such matters. :) My parents have never been on the internet (as far as i know), so i’m not sure that they understand what blogging really is!
    Other family members, such as cousins, would think me an even bigger geek, so i haven’t bothered to point them to the blog…

  8. In my comments I wrote why the reason I must remain anon on my blog, however I can reveal certain info about me to certain people I trust.

    ***
    For those of you who have been around long enough on my blog, you know I talk about true stories and that’s sensitive. I change the names and whereabouts but the circumstances are all true. Much of what I write is honest based on real life that should be kept quiet because people believe we should hide our embarrasments or sensitive topics under the carpet. But I don’t believe in that. It won’t change anything, it will only make things worse.

    So that’s why I remain to be anon, because I don’t want anyone figuring out the people in the stories I tell you. And they won’t inshallah because I change alot of details but give you the jest of the idea. However if they knew small details about me like my name, where I live, then these covers will be blown.

    So it’s not that I’m entirely thinking about me. I’m thinking about the privacy of other people. We want to learn from their stories, which is why I publish them, but there is no way I want to expose their identities. So I don’t.

    There’s the truth

  9. mcpagal says:

    My anonymity was sorta blown because one of my cousins did one of the quizzes I wrote, followed the link back to my blog, and worked out it was me, texted me saying OMG YOU HAVE A BLOG AND NEVER TOLD ME! – then proceeded to tell everyone else she knows :(. Last week another cousin addressed me as McPagal!

    It’s no biggy though. I think I’d be more weirded out by internet-people (not normal people on the internet) knowing my details, than having family know I blog.

    I’m just paranoid about security I guess. Plus what if your colleagues or boss found it out?

  10. iMuslim says:

    I responded, ya Unique. xxx :)

    McP – oooooooh dear. That’s not very nice – but sounds just like a typical Asian family! haha
    “internet-people” vs “normal people on the internet”… umm, do i qualify as the former or latter?!
    Plus what if your colleagues or boss found it out?
    Some companies are very anti-blog.. even if you don’t blog about the company itself. I don’t think my supervisor would care so much, but i’m sure he’d find the Science entries “interesting”… eep!

  11. AnonyMouse says:

    =O

    Why didn’t I think of Googling you before?!

    *Googles you*
    BWAAAAAAAAAHAHAHAHA!!
    … Mind you, there’s not much interesting to find on you. *Yawns*

  12. Faraz says:

    I never worried too much about anonymity, though I am adverse to having pictures up (as you might already be aware). But my entire resumé is only a couple of clicks off my blog, with my address and phone number … so if someone wanted to find me, they could easily. It’s never really been a problem; in fact, it’s been helpful on some occasions. Then again, if I had a sister, I wouldn’t want her to expose all that information, so it’s probably a girl thing.

    I did have CSIS (Canadian version of the CIA or MI5) call me in for an interview a few months back, and based on my blog statistics and the questions they asked me, I’m pretty sure they were reading my blog before they called me in. That was a little worrisome, but in the end I realized that I really have nothing to hide, so I stopped caring.

    My dad, uncle, brothers, and a bunch of my cousins read my blog. Only those with blogs of their own ever comment; the rest just address their comments/complaints to me directly. I’ve never felt much weirdness about them reading my blog; but then again, I don’t usually write very personally.

    I’ve been having a Google fight with some guy in Texas for the last few years; he has the same name, and we keep jostling for position on the search results page. Oh well.

  13. mcpagal says:


    “internet-people” vs “normal people on the internet”… umm, do i qualify as the former or latter?!

    unless you turn up on my doorstep wielding an axe, you can be the latter :D

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