Sunday, 25 April 2010

A Question of Privacy (T, this one's for you)

I never imagined that this would happen so soon. That just four months into my blogging journey I would find myself having to re-evaluate and explore further my ideas concerning the slightly oxymoronic concept of privacy on the internet. Blogging and boundaries - now there's a tricksy topic. A real slippery fish of a subject. This could take a while... I mean where do you even start?

Perhaps with... I know you've been reading this, T.

You see a couple of days ago I was looking through my stats when I discovered that a new reader had visited my blog and had spent quite a while looking at it - clicking through all my archives and categories and even going so far as to check out my 'contact me' page.

Checking the e-mail address to see if it's the one you recognise?

On closer inspection I saw that this reader had found my blog through Technorati. My initial reaction was one of pleasure in that perhaps submitting my blog had in fact been worth it after all, and so absent mindedly I clicked on the referring link, expecting to see my technorati profile (which uses the name Gappy) come up. Instead, what appeared in front of me was a 'claimed blogs profile' which I had never even seen before, and which used my real name. For the sake of this post, lets just say my initials are M.H. The profile I was looking at had in large letters at the top, 'M...... H......'s Claimed Blogs, and then a small link and picture of my layout at the bottom. After a few minutes of confusion it suddenly struck me that whoever had found this profile must surely have been searching for it under my real name. Oooookaaay I thought - there's plenty of M.H's in the world - perhaps it's just a coincidence. But it didn't feel right and so I went back to my stats for a closer look. They showed that the reader also happened to come from the same city as someone I know. Still I thought.. it's a big place... it could still just be a coincidence. But when I looked yet more closely and saw what posts the reader appeared to have skimmed through, and what they had suddenly stopped on and really spent time reading, I knew that my suspicion was almost certainly correct.

I notice that you clicked on my 'personal stuff' category and that you lingered there for quite a while. Just the page where there happens to be a post that I wrote about love and relationships. So did you find what you were looking for T? I'm assuming you did.

I have just had the loveliest weekend spent enjoying the company of friends. But how to handle this situation has been playing on my mind. I told my friend about it and she just looked a bit blank. 'But... it's on the internet' was her eventual reaction, which I interpreted as meaning, 'don't put your stuff in a public space if you don't want people to read it'. The thing is I do want people to read it. I just don't want people I know to know it's me - which is why I blog anonymously.

Do you remember asking me where you could find my blog when I told you during that phone conversation that I had one? I know I know, I should never have mentioned it at all, but when I made it clear to you that I didn't want anyone I knew to read it, I absolutely trusted that you wouldn't go looking for it. You said you wouldn't.

My blog is no longer completely anonymous. I am - let's be frank - a pretty rubbish anonymous blogger. I'm not technically savvy enough to be able to do it properly. My anonymity was dependent on a certain amount of trust, which has now been broken. Am I hugely morally outraged by this? Well nooo.... not really. I'm human and I can understand how it feels to be curious. I can understand how it feels to be tempted too. The line shouldn't have been crossed, but there are worse crimes I suppose. I do feel a bit strange about it though, as if my space has been invaded and someone has read my diary, despite the fact that I know a blog is fundamentally different (and perhaps even the opposite) to a private journal.

So what I'm saying to you T (and I hope this is clear) is don't come here again. It's not for you. I didn't write any of this so that you could read it. You know, if you want to know how I am or what I'm up to, you could always ring. Now get lost and go and do something else.


  1. Interesting read. I can relate, but in what I think is a different way. I don't share my blog with family, because weirdly, much of what I write is too private for family. Like you, I would be very uncomfortable if family were to read it. But I have shared with my close girlfriends, and actually most don't read. But there is one friend in my group who I am not particularly close to and often don't see eye to eye with who lurks. It weirds me out. I can't figure out why and oddly it feels like an invasion.

  2. That makes me feel sick....every so often I have a huge panic...I can't even go into details here but I've briefly mentioned it before. Well done for not letting it stop you. I'm not sure what I'd do if it was me. Sometimes I regret telling anyone that knows me about Cherished By Me as it stops me from being quite so vocal. I suppose it's hard to have it both ways.
    I can't believe someone managed to find you that I'm off to technorati to see what else it says ( not about you of course, about me! ;0S)

  3. Bummer. Unfortunately we all take the chance our anonymity will be broken by those who know how to do it. I hope the person you are speaking to will honor your request.

  4. I don't know Gappy... A lot of us do prefer to keep anonymous, and say stuff that we don't traced back to the real us, but isn't being found out a risk that anyone who writes for a public takes? I mean, I know it sucks, but didn't you think it might happen some day? What truly bothers me is the amount of stuff we, bloggers, can find out about our readers. Some programs allow us to know exactly who's reading what when, tag them, trace their viewing history ... see their ip address, location, whether they're using a mac or pc, windows or linux,firefox, etc. Before I started blogging, I had no idea people could find out that much detail about me when I looked at their post... So T did break a promise, but all he did was google you, whereas you have a program that enables you to find out lots of stuff all your readers - and they have no idea!
    Just want to add a quick positive thougth: your stuff is great, and T, or anyone else, can only come out better off for having read it!

  5. Oh God poor you! I've mentioned to a couple of people that I write a blog but I don't think they'd know where to begin looking for it and I don't use my real name anywhere so hopefully I can keep my identity secret. If I do get unearthed, I'd stop writing it!

  6. I deleted my blog after over a year of blogging, because I wanted my anonymity back. Also, a relative (I'm estranged from my family) found my blog and following some links from it found my email address, and guessed (correctly) my home address! He emailed me to tell me he'd found all these from my blog, too. :-(

    I still have my child's blog which is invite only, but no more Pleiades. At some point I will find out if anyone wants any posts from there as I have a copy of the blog on my computer. But in the meantime, you're brave for keeping on blogging without the anonymity. Braver than me anyway!

  7. I am totally with you. I started to blog anonymously for reasons I eventually outed myself for... However, I have since found out that people I wouldn't necessarily want to read my posts are... It is a strange feeling, I think it takes away the freedom to write exactly what you want?

    Anyhow I, like you am not clever enough to cover my tracks!! Maybe I'll get totally tech savvy and start a new one at some point!!

  8. I have an occasional visitor who lives in the next village, as all expats know each other or certainly know someone who knows you, it made me very uncomfortable and certainly made me think about what I was posting about.

    I haven't told any of my friends that I blog because I think it would be too much of a temptation for them to try and find it, I like that I am anonymous and intend to stay that way for as long as possible.

  9. Oh Gappy you poor thing. Unfortunately I know this situation well. My ex husband reads my blog and when I first realised it made me very uncomfortable indeed. In the end I reconciled with it, but it did take a while. I wrote about my shock about being stalked - because that's how it felt - here -

    In the end I suspect he still occasionally reads it, but I don't let it worry me. I spent too many years being emotionally bullied by that man, he's not going to shut me up now. Stay strong my friend. Kia Kaha xx

  10. I also started out wanting to be anonymous, but my biggest fear is not necessarily friends or family finding my blog, it is anyone related to work.
    I figure most of the people I know socially are aware of my little insecurities and neuroses, whereas in front of some of the people that work for me, that I work for, or that I might work for, I would still want to maintain a certain veneer of being the "capable business women in charge of her own destiny".
    I have also found that I am totally useless at the whole anonymous thing, and anyone that knows me would identify me pretty quickly anyway, so I do go in for a certain amount of self-censorship. I find this a pity, as there are some things I would like to write about, but don't feel I could. I'm not really sure how I would feel in your situation, but the fact that I'm useless at working out all the stats works in my favour on this one!

  11. Oh this is tough. I'm sorry this happened to you. It must feel like an invasion of privacy but one you can't really rant too much about because, duh, its the internet! Strange feeling. Like you I write (kind of) anonymously but I put up lots of photos so it wouldn't take long for anyone I know to figure out its me doing the writing if they found my blog. The only people I have told are my husband (who so far appears to show no interest in reading it despite being incredibly supportive of the medium for expressing myself) and an old friend who has no interest in reading it at all.

    I'm not sure what I'd think if someone found my blog. I think you should be proud of yours. It is an achievement. It is interesting and articulate. But then I guess because you talk to us via this blog its easy for us to assume that you'd be this forthcoming in real life. Perhaps that is an assumption I shouldn't be making.

    I hope T does bugger off. This is your space and it should be respected. Please don't vanish though. I'd miss you and your bloggy friendship!

    MD xx

  12. I blog like you do, semi anonymously. But I am aware that it's online and I'm probably easily 'stalked' - I too would hate it if I felt that had happened though, so much nicer for the 'stalker' to be open, at the very least to leave a comment, or drop you a line....

    but as I am aware that it's all public (I have been tempted to make my blog invite only) I only blog stuff I'm happy for anyone to read, including someone that read my blog, and regognised....ME!

  13. How do you find out who reads your blog and where they go? I've never been able to do this and in early days I'd write my paranoia of being found out (I'm bound to write it again and again.. doesn't stop me writing what I write though..eek)I sail very close to the wind with mine. It's not everybody's cup of tea so I get few comments. I found yours and marked you as someone to read because your blog is great. T should at least have left you a message. Can you tell when he or she comes back to you? I can't tell anything, but I wish I could. Like MD says, don't vanish! I've only just found you! (Through another blogger, can't remember who at the moment!)

  14. Just want you to know I've mentioned you on one of my posts today as you got me thinking. I'm blogspot like you are, so if you have any tips on tracking, let me know because you might be able to tell I've mentioned you, but I never can tell who has tracked or mentioned me! Thanks for your post, privacy is a big thing for us anonymous writers!

  15. Christine, Does this friend know that you know she reads your blog? It does feel weird doesn't it when you don't know what someones reasons are for reading. T is a young man. I'm sure the majority of what I write about would bore him to tears!

    Nova, You see I never felt that panic. It never really worried me, and so as a result I have not self-censored that much. The only things I don't share are the things that I wouldn't be comfortable with anybody reading you know? Don't let worry stop you from writing. You're mother to five children - you deserve something that's just for you. We all do.

    Technobabe, You're right - those are the chances you take if you write on the internet. I do think he will respect my request to be honest. He's not predatory or nasty - he's just allowed his curiosity to get the better of him - bless him (grrr.)

    Sandrine, Again, you're right. Like I said to Technobabe I accept that these are the chances we take when we write in a public space. Before I began my blog I thought about the possible consequences of being 'discovered' by someone that knew me and came to the conclusion that I was prepared to live with them. I am prepared to live with them. Doesn't mean I have to like it though:-( It's interesting what you say about bloggers being able to find out so much about their readers. To be honest, I never usually pay that much attention, it was just the fact that my suspicions had been raised that made me look more closely at T's stats. I really don't think he's in any position to complain though to be honest! Thanks for your kind words about my blog - I think perhaps it's the idea that he's now judging my writing that makes me feel so uncomfortable...

    Muummmmeeeeee, Would you really stop altogether if someone 'discovered' you? That would be a real shame. Let's hope it never happens.

    Rosemary Cottage, I really admired your blog. I thought some of your writing was amazing actually. I'm sorry to hear that you've had such a negative experience of being found. Can I put in a request to read your other blog, or is that a bit like inviting yourself to someones party?

    Eternally Distracted, We could always form a support group... Failed Anonymous Bloggers R Us? No?

    VBIC, I think you have gone about it in the right way. I should never have even mentioned having a blog - like you say it just puts temptation in peoples way.

    Vegemitevix, Yes I remember having a twitter conversation with you about this. I think my situation is different though in the sense that T is not predatory or a bully - just a bit too curious for his own good! I very much doubt that if he reads this post he will come back. Good for you though for refusing to be cowed by your emotionally abusive ex. You have every right to tell your truth on your own space.

    JulieB, Yes I understand how your work could really affect what you were prepared to write about. The whole issue of self-censorship and blogging boundaries is an incredibly personal one I think. Every individual is going to have different things to consider when deciding what they are and are not prepared to publish.

    MD, Oh I'm not going anywhere! I'm fucked actually if I'm going to stop writing what I feel just because of an unwelcome nosy contingent in my readership (besides I'd miss you too.) Definitely see you in May by the way:-)

    Tattoed Mummy, Exactly - it's the sneaky aspect that gets me. It's not that I don't want contact with this person, just that I don't want them to read my blog. I do sometimes write stuff that I wouldn't be happy for everybody in my life to read. But I see this blog as my space to express myself and I'll carry on doing that whatever happens.
    By the way have I told you before how much I love your avatar? It really is fab...

  16. Stigmum, Thank you very much for the link! Much appreciated. I have a statcounter account ( which enables me to see how many visits I get a day - and which also breaks those visits down into page views, returning visitors e.c.t. e.c.t. It has lots of clickable options including something called Visitor Paths, which can show you where your visitors have come from, and what links they have clicked on within your blog. I think a lot of bloggers use Google Analytics too which does much the same thing but is perhaps a bit more techie.

    One word of warning though - statcounter (especially the recent visitors map) can become extremely addictive. Also getting bogged down in your stats can sometimes make blogging seem a little joyless if you know what I mean.

    You can tell who has linked to you through your technorati profile (although these can sometimes be a pain to set up and they are inefficient at updating recent links.) It is the main search engine for blogs though and I think you would perhaps need to have an account with them if you wanted to submit your blog to something like the tots 100 index, although I'm not 100% sure on that.

    Hope that helps!

  17. Do you think it will change the way you write or what you write about now that someone that knows your true identity may read it? I too am an anonymous blogger and am not sure how it would affect my posts... Although tbh I don't write about anything especially personal...

  18. Purple Ramblings, I'm going to try not to let it to be honest. I find writing really cathartic and I'd hate to lose it as an outlet. I will carry on as normal and be damned!

  19. This is a tricky one. I don't tell anyone the name of my blog or the details, not even my family. Only one friend knows and reads my blog, but I would tell her the sort of things I write about anyway, so I'm okay with that.

    I don't write about work issues, and believe me there is plenty to write about, but work is off limits for me. I only refer to work in the vaguest terms.

    However, I do write about very personal issues and inparticular my difficult relationship with my ex-husband, who I live in fear of finding out about my blog. It's so odd that we choose to write about personal stuff on a blog that's in the public forum. I couldn't talk to my family,colleagues and most friends about some of the things I write about, so it's important for me to remain anonymous.

    I hope you carry on blogging and don't let this put you off.

  20. Gappy, thanks very much for your comment. I've written the links down to do erm, when I'm ready! Like you say, I might start getting bogged down with stats etc and for months and months now, I've been writing for myself, in quite an honest manner, because I thought no-one read it, or only one or two people did! It's made my blog a dumping ground, a kind of refuge, where I let go of things or try and understand them. The powers that be might know about it though and that I need to know, even though it frightens me!

  21. I really like the way you've addressed this openly in a post Gappie. I like the idea of taking a scary thing out from the under the bed (or the pit of my stomach where most monsters seem to take up residence) and flopping it out on the table, under the flouro lights.

    I'm mostly glad because you're going to keep writing anyway. As others here have said, you should be very proud of this blog. It's so very good.

    I am quite nervous of anyone I know finding my blog. It's anonymous and I haven't told anyone that it exists.

    I write very personal stuff that involves revealing a lot of information about my partner and our relationship. If anyone found it I would feel like I had betrayed him (and I know how childish that is - it's only betrayal if I'm discovered).

  22. Gappy so sorry I'm only seeing this now, I'm only catching up on my reader after my similar problem. Firstly Well Done for confronting T - A blog is a personal thing and I think it's quite creepy to hunting for someone beyond the normal realms of google. I am much more open in my blog than I would be with some of my closest friends so therefore of course you would feel violated if an unwanted person was reading it. I'm still working up the courage to post my story about all of this, some of it is pretty unbelievable. So well done again x