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What's in a name?

2007-02-19 - 5:27 p.m.

Would you, or do you, hide your identity online? Would you kind of not hide it but take scrupulous care to hide any information that could lead to someone finding you in real life? Would you post pictures of yourself? What about your kids? Would you post pictures of them?

It’s a question everyone with an online journal has to decide when they post their very first entry. Everyone has their own limits and everyone has their own reasons behind their limits, and they are all equally valid. Some want to have “ownership” of their writing. Either they use their journal as part of their portfolio or they just feel that if they say it, they want to say it as themselves. Others use totally obscuring pseudonyms for themselves and everyone they mention. They may want to say things they can’t otherwise say if they put their names on it, or maybe they have concerns about their safety and security. Maybe they have the opposite situation as those who use their sites for self-promotion and their credibility would be damaged if they wrote as themselves. After all, if I was a fancy-pants executive, I might not want a potential employer reading about what bars I liked, or my troubles conceiving.

For myself, I have settled on a middle-of-the-road approach. I use my real first name but not my last name. I use the real first names of some friends since there’s no way to figure out who they are without first figuring out who I am. I use nicknames for those close to me so that anyone googling my first name in combination with my husband’s or daughter’s won’t stumble across these pages. You know what city I live in, but would be very hard pressed to come up with my address. You wouldn’t recognize me on the street from any pictures I’ve posted.

Even then, there are clues which a diligent searcher could use to find out my last name. I won’t point them out, but I will say that one person has emailed me with my last name in her email, which she found through a clue I inadvertently dropped, which she used to look it up online. Likewise, I know I could find out more about certain online personalities, but since I’m not a crazy stalker I haven’t bothered.

BUT, I do post pictures of my daughter. She’s so beautiful I cannot resist showing her off. And as my skill with my camera grows, I really enjoy posting the results.

Is this wise?

I recently read a post on a site where the author is a mother and will not post pictures of her kids unless she blurs their faces. Her reason is that she’s afraid that her pictures will be viewed by ped0philes, her pictures lifted and placed on sites frequented by ped0philes. Commenter after commenter agrees with her and thanks her for opening their eyes. I found myself wondering if I’m the only person in the world to disagree with her.

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t disagree with her for making her choice, only that I am not being swayed to adopt it as my choice. I am repulsed and disgusted by ped0philia (to the point that I’m putting a zero in place of the “o” so that I won’t pop up on any searches containing the term). I think people who indulge in that sort of thing should be stopped and I think it’s totally right that there are laws against that sort of thing.

But here’s the thing from my perspective: the odds are very low that this is going to happen. Beautiful as my child is, I don’t think there’s anything about her pictures that will draw that sort of attention. I don’t post any bath pictures or any pictures where she’s less than fully covered. And if the local paper ran a human interest story and included a picture of Grommet I wouldn’t stop them. In fact, I still have the clipping from a major Ottawa paper that shows a two-year-old me eating an apple with the caption underneath including my full name.

And if a ped0phile did happen to find my site (which I bet they’d find pretty boring), I kind of feel, well, “so what” about the idea. So long as they can’t and wouldn’t try to find Grommet, her safety isn’t compromised and that’s what’s important to me. If I thought otherwise her pictures would be taken down in a heartbeat.

Let me tell you a little story that probably illustrates my mindset on the issue: when I was younger, single, and pretty darn buff, I liked to catch some rays – like many others – by the canal in my bikini. One time a man approached me and asked if he could take my picture. I looked up from my magazine and asked if my face would be in the picture and when he said, “no”, I said, “Knock yourself out.” Did I care that my bikini-clad photo could show up online? No. Even if some random pervert strangers got off on it? Still no. Even if someone photoshopped someone else’s head onto my bod? That was a problem for the owner of said head, as far as I was concerned.

Life is too short to worry about such things. If someone I never meet looks at a picture of me, or even my daughter, and gets a cheap thrill… well, it’s kind of gross – and way more than “kind of” if it’s my baby girl – but I will never know and it will never affect me or her so really, so what? The chances of anyone even trying to track anyone down from this small journal are so infinitesimally remote that it just doesn’t begin to cancel out the good vibes that get sent into the world with Grom’s pictures. The world, as far as I’m concerned, can never have too much beauty in it, and, barring anything unforeseen and drastic (or a request from an older Grommet to take them down), I’m going to keep contributing to that.

Before - After

All content © Shawna 2003-2010
That means no swiping my stuff - text, images, etc. - without asking.

P.S. If you're emailing me, replace the [at] with @ in the "to" line. Oh, and if you put the word "journal" in the subject line it'll have a better chance of making it past my junk mail filters.

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