The Pros & Cons of Your Online Identity
By: Ashley Robison

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Image by Kat B. Photography

Blogging can be categorized by two sets of people: those who use their real name and those who create an online identity.  Writing under a fake name has long existed in the publishing industry, and with the rapid pace of the internet and the ease of privacy invasion, it’s no surprise that more and more bloggers are choosing to adopt a fake name.

 

I’ve been writing at Dramatis Personae for 3.5 years now, and always under the moniker of Ashe Mischief.  It came from an old club name, a livejournal name, a playful way to talk about my mischievous side.  At the time, it seemed only natural to use it as my online name– a way to keep potential employers from finding my blog, a new outlet to share that side of myself.  But as I’ve grown with my blogging over the years, I’ve started to outgrow the name.  Ashe will always be a part of me– my name is Ashley and people naturally call me Ash.  But what about Mischief? At some point, I’ve stopped to say, Ashe Mischief doesn’t write this blog anymore.  What do you do?

 

Making the choice to use your real name, or not to, has a lasting effect on your blogging.  As your life changes, your tone changes, suddenly your name may not fit if you choose to write under a fake name.

 

A few fabulous bloggers shared with me on Twitter to share the pros and cons of blogging under a pseudonym: Joanne Faith, Stiletto Siren from Lips Hips & FATshion Tips, Amy from Wolf Whistle, and Amanda Lee.

 

The Pros:

  • Some sense of privacy in a world of Facebook and oversharing online.
  • Allows you more freedom in your blogging when its more difficult for your bosses, ex-boyfriends, parents, or friends to find what you’re writing about.
  • You can be honest & create a personality for yourself that you might not WANT to be apart of your public self. (via Joanne Faith)
  • You can say what you want. Hard to slag off fashion on my blog when I want a career in fashion. (via Wolf Whistle)
  • Having the option to quit blogging if I ever wanted to without real life repercussions. (via Stiletto Siren)
  • Feeling like a super hero or evil villan with an alter ego! (via Stiletto Siren)

The Cons:

  • Confusion when working with brands– do you use your real name? At which point do you? (And, for the record– the post man can get confused when he’s used to deliver packages to Ashley Lastname and suddenly packages for Ashe Mischief arrive!)
  • Outgrowing the name.  How do you gracefully transition in to a new name?
  • If you want to change– you have to consider all those links out there that read Ashe Mischief, the incoming traffic, the relationships you’ve built on it? It’s best not to completely eliminate that history from your site.
  • Your work online will not help you offline! (via Joanne Faith) Figuring out how to use your blog/social media as an example of your skills to future employers since it is under a different name. (via Stiletto Siren)  Your real-life expertise in whatever you blog about is diminished. (via Amanda Lee)
  • Having to explain your pen name to people outside the blogsphere. (via Stiletto Siren)
  • Going to events and introducing yourself to people, which name do you choose? (via Stiletto Siren)
  • Having people who learn your real name accidently blow your cover when linking posts or on social media. (via Stiletto Siren)

 

Do you blog under your real name or a moniker? Do you find challenges that I haven’t addressed above?

Comments

  1. Eli says:

    This is a great post, many people dont address the issue. Many people in my real world dont even know that I blog! And truthfully I dont want them to. But how long can I hold out?!

  2. fuyume says:

    I blog under a pseudonym but my real name is well known. as my blog originally was a japaesefashion blog i opted for a japanese name bt now that i’ve made the switch to ethical fashion the name no longer fits bt its the name most ppl know me by and its in my url so i’ll be sticking with it for now. great post though as always ashe :)

  3. Great points, ASH! I struggled with this the first couple years I started blogging. Eventually I decided that as a professional writer, my clips and name are already out there anyway, so I should just be me. That said, I still have not married my professional and blog activities on Linked In or on my résumé, because I’m not ready to do that yet. I already have a successful career in Web content development and management, so I haven’t needed to add my blog accomplishments.

    But the eventual connection between my blog and my “professional” work feels imminent. I would love to work in social media professionally, more than I am now. So when the right situation comes together, I’ll “come out” 100%.

    ••V••
    http://www.gritandglamour.com
    @gritandglamour

  4. Rachael says:

    Great post! Ever since I switched to a more professional blog (away from my once all-over-the-place Tumblr) I’ve used my real name. While I don’t post my last name all over the place, it’s quite easy to figure out what my full name is with a little looking.

    I like using my real name because while I may not work in fashion for my day job, it’s part of who I am and my coworkers know that – regardless of whether or not they know I have a blog.

    I can definitely see both sides though so this is a great post!

  5. This is such an interesting article, thank you for adressing this subject. I have given this issue a lot of thought, as my style of writing and topics are quite personal. I do use my real name, but have not listed my full name on my blog. That said, my name is not a secret and it is fully accessible to new friends on fb etc. I have also written posts for online mags under full name. I would love to make my blogging/designing into more of a carrier and as such have chosen to do this openly, also because it feels right to be fully me. I have not received negative feedback, but do at times feel voulnerable because my blog is so honest and personal, all though not too private.

    xx Anika
    http://byanika.com
    @AnikaByAnika

  6. Chelsea Rae says:

    Right now, I blog under my full name, including my middle name. When I first started, I was only using my first and middle names. After a quick Google search, I realized that “Chelsea Rae” is a porn star, and I didn’t want my writing to be linked with that, so I added my last name.

    Using my full name has helped with job opportunities, and when I blog outside of my blog, I try to use my full name as well, in attempt to build an easily searchable portfolio.

    However, when I comment, I only use my first and last name because my full name is fairly long.

  7. suanntan says:

    Great article! I’ve just recently change my blogspot url to my own real name as I’ve decided to take blogging seriously.

    xx

    http://tansuann.blogspot.com

  8. This is such an excellent post, Ash! Love how you broke down the pros and cons of it all, especially since it’s a key issue for all bloggers.

    I’ve long grappled with private vs. public in blogging, and have struggled with whether or not I want to share more with people IRL. I use my real first name, but try to keep other details private, like my last name and where I take photos. Eventually, as I enter advertising/marketing as a career, I’ll probably be more open about my identity and my blog.

    T

  9. Allie says:

    When I started blogging almost 6 years ago, I had a pseudonym made from a lullaby my parents sang to me when I was a child. As my blogs grew, I decided to change from “Dilly” to “Allie” but didn’t make much fanfare over it. My blogs weren’t named after me, so it wasn’t that obvious.

    Only my family and childhood friends call me Allie in real life, so I still have a bit of a blogger persona (helps when someone recognizes me in public, if they call me Allie I know they recognize me from the blog!).

  10. Sharena says:

    I never thought about this topic until now. I use my real name. No last name, just my first name and people around me know I have a blog so I guess it’s okay.

    I read through this article and thought maybe I should use an alias but once I remembered what Oprah said about being your authentic self I realized I like the thought of being “my authentic self” and I don’t feel the need to hide my identity.

  11. SJP says:

    Ooh, tricky, tricky – there are so many pro’s and con’s! Personally I use my initials, which I share with a certain famous fashionista and New Yorker which can be a blessing and a curse – especially when people think I’ve just plucked it from the sky : )

    It is fine as an email and blog signature, but I do feel weird ring up PRs and saying ‘Hi, its SJP here…’ so I tend to use my first name or quote the name of my blog.

    I write for a living and am getting married this year so am also starting to think about the pros and cons of changing my surname, as this could affect my career in a similar way.

    SJP x

  12. Great article about an interesting topic. I have just started so am definitely on the more anonymous side…but I think as time goes on it will naturally merge with my “real” self.

  13. Joy says:

    I wonder, do you tell your readers that you’re blogging under a pseudonym?

    My blogging moniker is close to to real name, so I feel comfortable with it and in my case the pros of not using my full real name far outweight the cons.

    Great article.

  14. I don know… I run over this concept over and over again. It is my un-official married name, which means it’s still fictitious to a point, but still oh-so obvious to those who know me. I started it to make it easier for them; why I do not know.

    Plucking out ‘title’ names in the past, I tend to get too cheeky, and silly, and dorky.
    And, I immediately claim contract regret.

    So, here I am stuck with stuck with this name, for better or worse.
    The worse…calling to me a long lost ghost of family member who now cyber stalks me.

    Cheers!

  15. It does get tricky. Sometimes, if you’re a fashion insider, you do want anonymity and then again you also want the credibility of your own experiences.

    Managing to somehow do both seems like a good idea. Casual visitors likely don’t know or care who you are and as you build your blog experience and contacts, you can selectively let people know it’s your blog.

    I love the transition, as an example, that LibertyLondonGirl did emerging with full press to Sasha Wilkins.

    Both work and for different reasons.

    Some anonymity helps in the beginning I thinks, just to get used to the very public nature of blogging.

  16. eyeliah says:

    I’ve gone by Eyeliah since the beginning, it’s a take on my real name (backwards and initial). I like the privacy and separation that comes with having a pseudonym. Though I do admire the brave bloggers who give their real names to the world.

  17. lisa says:

    Very balanced analysis! I blog under my real name with a moniker to distinguish myself from the other Lisa’s out there (Lisa Wong and “Solo Lisa”). Since I make a point of only posting content that I’d be proud of regardless of who found it (boyfriend, family, friends, coworkers, etc.), so far I haven’t encountered issues with blogging under my real name. It’s also opened up a lot of doors since my blog functions like a portfolio piece and is directly traceable back to me.

  18. MJ says:

    These are very interesting points you bring up when it comes to your name, especially if the focus of your blog changes or you just simply outgrow your name.

    For me I chose MJ because it’s part of my intials (first initial, middle initial) because when I first started blogging I wasn’t sure exactly where my blog was going to go so I chose something safe and really easy to remember (besides my first name isn’t all that glamourous! LOL). I also don’t make it hard to find out my real name (it’s on LinkedIn, my email signature, etc.) because now my online work is serving as my resume to get the job that I want.

  19. Rhoda says:

    Excellent post, soo true!!

    Thank Goodness am not the only struggling with this. I only use my real name because I don’t want certain people to find my blog. So far it’s going as planned..but for how long? hmm only time will tell.

    http://mysuavedelights.blogspot.com/

  20. WendyB says:

    I blog under my real name even though it makes me paranoid, but how else will I promote my jewelry line? Can’t fake it.

    I see a lot of trouble with pseudonyms where people end up with a URL, a pseudonym that doesn’t match, and a name for the blog that’s different from the other two names. Very confusing…very five years ago!

  21. Nina Morena says:

    This is a great post!
    I write everything under my real name, for two reasons:
    1. I don’t think I could have come up with anything else.
    2. It is very much easier to be found when invited to fashion shows and/or being interviewed for articles.
    I want people outside of the Internet to read what I write and know I am the one writing it :)

  22. I tried to get the best of both worlds by using my real name as a pen name so to speak – going by Victoria Suzanne for all my blogging and fashion needs, though the real world mostly calls me Victoria. The only trouble is being introduced – should I introduce as my pen/full name or as a more casual ‘real’ name? Sometimes it does seem to me like my life is both Victoria and Victoria Suzanne, two different stories.

  23. Interesting read….

    I chose my name because it would be obvious what my blog would be just from the name. I very much see my blog as a brand that I am trying to build and will help me expand to include other things like a possible online boutique. Saying that I have been brain storming logos and have possible come up with another name.Is is easy to change? Will I risk what i have already built up in the 4 short months I have been blogging?

  24. vanessa says:

    Sometimes I wish I would have used a fake name. But, there are photos of me on my site. So I’m sure someone could find me easily. I try not to share my full name though. Only a few people know it. I do have people in my past I hope never read my blog. I really put myself out there.

  25. Tali says:

    Interesting article!
    Despite the fact that my daytime carriere has nothing to do with fashion, I use my real name on the blog. I don’t mention my last name overall though, but it’s no big deal to figure out. Besides, my name is not exactly common, the link is pretty easy to make.
    I don’t mind my friends/family or whoever to read my blog. I stand behind everything I say)) And as for the people from the past .. well, there’s a reason they’re in the past.

  26. Kate says:

    I use my real first name but leave out my last for privacy :) I would get too confused using two names!

    Kate

  27. micaela says:

    This is a very informative post! I know Stiletto personally and I must admit when we first met, her pen name made me want to know her real name even more! But now I refer to her by her moniker as if it were her real name, lol.

    Though I write my blog under my real name, I must say a pen name is kinda cool. It gives you an identity that you create, while protecting yourself from a no-privacy internet world.

  28. This is a great post and something I’ve been pondering a lot lately myself. I’m only just starting to tell people I blog, after over two years. I feel after this length of time I’ve established who I am and my tone of voice. I’m just scared of announcing it to the online world. I’m so tempted to use Networked Blogs to link my blog to my personal Facebook account but I’m nervous about doing this.

  29. Elly says:

    Very interesting points, both pro and con. Personally, I’ve been blogging under my (widely used by friends and family) nickname, with some accounts under a username I’ve had for a number of years that is not linked to my professional work. I work in a non-fashion related technical industry, and I would prefer that my blog not be linked to my professional activities. Interestingly, I’m okay if people who read my blog manage to figure out who I am in real life (which would be possible with a few careful google searches), but I’ve become very careful to make sure that my blog won’t come up when work contacts are searching for me. I suppose I don’t think I’ll be judged by the blogosphere for the field I work in, but worry I’ll be judged by other technologists for what I blog about in my spare time…

  30. Tonia says:

    Fabulous post. This is something that I have pondered. I feel that keeping your indentity under wraps online is the way to go these days.

  31. Bella Q says:

    Fantastic post-
    I have been wrestling with this issue, and everybody will when they hit the next level of success. I chose a pen name, Bella Q, as I had little interest in making the blog about me, but about personal style. It’s a nickname of a nickname and it suited the blog. Only as I started accepting freelance work am I coming into some difficult choices- several publications wanted me to use my legal name, which I don’t even use in real life. So they are a few articles out there with the “real” name, and it doesn’t sit well with me. But as I hope to make a living writing freelance, I am going to have to deal with this. For now, Bella Q suits me.
    the Citizen Rosebud

  32. Really interesting post.
    I started off not revealing my second name but because I’d blogged about someone with the same surname the search engines were putting the two together anyway so people were finding me.
    In the end I figured I may as well post it as I want a career in art and if I’m posting about my work it’s easier all round to use my full name.

    Florrie x

  33. Mode Plus says:

    I’m still new at blogging and through articles like these I try to learn in how to professionalize my blog every day. I use a pseudo, but when meeting people face-to-face I use both. Up till now I haven’t had any obstacles yet.

  34. Pheobe says:

    Great post! Very thought provoking :)

    I use a pseudo when I blog just because I don’t want my personal and professional life to even cross paths.

    For me, blogging is something I do just for myself (no one in my family or friends know that I even have one). I want to connect to a different set of people and see if I can share my same love of fashion with people without any bias.

    Maybe someday, they’ll meet, but for now, I feel comfortable keeping them at separate paths.

  35. Kaiami says:

    This was an interesting post! I enjoyed reading it. I suppose I’ve never had a problem going under my alias because I’ve stuck with it for seven years now, and think of it as my real name.

  36. sagemag says:

    I just added my real name to my blog the other night! There are a lot more pros than there are cons to posting your name to your blog such as being able to use your blog as an example of your skills AND building trust with your readers. Readers will more likely connect with you and share there thoughts (i.e. comment).

  37. I write my blog under Notes from a Stylist but I also write professionally for http://www.runningwithheels.com as their resident style writer as the real me (Sara Delaney).
    It was all going swimmingly until i merged my blog with my style website recently (which i run with my business partner in the Uk) The style website is Lobler & Delaney – seemed like a bright idea until i got to NYFW this time around and spent eons explaining to folk that although my blog is called Notes from a Stylist you can only now find it if you search for Lobler & Delaney = doh! Still trying to figure out the pro’s & cons of my smart move…

  38. Mulika says:

    Very topical post we have here! It It is interesting reading the responses as well.

    The decision, quite a recent one at that, to start using my distinctive first name as opposed to a nickname or derivative was the desire to tie my blog in with an established online profile built up over many year. The day job means that I have numerous online portfolios linked to my name and after thinking about it, I came to the professional decision that my modest little style blog was worth tying up with my online ‘brand’. I wouldn’t have imagined so when I started blogging last summer but as far as hobbies (!) go, it is a good one to advertise for a creative such as myself.

  39. Meilily says:

    Great topic and thoughtful article! Since starting a blog, I have preferred to use a pen name for privacy reasons and because my professional reputation is closely tied to my real name. So far it has worked out, but it is getting complicated now that I have started guest blogging and dealing with attribution of freelance writing work. Still struggling to find the right balance between maintaining some semblance of personal privacy and personalizing my blog writing. (I try not to forget that Google sees all!)

  40. Jess says:

    This is a great post. I think there’s a really tricky balance there, especially when the blogosphere and the real world merge. I use my real first name (no last name) but it isn’t exceptionally memorable; I tried using just my initial and considered a pseudonym but neither matches my personality. I’m fairly certain my blog’s name is easier to recall and/or more noticeable than my first name, aside, and that’s what matters more to me.

  41. de la Pen says:

    Very interesting post. I definitely write under a pseudonym which is LoudPen but I started calling myself LoudPen in my manuscript (The Loudest Pen Ever and also the name of my 1st blog) b/c I talk loud and I like pens so I just put the two together. It was really a name that was about me as a writer and at the time, I didn’t even know what a blog was so my pseudonym had nothing to do with blogging when it started.

    Then I started doing the blog, The Loudest Pen Ever and so I wrote under LoudPen since the two went together. Then I started de la Pen (my fashion blog) b/c I wanted to write about fashion but I didn’t want to have to get a new Twitter or FB plus I wanted to keep everything under the “Pen”/”blog” umbrella.

    A few months ago, I started my digital marketing & PR agency and I named it Pen Productions. In essence, I’m keeping the LoudPen pseudonym b/c I want my brand to last beyond blogging. I want my company/brand to be what you think of when you think of “Pen” or “Ink”, to me it’s just easier to turn a catchy pseudonym into a mega brand than it is a real name. Sorry for the long comment, I’m venting & daydreaming aloud.

  42. This is such a good question, I guess you just go with the flow!
    Or you can always change your real name to your blog name by deed poll ;-)

  43. Bethany Anne says:

    It’s a very interesting idea! I blog under my full name, just because.. I dunno I just do! However you’ve made it sound quite fun not to! Especially with the superhero reference. My only issue is, what’s a good name, and what’s a bad name? I’m awfully indecisive too! maybe I could be called the Unknown Blogger. hehe!

    xoxo!

  44. Fancy says:

    Oohh..good one! I constantly have this debate! One of the issues starting out was no one putting my real name together with my blog name, making it a bit too anonymous. I also feel much freer about my writing when I don’t have a slew of family and friends following me. Unfortunately I live in the land of the social media obsessed, so I’ve been found anyway! What’s a blogger to do? xoxo

  45. traditionalfamilyunit says:

    I am in the planning stages of starting my own blog, and your discourse on real names or pseudonyms has helped me to make a decision; I think I’ll use my real name…Maybe. Now I have to decide whether or not to share with family.
    Wish me luck!

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