Let’s Discuss – Online Identity: Who are You Online?

Posted January 8, 2015 by Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction in Let's Discuss / 46 Comments

Ask Me Anything

Lauren over at Shooting Star Mag asked me recently to help her spread the word about the recently released movie, Ask Me Anything. The movie was written and directed by Allison Burnett, who wrote the novel it was based on, Undiscovered Gyrl. Now, I have to say that I haven’t read the book or seen the movie, so I can’t really say much about either, except to say that I’m intrigued (and I love Britt Robertson), so I’ll definitely be checking them out. But the discussion post idea that’s inspired by the movie sounded like a good one, so I thought I’d go ahead and write one.

In the movie, the main character is a blogger, and she apparently shares quite a few details about her life on her blog. So the question is, how much do you share on your blog? Do you use a pseudonym? Do you post pictures? Do you have rules about what you will and won’t share?

This topic is interesting because there are lots of scary stories out there (like authors who stalk negative reviewers). I have to confess that I probably don’t do as much as I should to hide my identity. It hasn’t been a huge concern for me, but I don’t give out really personal details like the town I live in or anything like that. I have shared pictures on my blog, and use my picture in my About Me section. To help a bit with privacy, I did create Avatars for my kids for when they actually post their own reviews on my other (not very active) blog, Best Kids Reads. These were done by dorobi on Fiverr.com.



As far as how much I share on my blog, this is actually a bit more complicated. I really enjoy reading blogs where people talk about books and how they relate to their own life experiences. I love this personal perspective, and it makes me feel like I get to know the blogger a lot better. One blogger who I think does an amazing job with this is Jamie from The Perpetual Page Turner. One of the reasons that I think Jamie has so many dedicated followers is because everyone feels like they know her.

I’m a pretty open person, so I actually don’t mind talking about my life experiences – the good, the bad and the ugly (not that I’d go into incredible detail on those things, but I generally don’t mind talking about them). I had this idea about a year ago for a feature called My Bookworthy Life where I would compare experiences in my YA life to books and talk about what aspects were “bookworthy” – meaning they followed the general tropes of fiction. I also planned to talk occasionally about where I think a lot of books get things wrong (and maybe plant unfortunate ideas in the heads of the young adults who read them).

Only problem is, I wrote the very first post and my husband hated it because it didn’t put everything about how we met as teenagers in a very good light (because, in my efforts to compare it to a particular bookish trope, I focused on one aspect that I probably shouldn’t have). I adore my husband (seriously – see my quote from Landline for one perfect description of why I love my husband so much), and I felt absolutely horrible that I’d upset him, obviously. I pulled the post down. Turns out, my husband is actually pretty uncomfortable with anything about our real lives going up on a webpage. He doesn’t like the idea of strangers seeing things about our lives. In fact, he recently joined Twitter (mostly for work) and he says he just can’t see posting anything about his life – what he’s doing, where he’s eating – even things things just feel weirdly personal for him to post out to the world. (In fact, I’d better have him read this post before I put it up to make sure that I’m not already getting too personal!).

Obviously, my husband is much more important to me than my blog (well, duh!) – so, I don’t share much about my personal life here. I still think maybe someday I’ll try the My Bookworthy Life feature again (and just not talk about anything that has to do with my husband or my family?), but I’m not sure.

How about you? Do you use your real life identity on your blog, or do you have a pseudonym (if you don’t mind saying, of course). Do you share details about your life on your blog? I want to know!


46 responses to “Let’s Discuss – Online Identity: Who are You Online?

  1. This is a really interesting topic because I have seen it many times and it is always fun to see people’s different point of views about what to share and what not to share.

    Personally, I share very little personal info that would make finding me (i.e. stalking me) easy but I do share things about my life. I try to keep names, dates, and locations out of what I say but still keep it personal without being too personal. I have no idea if that even made sense but..there you have it.

    I do have children so of course my main concern is keeping them safe but I am like that with ALL online stuff whether that be my blog or even with FB. I think as a whole, we put way entirely too much personal stuff about ourselves out there (really, I don’t need to know what you had for breakfast, lunch, and dinner) but do I mind when people post it? No, it doesn’t bother me at all but you won’t see me doing it at the same time.

    • Yes, it’s definitely true that people put way too much information online a lot of times and don’t really think about the consequences. (This is especially scary for younger people who put stuff out there that they think is funny now, but that they won’t appreciate later.) And I also agree that I don’t really care to post all of the little details – like what I eat, etc. (but not because I feel like it’s too personal, which my husband sometimes feels – just because I don’t know why anyone would care!).

  2. Funnily enough this came up at school the other day. In general I don’t put much personal information online. I don’t have any pictures of me on my blog (I don’t think) and I don’t tend to write about my personal life either. The last one I’m thinking of changing since I’m hoping to do more discussion posts. Also, my parents are pretty worried about me being safe online since I’m still a teenager so that factors in too. I think that will change with time though since I agree that it’s nice to actually get to know bloggers 🙂

    Zareena recently posted: Review: Breathe by Abbi Glines
    • Yes, there is an extra element of worry that you have to deal with being a teenager. You have to be even a little more careful about what you share, and as a mom, I can totally understand your parents’ worry. There are plenty of things to discuss without getting too personal, though!

  3. This is a really good topic. I just started my blog so I am still trying to balance this. I do put some information out there, like my name and the city where I live. I haven’t shared too many pictures and I don’t now that I will, unless they are of bookstores or something like that. I will share some personal information as it relates to my opinion on a book. But I try not to overshare.

    Cynthia recently posted: BOOK REVIEW: Blue Asylum
    • I do post pictures of myself and my family. Really, in this day and age, I feel like people can find you if they really want to – I try not to freak out about that idea, though. It’s just a matter of finding a balance between sharing and oversharing.

  4. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts! I like that you made avatars of your children. It’s a nice thing to add to their review posts without using a real photo. I think it’s nice to learn about bloggers, but it’s also important to think of others. I share some pictures of myself and details of my life, but I don’t really share other people’s names, etc.


    ShootingStarsMag recently posted: Waiting on Wednesday: The Connicle Curse
    • Yes, I don’t generally share about anyone but myself – except for that one post (which obviously was a bad idea). I didn’t say anything bad, of course (or at least I didn’t really think so) – but I learned my lesson that my husband doesn’t really like anything like that out there!

  5. I also share very little about my personal life on my blog, I do use my name though. I will not post pictures of my husband or kids on there as a general rule but I will let people know what I look like. I won’t tell people the town in which I live. Country yes but exact location, no.
    Sometimes it’s hard to know where to draw the line, don’t you think?

    • I tell people that I live in the Chicago area (it’s huge, so that doesn’t narrow things down too terribly much), but nothing more specific than that. I do definitely agree that it’s hard to know where to draw the line. I have posted pictures of my kids before, but I don’t do it often (and actually, I think the ones I’ve posted were really old, so people wouldn’t recognize my kids based on them anymore anyway).

  6. This is such an interesting topic, and is actually something I’ve kind of been thinking about lately. I don’t have a picture up of myself up on my blog (although that’s more because I can’t get a good photograph of myself – I’m a bit like Chandler on Friends in that episode where Monica wants a picture for their wedding announcement – anytime a camera is turned on me I can’t pull a normal face!) or any specifics about where I live or my surname. I will maybe put up a picture sometime if I can take one I like, and will probably use my surname eventually (I want to get into writing and my blog is the only example of my writing so far), but I would never be too specific about where I live. I just say the ‘North of England’ and sometimes just the UK, because that’s pretty vague! It’s so hard to know where to draw the line though in terms of your online identity, so this is a really interesting thing to think about.
    Great post!

    • Exactly – it can be really hard to decide how much is too much. I don’t like to live life trying to avoid a worst-case scenario, but I don’t want to make myself a target either, you know?

  7. Evie is actually a take on my real name just so I could put a little bit of distance between me and me on the internet. Obviously I want to be genuine and personal with the readers of my blog, but a lot of kids from school read my blog so it felt less scary to write confidently about books when I didn’t feel like the same school kid! My age isn’t a secret but all people know of my location is that I live in the UK! I also never share my face. It just feels like too much for me! I want people to see me for my work, not for my face, and I dunno, I think it’s more fun to be a bit mysterious!! Great blog 😀 This helped a lot, I was wondering whether I was a bit too private sometimes, but now I see that everything I do is exactly my choice!! :3 Thank you x

    • I definitely think that younger bloggers need to be even more careful about what they put out there. Unfortunately, this world canbe a scary place – it’s better to be safe than sorry!

  8. I started playing around online when I was …16? Just before the internet got really big. There were mostly chat rooms and not a lot to do online besides chat. I’ve used a few different names over the years, but mostly I’ve always been Silvara. It’s a RL nickname as well, so it felt right to use it online.

    I don’t mind sharing some things about my RL life, like the state and city I live in. My pets, and interests. But I don’t tend to like to put pictures of myself up anywhere unless it’s just for friends to see. I won’t give out my actual address, where I work (actual name, type of job isn’t a big deal), or real name.

    I’ve gotten a lot more lax over the years, I used to be really closed-mouthed about all that kind of stuff. But honestly, I don’t see any reason why anyone would want to stalk ME. And I’m always told I have one of “those faces”. Everyone who meets me always says something along the lines of “My sister/best friend/cousin/aunt/brother’s girlfriend/etc. looks JUST LIKE YOU!”

    So I’d imagine, that even if I did break a rule and post a pic of myself on my blog, no one would find me anyhow! *laughs*

    Silvara recently posted: Fantasy Creature Friday – Incubus!
    • I know – there’s part of me that says that no one would really have a burning desire to find me, and really, if they did want to there are probably ways they could go about it – my blog wouldn’t be the easiest way to track down information about me. I do think that most people have pictures out there, and it’s not like everyone’s getting stalked, but you do hear scary stories occasionally!

  9. I don’t really share my last name on my blog or where I live. I do like posts to sometimes be personal (especially on my other, non book related, blog), but I also make sure that I don’t share too much. I’m actually not so much concerned about what I personnaly put on the internet, but more with what other websites are able to get from me by tracing websites I go to or search preferences. (I’m totally that person that always refuses cookies and constantly remove once I don’t want)
    I do really like reading posts where people compare books they have read to their own life, it’s one of those things that really makes a post unique and stand out.

    • Yes, I sometimes wonder if I give too much information. I don’t working about people getting information about me through cookies, though – it doesn’t matter to me if people know what I buy or things like that. I don’t know why.

  10. I’m a pretty private person, and I never used to talk about my life or my experiences on my blog, but I’m posting more personal things now. I think you’re right about getting to know people through their blogs – you feel more connected when you share personal experiences. That said, my last name and other personal details never go on my blog because I’m a little paranoid about what people can do with that information.

    Kritika recently posted: Best of 2014
    • I remember reading your discussion about diversity in books and learning more about you. That definitely made me feel like I know you better. That was a great way to share without getting too personal.

  11. I wish I could get my husband to read my posts. The turkey get’s the emails but never reads them. I bet if I started posting about his sports updates he would start reading them. He’s talked about starting his own blog for food and sports. I’m a really open person but I am a little shy but blogging has been a great outlet over the last couple of years. I try to keep the information I share personal but not enough that it could come back to haunt me later. Than again I don’t really have anything to hide I’m boring books are kind of my life. =D

    • Ha! My husband doesn’t read 99% of my posts, but since that one was about him, he read it. I’d have to write about computers for him to be interested! 🙂

  12. I’ve been blogging for over 10 years now so I have a pretty good handle on what I’m willing to post and what I’m not willing to post. Before I was an author, I was a pretty well-known knitter and had a knitting blog. I used it to talk about my knitting and life, and learned pretty quickly about where my line in the sand was. I do talk about my kids every now and again, but nothing too personal. My husband does absolutely NOTHING on social media and is very private, yet, I told him many years ago that if there’s something of our life I want to share and he’s in it, he’ll have to accept that. It took a while for him to be comfortable with that, but now he’s used to it.

    Since I’m now in the “spotlight” more because I’m an author, I continue to share personal things because that’s what my audience loves the most. But I turn off locations on all of my social media posts and I tend to post photos and what not AFTER an event is over and I’ve left. I rarely talk about my actual location and I keep some things vague. It’s about safety more than privacy.

    Otherwise, I love to share and talk! I have hot-button issues I tend NOT to weigh in on (mainly religion and politics though I’m a bleeding heart liberal, atheist, and gay rights advocate) and there are only a few publishing industry injustices I’m willing to go to bat and stick my neck out for, mainly plagiarism and false cries of plagiarism. That’s about it! 🙂

    S. J. Pajonas recently posted: Writing Update – January 7, 2015
    • Yes, I was actually wondering how it’s different for authors. You have a much higher chance of someone being obsessed with you than I do! LOL!

      I think it’s really interesting to read about people’s lives, as well as about their books, so I hope to be able to squeeze a few more posts like that in there!

  13. How did I miss this? I mean, I get your emails, I should have seen this post! AGH! Anyway. I am really interested in this topic. I have always found the varying levels of openness that people exhibit online to be fascinating, almost like some kind of psychological study (which I know it is not haha).

    Me? I am fine with it. My name really is Shannon, and the pictures I publish are really mine, and so are my thoughts. I am cool with it. Here’s the way I see it: Yes, there are threats, sadly, online. The whole Stacey Jay thing is sadly driving the point home again that there ARE some really awful people in our midst, and Stacey should NOT have to deal with that. But. Out of all the bloggers and authors I’ve encountered, I have heard of TWO significant incidents that would scare and appaul.

    I guess my thing is, stuff happens every day, all over the place, for a myriad of reasons. I won’t allow those couple of twisted individuals scare me away from being myself, basically. Some people aren’t open, and that is FINE, and 100% their prerogative. But that isn’t me. I like sharing, and it’s why I got into this in the first place.

    As for my family, well, I’m not going to post my kids’ social security numbers, but I mean, I don’t see an issue with posting a picture here or there. People I don’t know see my kids every day in the world. I can’t hide them away, but I also won’t be reckless. (As for my husband, I don’t really talk about him, but I also don’t really care what he thinks about what I say about him. Clearly haha.)

    Anyway, AMAZING topic. I will be returning to see everyone else’s opinions!

    Shannon @ It Starts At Midnight recently posted: Stacking the Shelves and Other Weekly Shenanigans (43)
    • Sometimes I get crazy busy and I realize I’ve let posts slip through. I just went through my email and thought, “Ack! I’m so behind!!” I couldn’t even possibly read them all, so I had to kind of weed through them and read the posts that especially struck me! And there have been so many awesome discussion posts linked up – I can barely keep up!! 🙂

      I agree that I’d rather not live in hiding, worried about the off-chance that something bad should happen. I post pictures (even of my kids – I figured for their reviews, I should stick to avatars, but I have posted real pictures here too) and I tell things about my life. I just have to make sure not to overshare, since my husband’s not a fan of that, but I don’t want to be too tight-lipped either!

  14. Interesting topic Nicole!
    I am a pretty open person myself,so I haven’t felt anything wrong with the personal posts I put up on my blog.In fact,I really love talking about my life in my blog,I think it brings me closer to my readers.
    But I also am really careful in avoiding putting up any information about my family or friends.I know that they might not be comfortable with the exposure,and that’s why I never post much about the people in my life.

    Mishma @ Chasing Faerytales recently posted: Battling through insecurity || The DUFF by Kody Keplinger
    • Yeah, that’s why I figure I’ll just stick to topics about when I was younger and my husband wasn’t involved in the stories at all! (We were high school sweethearts, though, so I have to go back really far to do that!!)

  15. I don’t use a pseudonym and I put the main city I live nearest to. Personally I’m not worried about stalkers as that could just as easily happen to any of us from interactions from our daily irl lives. I don’t think I over share on social media. Personally I hate Facebook and the amount of drama and sharing that goes on there. I actually find tons of food posts annoying. Sometimes is ok but the folks that post one everyday…It just gets old. Lol I live talking about my real life interests and hobbies and local bookish events but I’m not going to like tell people where I work you know?

    I’m sure stalkers could find that out regardless of whether I/ used your real name or not. I love hearing folks thoughts on this tho 🙂

    Tabitha (Not Yet Read) recently posted: Review: The Oversight by Charlie Fletcher
    • Exactly – I figure my blog is not the easiest way for someone to stalk me. Let’s face it – there are lots of ways to get information on people. The closest thing I’ve ever had to a bad situation was a guy on Goodreads who kept posting on my reviews that I was beautiful (and some other weirdness). He wasn’t even a friend on Goodreads and I had to block him – it was weird, but not terrifically concerning to me. There are weird people in this world, but I do think that most are harmlessly weird.

  16. That is exactly my thoughts. I think if someone is determined enough they will find my personal information regardless. I’m not going to be blatant about stuff but I’m also not going to be all anonymous either because that’s just not me. I’ve had a creepy stalker situation at least two times in my life and both were not from the internet. It’s sad that we have to be careful about things like this but hey like you said lots of weird people out there, hopefully must of them are being harmless and staying in front of their own computers while their about their business lol.

    Tabitha (Not Yet Read) recently posted: Review: The Oversight by Charlie Fletcher
  17. I don’t really have anything to hide. I don’t post pics of my kids (I have 4 ranging in ages from 5-16), because this is my adult thing that I do. I don’t care if they see what I do online. I am just me, all the time.
    No one is invisible here. If you are trying to hide online, you will be found out. (I found that out the hard way, actually) These days I just don’t care. I use a pseudonym, but it would not be hard to figure out who I really am. If an employer has a problem with my book blog, well they just have problems.

    Karen Blue recently posted: Discussion Post: My unhealthy habits
    • I agree that even when you post “anonymously” people could probably find out who you are. You just have to figure out what you’re comfortable with and go with it! 🙂

  18. I like your kids’ avatars!

    When I was younger I used a pseudonym online and never posted anything real, but when I started this blog I decided to use my real name (and photo) and slowly I’ve shared some personal information. I don’t say where I live other than Michigan and I try to stay positive. I do talk about my family a bit because it’s hard not to, but like with your husband I know they aren’t as comfortable posting stuff to the world.

    I hope you bring Bookworthy back! 🙂

    • Thanks – I thought the avatars turned out really cute! I don’t post negative things either, but sometimes my idea of negative and other’s idea of negative are apparently different! LOL! (Won’t make that mistake again!)

  19. Jo

    This is a really interesting discussion! It’s actually scared me a little bit. On Twitter, I use my full name, though I shorten my first name as that’s what I prefer. I also say which bookshop I work at – it’s only a small chain, so there are very few places it could be that I work. Anyone who follows me, any dodgy person, could quite easily find me. I think I might remove that.

    I use my photo on my blog in my About Me page. It’s a photo of me pointing at my blog name on a wall; I sponsored the Children’s Initiation Theatre at the London Book Fair in 2013, so my blog name was visible. I though it would be a cool photo to use. I was also a panelist at the blogging panel at the event, so there are photos from that event up. So people could easily find my name, where I work, and what I look like. And I’m only just thinking about that. Do I need to make changes? Should I be weary of my safety? OR should I trust the people that visit my blog & follow me on Twitter? I just don’t know.

    I don’t really talk about my personal life unless I can relate to something in a book, but it’s only a small mention and nothing major. This is mainly because I don’t think my life would be that interesting to any reader, haha!

    Thanks for this post! You’ve definitely given me a lot to think about!

    Jo recently posted: Discussion: Reading Pressure
    • I didn’t mean to scare you! I think you just need to decide for yourself what you feel comfortable with. I have pictures of myself at events on my blog, and I’m okay with that. If you work at a small bookshop, you might want to take that off, but I wouldn’t start panicking if this isn’t something you’ve worried about much in the past. We do need to make informed decisions, though, so it’s good to think about!

  20. This is a pretty good post when it comes to discussion. I basically share a lot online – and I know it. I do post personal things and photos although I do not have an about me section. And I do have to give out my address to receive ARCs. The thing is I am allowed a bit of leeway because my father’s job is on social media and that means he has a pretty public shared lifestyle – hence basically the facts I share about me are already out there. I do try to be careful and don’t dig into my personal life things that are going bad too often, but I do know I am personal.

    Olivia recently posted: Editing Your Story (Guest Post)
    • Yes, I would imagine that if your dad works in social media, you would be allowed a lot more liberties with it. I think it’s great to share personal stories!

  21. This is a very interesting post, and it made me think about how I represent myself online. I don’t write specific details about myself on my blog and social networks, and until recently, I’ve been worried about using my actual first name. But you make a very good point about being real and personal to your readers/subscribers and online friends.

    • It’s a tough balance, but I’ve ended up erring on the side of being more personal. It’s a decision that each person needs to make for themselves, though – to decide what makes them comfortable.

  22. What a great post Nicole!
    I have a pseudonym for my blog, because I don’t want my real life and my online life to clash. I teach in high school, and sometimes I review erotica. I would not want my students to find my reviews, you know? Or parents who might be a bit more careful about what they and their children read.
    I do share some personal things, though, but not with any names, and mostly just about myself – even if I may relate some things to being a parent or a wife, too.
    It’s definitely important to me to make sure I don’t get too personal, but still let my personality shine through in my posts, both when it comes to reviews and other posts.
    And it has happened that I have shared pictures of my family, but only after asking them if they’re OK with that.

    • How funny—you are so solidly Lexxie in my mind that it’s hard for me to imagine that you have another name. 🙂 I actually ran into that issue with the conflict of interest thing on my blog with my students at our (conservative Christian) co-op. Suddenly, the adult books I’ve reviewed felt more than a little weird since they could easily find them. In the end, it didn’t cause any problems, but it still makes me a bit nervous from time to time.

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