I’ve been blogging on and off since 2003 when I moved to the UK for good. That blog didn’t survive very long and I’ve deleted its content in 2004 when I realised I wasn’t all that comfortable with it any more. Having had a very bad experience with a colleague who proceeded to almost stalking me I wasn’t comfortable with sharing many personal details on the internet and although that blog wasn’t revealing in a negative way it was obvious some of the posts were written rather naively.
Somewhere in late 2003 I moved away from the previous online pseudonym which now only has 4,500 Google results compared to carocat’s 28,900. carocat isn’t the only handle I use these days, but it is how I define myself on the internet; it is who I am unlike the others which are created for specific purposes intended not to be linked with me altogether.
Moving on to 2006 and I again embraced web 2.0 or what’s now called ‘social media’. By God do I hate that term! I started this blog late in 2006 and originally it was also a personal blog, although there are several posts that are now private or that have been hidden from view as I’m again not all that comfortable with them any more and the overall focus has shifted a little bit to a less personal ‘What I’ve done today’ blog. There were other accounts; Flickr, Picasa, del.icio.us and so on.
Twitter and its clones came along in 2007. First there was Pownce, then Jaiku, then identi.ca and Ping and whatever else they were all called. The only one I stuck with was Twitter.
I started a tumblr blog in 2008.
Up until 2008 no one I knew in real life was aware I had any of those. Sure, I met many people through blogging and many people through forums that I ended up meeting at events, but there was always that distance in the sense that if I met them it was only ever for a very short time and a large majority was just internet friendships [for want of a better term]. Of course in some ways those can be more beneficial than others. I’ve mentioned this great post before, but it deserves another link.
Having never used my very unusual full name on the internet – a Google search won’t link me to any of this which is something I’ve been very careful about from the beginning, especially after reading Engtech’s guides to digital anonymity – there was never really a chance of someone stumbling on here accidentally. I didn’t follow all of the recommendations though. carocat is, or at least used to be, pretty much just me on the internet. Recent searches have revealed several other people using it, but they’re not very active and it’s not on Google’s first results page and far outside my interests to be confused with me. Apart from that pesky Korean kid that stole carocat on Xbox Live!
And then it all blurred bit by bit in late 2008. First I’d mention on Twitter where I was going to in detail and tweeting where I was, then I’d start giving details of events or trips. Started taking more pictures and posting them making it possible for someone to stalk me online which thankfully never happened. I sent and received christmas cards from some fellow bloggers, won a contest here and there and mentioned long hours at work or delayed public transport although never actually mentioning the part of town I lived at or where I worked. Fear of work discovering my Twitter account even made me protect it for a few months when all I mentioned was long hours and wanting to find the person that coined the term ‘crunchtime’. I’m still looking for you!
People I knew in real life started mentioning they read my blog after linking them to a post months before and specifically discussed more recent posts. Real life friends or former colleagues started following me on Twitter and some people I met were using Twitter and we mutually added each other. Some even only joined Twitter, because I mentioned it and once I’d moved back to the UK early summer this year I met a large number of local people through Twitter and continue to do so at Tweetup’s and outside of them. Photos are being taken, tagged with my name unless I remove those which I’ve done at some times and there are videos I’m on. My Twitter account has had a picture of me for a long time now.
Nowadays a lot more of my life is public mostly on Twitter which means anyone following me there can click through to my blog and most likely read this post as I’ll be posting a link to it there. And that’s not a bad thing. I’m not any different online than I am in real life.
But then there’s the doubt. I have to be more careful about what I allow other people to share of me. Videos, photos or even, once foursquare becomes more common, a more detailed account of where I’m at.
My name will remain off this blog/Twitter, but what if someone tweets it which happened the other day? Though thankfully they removed it within minutes once I asked them to and as far as I’m aware no one else I know follows them.
And now coming back to what was meant to be the original point to this post. What happens to me? I have lost all my online outlets where I could write to gather my thoughts without friends being able to read it as it might have been about them with their names obviously omitted or about things in my life I didn’t necessarily want everyone of them to know about. Do I want people I meet infrequently to know that I’ve had a few rough days because of x, y or z? Clearly not.
The first eye opener was a year ago when someone mentioned in an argument what I had written about an incident involving them, although it will never be obvious to anyone else that it was that person. Or with another person reacting negatively to a purely passive-aggressive Tweet which was even hashtagged as such. Or venting about a housemate to find out they’ve been reading it.
Yes, I owned up to those and apologised, I probably shouldn’t have made those in the first place and I can imagine being irritated if someone was to do this to me, but at the same time, what else am I meant to do? I’ve been using the internet to vent and gather my thoughts for years and what would be the alternative? Call someone up? That is gossiping or even worse plain old bitching and much less constructive than a tweet could ever be.
So what’s the solution? There’s always the option of having a new, anonymous place, but that’s not the solution. Or to not share online which leads to this.
Time to ponder..