Tuesday, April 30, 2013

What's in a name: On lifting the veil of anonymity

I haven't been sure how I wanted to handle Magpie's name on this blog. Would she always remain as Magpie? Would I reveal her real name? For a while, when she was a newborn, I felt that Magpie fit as her name. It's what we had called her in utero. And although she had made an exit from the womb, she was still a very new creature, a stranger to me really, and to call her Magpie here seemed appropriate.

But as she's grown, it doesn't feel as right anymore.

I'm already posting photos of Ms. Magpie, but not her name...would revealing her first name really expose her any more?

Many times, I have accidentally typed her real name into this blog and had to go back and erase it.

And it's made me wonder - what am I keeping her name secret for? Does she need to be protected in this way?

I know many here have commented that you wanted to know her real name, that you almost felt owed it after following our journey for so long. And I hear you. But my primary focus is of course what is best for my daughter.

Will and I have somewhat public personas due to our professional academic and clinical roles and therefore we will be remaining as Mo and Will. And funny enough those names have come to fit us.

I wanted to ask those of you who are parenting, those who have revealed their child's name or have used a pseudonym, how did you make that decision?


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  1. For me, it was kind of scary at first, but after I did, felt like no big deal. Your right that it's still pretty anonymous...but not totally. Anyone who know you well and finds her picture will know you, the name would only solidify it. But no one can "find" you by searching Magpie's name. They'd have to find you based on content. So I think it's relatively safe...

  2. I started a blog a number of years ago and used my real name and my daughter's real name and I also included photos. Then, a couple of people IRL "found" the blog and I was mortified. Not that I was writing anything particularly catty or anything but I was writing thinking that NO ONE was reading. I foolishly thought, (for real I thought this) that the only people reading were people I had given the url to. It was frightening to get "outed". I went through and purged my blog of some of the less flattering posts but I still felt exposed.

    Plus, my daughter is getting to the age where computer use is not uncommon. I still think it's young for them but other kids her age are already all over the internet. I couldn't risk one of her friends "finding" a blog with her photo and her name and stories about her.

    In the end, I shut down the old blog and started a new one without using our real names and with no photos. Granted, it's not as fun but the thought of being "found" again makes me nervous.

    Good luck with your decision.

  3. Funnily enough, when I read your previous post, I misread "Magpie" as "Maggie" at one point, and it reminded me of your earlier posts debating what to do about the surname, and I wondered what resolution you'd come to (something that you could *hopefully* be able to tell us without revealing said surnames).

    When I started my livejournal, I made a decision not to clearly link it to my full name -- I'm not entirely sure why, but maybe it was because that's what others were doing at the same time in the same venue. However, the username I chose is such that simple googling easily get you my real name,and I'd occasionally link to things (like conference programs) where my name was clearly listed. As I became more established as an academic, this actually bothered me less and less, as I don't post anything there that I don't mind people reading. I think that the post about Gwen's birth might have been the first time that I posted my surname in a blog post, though I'm not certain.

    Anyway, the longer I kept my journal, the less I've felt a desire for any sort of anonymity. I don't go out of my way to make my name known, but it hasn't ever bothered me that I've posted her name there, or that I regularly refer to her by name.

  4. I for one would love to know her name but then again I have a love affair and mini obsession with names. I just love hearing what and how a name was chosen. That being said, I don't feel as though you owe any of us her real name. That is and should be 100% your choice. I do use my children's names on my blog and haven't ever worried about that choice.

  5. In my case, I use my real name for my blog, but I refer to my children as my son and my daughter. My philosophy is that come high school, I don't want their peers googling their name and turning up old posts about their baby habits.

    Their names aren't secret, secret... I know I've at least mentioned my son's real name on my blog once. But it's up to them how public a persona they want.

    I've avoided nicknames, just in case they start feeling wrong at some point. The other option I like (and I might switch to at some point) is to use an initial letter to refer to them.

  6. I have blogged since 2004 and in the beginning it never occurred to me to blog anonymously. Over the years there have been several occasions where I have been called to task for things I have written by family members and employers. I once got a cease and desist letter from the attorney of a former boss! If he wasn't the boss's poker buddy I might have taken it more seriously. Over the years I have learned to filter some things and I have learned to blog *my* story and have worked at not blogging anyone else's story without permission. Many of my real life friends read my blog and it gives us a connection that we wouldn't otherwise have but it does sometimes leave me feeling exposed. Many blog friends have become real life friends over the years. I even traveled across the country to spend time with a blog friend and her family! In my opinion it's hard to have a grey area - it's either all transparent or all anonymous. Otherwise you'll be constantly doubting yourself or censoring everything you write. I look at things through the filter of "would I say this in front of my father, my children and my pastor?" and sometimes I still bare more of my heart than I should. But my blog, as I'm sure yours has, has served as validation for a lot of people who feel the way I do or have experienced things I have and it's so rewarding. It makes the transparency worth it. I'd love to know Magpie's name just as I know you and I would make great friends in real life but I'm ok with just knowing her as Magpie if that's your comfort level. *hugs*
    www.tighteningthecorsetagain.blogspot.com (in case you want to check out my blog)

  7. Because his name means so very much to us. Because it is do tied to the journey we have taken so far to see him finally in our arms, because I love saying it over and over again, I decided to share it, at least once, on my blog. But moving forward, I will probably default to a first initial, simply because I do that for most people I reference on the blog: my husband, my friends, myself (although I'm still lingering under a pseudonym and a pretense of anonymity).

    Six months old. Wow. Just wow.

  8. I use a semi-nickname for my son, but I know I've used his full name once (I believe my first post after he was born) and THAT is how his entire extended family found my blog. Never underestimate the amount of time seemingly normal (but bored?) people apparently spend googling names of people they know.

    I miss being able to post ANYTHING at all personal (because I really don't want my FIL, nieces, nephews, brother, etc. knowing the details of my cycle, sex life, etc!) So my blog has turned into a mommy blog with very little of the personal stuff that it used to be ALL about. Which is fine. It's an easy way to stay in touch with his family who is far away, and I don't need the venting space anywhere near as much as I used to.

    As far as safety goes, I have to admit I'm more concerned with someone seeing him in person when we're out & about & following us home than I ever have been about someone developing an online obsession about him. I would probably really resist posting a photo with his full name attached to it, for fear of predators, but that's as far as my paranoia goes.

    After weighing the situation, I decided that the internet is a big, big place. I post very few photos, and would never dream of posting anything with Hen in any embarrassing (or immodest, or provocatively titled!) poses, simply because it's creepy to imagine them being used for disgusting purposes. But I can't stop people from taking pictures of him in real life--his image is already out there in the world. In this day of phone cameras, EVERYONE'S public image is potentially already out there unless they're housebound with no repairmen ever allowed inside.

    As far as HIS online anonymity goes, once he's old enough to understand--maybe 5 or 6?--I won't post stories about him without his permission. And at that point, I will likely have switched over entirely to my 'author blog' anyway. But until then, I own his stories, because they're still very much OUR stories. That will not be the case when he's 8, but when he's two? Oh yeah.

    And seriously--worrying about what his friends will think of stories about his babyhood when he's 17? I do think they will all have other things to be doing/thinking about. I can't bring myself to care what teenagers in 15 years think about the cuteness (or not) of his glasses or his wardrobe, and I similarly can't bring myself to care about what they think about his babyhood milestones. (And with me as a mom, this will not be the first embarrassing thing he has to deal with in his life. ("MOM! Why don't you get a haircut and wear makeup like all the other moms? You look like a hippie!"))

    Good luck on the decision!

  9. You don't owe anyone anything, certainly you don't owe it to your readers to disclose personal details you are not comfortable sharing; I can't believe people are demanding to know. Online, less information from real life is better than more. I don't even post pics of my kids, at least not where their faces are visible.

    I really like Magpie, but if it no longer fits, I bet you will come up with a more suitable nickname in no time!

  10. Like Reagan and Trevor's mommy, I would love to know her name -- AND why you chose it -- but you don't owe us anything. I'm glad Susan weighed in, as we know her name and Hen's!

  11. I haven't commented here in a long time, but this is something I think about a lot. I have always used my and my son's name on my blog - but not my husband's. I'm not concerned about the use of my name, but I wish I'd used a pseudoym for my son. I've thought of going back and changing all my posts, but it's just so much work. If I could do it again, I'd use a fake name for him. I don't even know why - but I guess I just feel like I've revealed too much of him on the internet.

  12. I use my children's names and post pictures of them (and quite likely overshare by many people's standards). I also go by the shortened version of my real first name (but considering it was the most popular name for 17 straight years, there are a lot of us out there).

    But my blog settings are also set up so that I am not searchable and do not show up on anything through blogger. The only way people find me is from other blogs and when I give out the URL. This allows me to feel like the people that find me are the people that my story will mean something to.

    I would rather they not be people I know in real life, but I also decided after careful deliberation to give an interview that aired on the news a few years ago. Only one person I know ever said anything about seeing it.

    When my children get older I will probably take my blog private. I do plan on creating their story from my blog (but lots of stuff will need to be edited out first). If I feel the need to have a "public" blog again then I will probably got with their initials.

    Oh, and I agree with the other comments, you don't anyone anything! If you chose to share her name, I am sure it will be a welcome disclosure. But she is your daughter and it is your decision.

  13. Eh, my son's name isn't that uncommon that you'd be able to google him. Plus I've never mentioned my location, DH's name or our last name. When he was born I posted a picture of his first and middle name, but never typed out his middle name. So you wouldn't be able to good first and middle name to find him. I use my own first name, but it's very common. I figure a nickname or made-up name is too much work for me to keep up. I don't think I've posted too much for him to be embarrassed about. I mean it's not like I posted pictures of the horrible haircut DH gave him last week. Le sigh...

  14. I don't think you "owe" anyone anything, she is gorgeous and I would love to know what her name is but like you said safety is #1. I have read too many posts by other blogger-moms that have had their pictures hacked into or info taken and used for weird, perverse and horrible things ; ( If you feel like Magpie doesn't fit why not choose a new "blog" name that is close to hers or a play on it? I'm all about keeping private things private, and hope that everyone will respect your choice as a Mama to hold close to you the things you feel are important!

  15. It's kind of funny when when people know us by our blog names, even after emailing and sometimes meeting IRL. Didn't I accidentally call Will "Will" when we had dinner when you were pg?

    Don't know if you remember, but I posted a photo with Sunshine's name in the photo, but it's never been written out. So it's not searchable. I do allow my blog to be searchable, as you never know how it may help someone. I couldn't remember if I had a blog nickname for her before she was born. I checked, and I referred to her a few times as Strawberry Shortcake. A response to my sister, who said I shouldn't name her Apple, or something like that. After she was was born I referred to her as Squeaker, because of her cute little squeaks. But she outgrew that. I can't imagine her ever not being my Sunshine (maybe when she's a teenager).

    I don't think anyone would be able to find us by searching, even though there are plenty of photos. Although, I did once have an acquaintance (the daughter of a friend of my BFF's mom) discover my blog after I left a comment on HER blog, which was listed on LFCA (small world, lotsa infertiles). I am still careful not to post things that might be embarrassing when she's older. So no potty pics or posts about potty training, and even though it was HILARIOUS, I won't be posting the conversation Sunshine and I had recently about the different parts boys and girls have.

  16. I've always blogged with our real names and pictures. But my blog started as a family blog for relatives far away. IF didn't change that. I don't blog some things because of this. I think about Simon being out there often, but until the bad outweighs the good I'll keep on. It is a personal decision and there is no right answer for any parent. Do what is right for your family and you don't owe your readers Magpie's name.

  17. I don't think that there's any danger in posting her first name, even if only once. Posting her full name would make it very easy to Google, but unless her first name is extremely uncommon, I think you would be safe referring to her that way without worrying about losing too much of your (or her) anonymity. I like Dora's idea about possibly posting the name as part of an image, if you do decide to reveal it.

    That said, you have to do what feels right for your family and your daughter in particular. This is one of those gray areas of motherhood and blogging where there isn't really a "right" answer. As others have said, you don't owe us anything. We're just happy you're in a good place with the family you worked so hard for.

  18. I use pseudonyms for my children. I don't want them to be Google-able. It's about safety and their privacy. It's as simple as that.

  19. Long time reader here, but I almost never comment. This is a topic I feel very strongly about.

    I have not revealed the names of my children. (I also don't show their pictures either.)

    The Internet is a weird place. Would sharing Magpie's name hurt her in any way? *Probably* not. Does revealing her name cause her any danger? *Likely* not.

    I guess my perspective is that there are only two people on this Earth responsible for protecting every aspect of the lives of my children - myself and their father. Even if revealing their identities doesn't bring them any harm from others - What if they don't want to be linked to my infertility and miscarriage problems? What if my second son doesn't want to know that while trying to conceive him and enduring 4 miscarriages that I almost went crazy and our marriage almost fell apart? What if my older son doesn't want to know that while trying to conceive his brother and enduring those miscarriages, that I was so consumed with the babies I was losing that in many ways I was more absent than I should have been for him? What if neither boy wants to ever think about our sex life, my husband's sperm quality, or my hormonal dysfunction?

    I haven't yet come to terms with how much of this journey I will share with my boys or at what age. I will be honest with them. I will tell them that it wasn't easy, but how much truth do they need from one of the darkest periods of my life? Maybe - MAYBE - one day they will be old enough and I will be comfortable enough to share my blog with them. But that is a decision I get to make - both if and when. They are entitled to their own privacy on this issue and I'd rather err on the side of caution.

    Honestly, I have found NO compelling reason to share any aspect of their identities with the world. I'll say it again - the Internet is a WEIRD place. People are crazy. Knowing your child's name (even just the first name), her birthday, the city of birth, and your age could be enough to search vital records and figure out who you are, where you live, etc. OF COURSE, that is extreme. OF COURSE, the chances of that happening are incredibly slim. But why risk it? Because some readers think you owe it to us to share her name?

    FWIW, knowing that Magpie isn't her real name doesn't make her existence any less perfect for me as a reader. I couldn't possibly be any happier for your family. I don't care what her name is - I care that after such a long struggle, she is here and she is yours!

  20. I haven't read the other comments so I hope I'm not repeating here...but I know of one blogger who wanted to share her daughters real name but didn't want it googlable so posted it on the blog in picture form. When she talks about her she always uses her first initial.

    I thought it was a great way to share with her readers but made it a little harder for her to be found.

    Do whatever you (and Will!) feel comfortable with and don't worry about owing anyone anything!

  21. I use our real first names but I am diligent to never post our last name or anything that concretely says where we live. For example, I blur the town name from soccer jerseys and pictures with firetrucks. People can get an idea of the general area based on the activities and places we post about. But I try to keep us as "generic" as possible. My site is not indexed on search engines so its not easily searchable. But it's different for me because my site is not anywhere near as popular as yours. I get about 30-50 hits a day from mostly family and friends.

    It's all a matter of what you're comfortable with. Personally, I don't mind people using screen names as long as there are occasional photos. I never stick around very long on blogs who don't show any photos at all - it's too veiled to connect with the people/babies.

    I think even if you post her real name many of us will still think of her as magpie :)


  22. I'm using pseudonyms for my kids. I also use one for myself, but I'm certain the tiniest bit of investigation would yield my true name.

    I've posted images that show my kids' names- like the banner in the background of birthday party photos, etc. However, I haven't typed their names.

    I figure, that way, they are not searchable. Nobody can search for their names and be led to my blog. (also nobody can search for me and find me- I'd rather my coworkers and employer not know I'm blogging)

    It's not my kids' choice that I'm sharing parts of their childhood on the internet. I don't want them to worry that a classmate will Google them and find stories about potty training or tantrums.

  23. I blog anonymously and use a blog name for my daughter. Though I do get a good laugh when people compliment me that "Frostina" is such a cute name. Somehow they missed the part that it's not her real name. I don't plan to use her real name ever, or mine for that matter.

  24. I put B's name up on the day he arrived although just took his middle name off that post. It's such a popular name as to be non-searchable. And I've never used my name, but if you really read all of my posts you could figure out where I worked. But so it goes.

  25. I don't blog, but I've been following your journey and a couple others for years now. While I'd personally love to know Magpie's real name just out of curiosity, I don't feel like you owe it to anyone. Do what you feel is best!! And like someone else before me, I'm also curious about what your decision was on her surname!

  26. I don't blog, I comment semi-anonymously (anyone determined to do so could probably figure out my real identity, but they might need to be pretty bored to want to take the time), and I don't post my kid's name or pictures anywhere but FB (or through email) which is ostensibly limited, though of course not really, probably (but anyone looking at me through FB is looking at my public persona and real name and I post there the kinds of things I'd be OK with having appear on the front page of the local paper. So.).

    As you may recall I once accidentally posted a comment on your blog using my real name and contacted you asking you to pull it.

    I have come out with my real identity in a few online contexts where research I was doing (I'm an academic...) related to connections there and where I wanted to let people know about it (e.g. invite people to fill out surveys). Of course some such requests are guided by regulations about research involving human subjects, but even when they weren't (e.g. I wanted feedback on a pilot survey's design but wasn't collecting data), not connecting my real work and my real name/identity to such a request seemed inappropriate to me, so I "came out." But other than where there's an obvious and necessary reason to, I just don't see the reason to do so (for me).

    To be honest I think of you, Will, and Magpie as, well, Mo, Will, and Magpie, so were I to learn that any of you go by other names I might find that a little unsettling, though I'm sure I'd be able to come to grips with it in time ;).

  27. I've been following for a LONG time, and although I would love to know Magpie's name, I think that is a personal choice you have to make.

    I, personally, don't worry about first names. I provide relatively few other identifying information, so a first name is simply that. Besides, if someone I know finds the pictures I put on my blog they will know who I am anyway...and a first name is just a first name...I don't put middle or last names on it anywhere.

    It's a decision you have to make for yourself, and your family...but you don't owe anyone, anything. :-)

  28. I have never chosen to go public with my identity. I chose anonymity when I started my blog, and I do not think it is fair to my daughter for her name to be out there when mine isn't. So her name is not out there either. The anonymity permits me the comfort that won't be there if places, people and timelines would intersect the way they do on my blog currently.

  29. My blog, which is specifically for sharing pictures with family and friends, is set to private, so I share to my heart's content. That's one option. The other is, as someone else said, to post a picture of it so it isn't searchable, and then use her initial. (I never realized that you aren't actually 'Mo and Will,' ha!). My daughter has a unique (family) name, but if she didn't I wouldn't worry so much about it being searchable. I keep our blog private more because I want to somewhat control the pictures of her. I've also pulled all of them from fb. Seemed like a good precaution I guess.

  30. My boys are all grown and over the age of 18 now so it's not an issue for me but, if you're going to continue blogging as she grows I would not reveal her real name. Maybe I'm being paranoid but it would make it easier for someone to lure her away, using her name and knowing certain details about her etc. Like "Hi Magpie! I know your mommy and daddy" blah blah blah.

    I would also Watermark all your photo's of her, I've heard of people stealing baby photo's so if you watermark them with your blog name they'll be deterred.

    But again, I would keep her real name to yourself. Revealing it isn't going to change anything and it will protect her as she grows and starts school etc.

  31. Lexi has always been Lexi on my blog. But I've never shared our last name...which is highly googleable.

  32. I'd be more concerned with sharing photos than an infants (probably not terribly uncommon) first name. I love that M shared her baby's name. After years of praying for her, it's lovely that she had the kindness to share with those who have been following and rooting her on throughout her journey. If doing so seemed to pose any meritable risk to her sons safety, I would obviously feel differently, but as you said, what harm could reasonably come from attaching a first name to an otherwise anonymous child?

    Signed- Dana (rather than anonymous!) :)

  33. I'm posting this comment anonymously :)

    You don't owe your readers anything. You may be so overwhelmed with joy that you WANT to share, but you don't owe it to anyone. In knowing you have a semi-public job, and so does Will, I would probably recommend that you keep it secret. You could always give her a new moniker now that she's here, one that will be fitting as she gets older. There is truly no reason for you to reveal her actual identity, because it's not something you can ever take back. Good luck.

  34. I think you should do what feels best for you and your family. It's a personal choice and understandable either way. I am 6dp5dt at CCRM w/ dr. Schl. and referring to your 2ww symptoms by the hour. I'm fighting myself constantly trying to stay in the moment and not to do a hpt. Thanks for your blog and for the hope!

  35. Don't do it, Mo. I've worked over 20 years in networks and security and even though it's probably never going to be a big deal, you'll never be able to change your mind about it, either. Sites like waybackmachine http://archive.org/web/web.php cache Internet snapshots regularly. Even if you change your mind in the future and delete the information, if they have your site in cache from the time you had it on, someone will be able to find it.

    Also, and this is just a personal opinion here, so take it for what it's worth - I think the sharing of information about someone on the Internet should be decided by the person in question, not anyone else. In this age where employers and everyone else searches the Internet for every available bit of information out there, I just think that she should be able to make her own decisions about what she wants to share. She's a baby (a fabulous, lovely one!) right now, but some day she's going to have definite opinions about these things, and I feel it should be her decision whether to share information or not, even regarding her early childhood.

    No offense meant to anyone who has a different opinion - everyone must do what they feel is right for their own family/children. Mo did ask for opinions here, though, and this one is mine.

    Best to all -

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  37. I did want to share Miss A's name (first and middle, not last) with everyone who had supported us for all these years, so I decided to do it in one post, and I put a couple of periods in it so that it would be less likely to come up in a search engine.

    I haven't ever searched her name, but this just made me think to go do that. My blog didn't come up, at least not within the first 5 pages of results that I looked at, but I'm just realizing now that a team page I created for RESOLVE's Walk of Hope has her name on it, because that did come up. Oops!

    And, some of what will come up on the internet is just beyond your control anyway. Apparently there is someone out there with a first and middle name very similar to Miss A's who is semi-famous, and anyone who searches the images results for that will get quite an eyeful! So a couple decades from now, if someone searches for Miss A who hasn't met her, they may think that is her even though it's not. But for the pages of image results I scrolled through, none of the ones I've posted of her on the blog came up.

    OTOH, part of me is kind of regretting posting the pictures of her and us, even though I haven't posted a lot of them. There is some work-related stuff that I would probably have blogged about recently, except that I know anyone who sees those pictures and knows us would then know it's my blog. I've only ever shared the fact that I have a blog with one person IRL and that was several years ago (a fellow IFer) and she's not connected to my work in any way. But I also know that it's a very, very small world in some ways, so now I'm more hesitant to post about certain things.

    Another thing you could do if you want to share her name one time but don't want it to be searchable is do something like (for Jane, for example):


  38. I blog anonymously for professional reasons and because my girls have weird names (not to mention our extremely weird last name). I only post watermarked pictures in password-protected posts, and so far zero faces. Once it's out there, I can't change my mind and take it back, so I'm opting to stay anonymous until I work for myself (if that ever happens). I am diligent about not posting the exact same photos in any publicly identified places (facebook with my name all over it, my photo sharing site that I really should consider taking down) so the images can't be easily linked. Often I consider it, but since it's a permanent choice, I'm opting for no names and no faces. I am considering a cartoon version of myself to replace my lego icon.

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  45. I've been blogging for six years now and use a pseudonym for my husband and children, not me. I never use my surname in anyway. I started out only using side/back views of the children, but as we really wanted to share our journey owner building that became impractical, still nervous about crazies sometimes. I've never had a negative experience thus far, but then I avoid anything too controversial (except my lifestyle I suppose;)

    When our oldest became 18 she choose to change her blog name to something more mature, still waiting to hear what our nearly 18yr old chooses. If I had my time again I would chose blog names that would grow with them, simply their middle names or a derivative of them. their first names are quite unusual so couldn't do that there.

    Mostly I wanted to teach our teens and preteens about internet safety.

  46. If her name is unique, I wouldn't share it. My daughter's first name is not terribly rare, but her middle name is very unusual. I shared her first name. But not her middle name. And as she turned into a little girl vs a baby I stopped sharing altogether, because it started to seem like her story wasn't as much mine to share anymore.

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