I have been thinking recently about the "online life" that so many of us live. It's in my thoughts because we are updating our policies and practices around student use conditions online.
In relation to this blog it made me think about my own online identity. I post anonymously here, but it wouldn't be that hard for a determined person to figure out who I am from the information that I've posted over the last six months. Some of you probably do already know who I am. Some of my friends do, and they give me real life feedback on my postings which I really value. I am still waiting for that first real life "tap on the shoulder" from a BF commentator!
When I was first offered the role at Being Frank, I did consider posting under my real name…I thought it would be good to really own my opinions in a very transparent way; I could see benefits in perhaps opening "real life" doors as a result; I saw that it could inspire others, and also might give me a different "slant" from other posters here.
However I then weighed up the cost of taking such a transparent approach. My main fear was the effect on others around me. If I made a comment on the clergy, would that be interpreted by my fellow parishioners as an attack on my parish priest? If I raised an issue on marriage, would it signal that mine was in trouble? If I spoke negatively about staff employed in Catholic schools – is that an indicator that I don't have confidence in my own staff? Would it be fair on my own teenage children to comment publicly on their difficulties engaging with the Church? It seemed to me that I didn't have the right to comment on these people in such a public way without their consent or right of reply…and from there it just seemed too difficult to maintain an online/offline balance.
I also had to consider in very real terms my employment situation. If I criticised a certain position of the Church – well, might that mean that I shouldn't hold the position of a Catholic school principal? If I criticised aspects of the catholic education system, how might that effect my future career? Would I get a tap on the shoulder from further up the food chain if I posted something contentious? Also my Board employed a Principal of their school, who is often the focus of their school's good name and reputation…it didnt seem fair to them to potentially create further issues through my online involvements here.
I well remember on the NZ Catholic front page a year or so ago the diocesan staff who attended a workshop and were then quoted on their opinions – some of which totally conflicted with Church teaching. My understanding is that this did create some uncomfortable employment discussions for some of them. I heard from one of them their annoyance that a personal opinion could not be seen as separate from their employment position.
And I guess (without condoning the situation or people in the paragraph above) that's exactly why I've chosen to post anonymously. I want to be really honest, and part of that honesty is expressing my frustrations with things at times, including issues in my own workplace, my parish, my diocese, and catholic education in general. I can't do that openly or else I would burn relationships and employment prospects.
I think it is better to be able to post anonymously and give those insights that to post openly and have to be incredibly PC. I am sure there will be people who see such reasoning and self-justification as a little gutless…own your convictions etc…fine, I can accept that point of view. But I do note that 99% of commentators here also post under a pseudonym, I'm assuming they do so for reasons not too dissimilar to mine.
I remember some time ago being challenged on here by a commentator to be more specific. There was an issue I raised in a post that was too vague, and more detail was needed for the commentator to respond. However due to some of the reasons listed above, I just couldn't give any more detail. I understood the commentator's frustration, but you have to weigh that up with the other issues of privacy etc.
So that's why I post here as Boanerges, not (censured)!