Saturday, June 09, 2007

On anonymity and hiding

May asked (in the course of an e-mail conversation) whether there were any photos of me on the Internets; I replied that there were several on Flickr which were friends-and-family-only but that I'd certainly "befriend" her if she wanted to see them.

Thinking about this later on, I asked myself why I had bothered to restrict them in this way. My reasoning was that I don't want people who know me professionally to find my blog, because they might (would!) find some barely-disguised uncomplimentary references to themselves, and that identifying my face on Flickr is one way that the link might be made. (In the early blogging days, I did tell some workmates about my Flickr account.) The reason is valid as far as it goes, but it only goes an inch or two.

The probability of my being discovered through random googling is infinitely higher than that somebody might recognize my face. "Security through anonymity" doesn't work any more, if it ever did: Big Brother sees all, and tells all to anyone who asks. People have found my blog by searching for the most peculiar and abstruse things simply because all of the search words happened to occur on a single page, one word per post: write about Paris, France and then a week later about the Hilton hotel in Manhattan, and people will find your blog when searching for Paris Hilton (without quotes; many users of search engines don't know to put quotes around a phrase). Ben is regularly visited by people searching for Emma Watson's breasts because he once used all three words during the same month; they are surely terribly disappointed by his stories of children and early-morning jogging.

But my impulse to keep things secret and separate goes deeper than that. I have always maintained divisions between parts of my life: my architecture friends don't know my computing friends, and none of them know my blogging friends who know neither of the other groups. This even goes to the point of segregating my architecture friends from Big Famous Office from my architecture friends from Small Stylish Office. Silly, really, but it is my impulse in all things and always has been.

I am planning a dinner to celebrate my birthday (in a local restaurant) and was thinking who to invite, and kept tripping over this imaginary boundary between types of friends. Can't have both X and Y, what would they have to talk about—other than me? I would like to invite Marco from the Dead White Male Poet Cafe and my favourite barista from the Espresso-Laden, both of whom I think of as friends-in-the-making, but wonder what they'd make of the architects and vice versa.

Well, damn this: I shall invite them one and all, and let them see whether they can get on or not. It could be a very interesting evening.

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6 Comments:

Blogger Dale said...

Bravo. I've found that habit of segregating my lives to be a very negative one, though I'm not sure I could articulate why. I've been making a deliberate effort to undo it, this year.

June 9, 2007 at 11:36:00 PM GMT+2  
Blogger zhoen said...

Invite 'em all, let gods sort 'em out.


(She paraphrases wildly.)

June 10, 2007 at 1:34:00 AM GMT+2  
Blogger Jean said...

What a lovely post. I hope you invite them all and it's a good evening. I'm reminded of a friend recounting that he invited just such a disparate group of friends to a birthday meal in a restaurant; they varied widely in age and ethnicity as well as in the sort of ways you describe here. When he got to the restaurant, the staff had not seated those already arrived as they couldn't quite believe this was all the same group! I believe they had a good time.

I wonder if musing idly on one's blog about such things actually leads to change? Wonderful to think it might, that 'examining our lives' even this lightly is actually quite deeply significant.

And I don't think I ever said: happy birthday!

June 10, 2007 at 1:07:00 PM GMT+2  
Blogger Udge said...

Jean: thank you! It was quite happy, and I hope that the party will be just as good.

Zhoen: LOL.

Dale: glad to hear that I'm not alone on this :-) But it is a silly way to organize one's life, one should have more faith in oneself and one's friends. They do have at least one very important thing in common after all.

June 10, 2007 at 5:47:00 PM GMT+2  
Blogger JoeinVegas said...

Well, are you going to point to your Flikr photos, or just leave us in suspense? (or did I miss the link over on the side?)

How did the party turn out? Did they all show up, and have things to talk about?

June 13, 2007 at 9:28:00 PM GMT+2  
Blogger brooksba said...

Maybe an odd question, but do you find yourself ever allowing different aspects of your personality to surface in the different groups? I'm not saying that you're not you, but that maybe a stronger side of your personality comes out in one group over another.

Good for you to invite them all. It's your day. They can make it a great one for you.

June 14, 2007 at 11:01:00 AM GMT+2  

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