Many years ago, I opened a Blogger account and started a blog much like this one about bipolar disorder. The catalyst: I had no one to talk to about what I was going through. The disease was/is lonely. There seemed no better place to connect with like-minded (pun intended) individuals.
This was around 2006, when no one thought of the internet as permanent in the way we do today. Print publications—”real” magazines, “real” newspapers—those were permanent. Anything published online seemed, for most of us, ethereal and fleeting.
Back to my Blogger account in 2005. After I opened that account, I unleashed myself onto the internet. I freely talked about my moods and whatever struggles I had with the disease. I connected with other bloggers. I felt completely empowered.
And then I got a comment from another anonymous blogger who told me that the way that I had opened the Blogger account—with my first and last name in the registration form—meant that the blog was not actually anonymous. Search results were showing my first and last name, he pointed out.
I will never forget reading that comment ten years ago. I was sitting in my small bedroom in the New Jersey suburb where I lived at the time. Horrified, I went into my Blogger settings and immediately deleted the blog in its entirety. That would fix it! Of course, a few minutes later, when I googled my name, the posts were still appearing because the Google cache—a concept I didn’t understand at the time—had not cleared.
Through the help section on Google’s website, I sent dozens of SOS emails. No one replied. I stayed up all night in a panic, convinced my blog would get me fired. The next day, someone from Google responded to explain that even though I’d deleted the blog, it would take at least a few weeks for the old posts to disappear from search results.
For the next month, I lived in agony. I obsessively searched for myself online, waiting for the posts to clear. At some point, I went on a mediocre date with a guy, and when he didn’t call me back, I was certain it was because he’d googled me.
Finally, the blog disappeared.
The weight of my embarrassment was lifted, but I was left with no blog, no outlet, no community. And so I eventually started this blog on WordPress. I registered with a pseudonym. I read lots of posts about how to stay anonymous and blog.
Today, ten years after that initial SNAFU with my blogger blog, I somehow managed to send an email to coworkers that went out with my “yourbipolargirl” email address. How did this happen?I’d stupidly tried to merge my whole life into Mac Mail and didn’t understand when I sent that note I was sending from that address. Terrible, idiotic mistake.
Fortunately, I’ve gained perspective over the years. The soul-crushing embarrassment I felt at the moment of this realization a couple hours ago has lifted. Life is simply too short to live in fear that people will find out who you “really” are.
That all being said, if you’re thinking about blogging about your disease and want to stay anonymous, learn from some of my mistakes and do the following:
1. Register your account with a pseudonym using an email address you create for blogging only. It’s easier to do this using a site like WordPress.com. If you’re thinking of hosting your own site through WordPress.org or another platform, be sure that you understand the functions and limitations of WHOIS privacy.
2. Do not use one email platform (like Mac Mail) to read email from various accounts. This is my most recent mistake. You risk accidentally sending an email from the anonymous account to real contacts.
3. Don’t write anything you don’t want the world to read. While your anonymity affords you freedom to talk about something private, it’s the internet. Unlike what we all thought years ago, pixels are permanent.