January 17, 2013 3 Reactions

The Anonymity Game: Should Writers Wear the Mask?

By , under Make it Work. Ritika is on online media professional who specializes in user research, product strategy, and data analysis.

Exceptional writers create content from the heart — they’re passionate, genuine, and relentlessly committed to unveiling key human experiences. But what happens when privacy comes into play?

Good stories are oftentimes more than what people are able to share at face value. The most core human experiences happen under the covers, when doors are closed, and in private. Can anonymity bridge the gap?

Consider the case of The 3F’s, an up and coming blog that’s committed to some of the pleasures of life — fashion, food, and sex. The editor’s key editorial ingredient? Distance.

“My pseudonym is Clara Kurtis, and my professional area of expertise is clinical psychology. I’m currently in graduate school working toward a doctorate, seeing patients, and working towards my dissertation,” the site’s editor said. ”As a clinical psychologist who sees patients regularly, it’s essential that my work and my blog have unique places in my life — I need to have some control over how they overlap.”

Affirming Boundaries

Identity is a complex topic in writing with boundaries being the core of the issue.

“Therapists have varying opinions about how ‘blank slate’ we’re supposed to be with our patients, but I didn’t want to hold back on the site for fear of revealing too much about myself in a place so accessible by my patients (the Internet),” Kurtis said.

It was Kurtis’s goal to showcase the writing and not herself.

“I did this anonymously because I didn’t want the website to be about me,” she said. ”I wanted it to be about The 3Fs.”

Over the past few months, Kurtis has assembled a robust teams of contributors including fellow clinical psychologists, prominent photographers, and Top Chef contestant Fabio Viviani. Like Kurtis, not everyone feels comfortable writing publicly.

“Most of my contributors who have chosen to remain anonymous are also in the field of psychology, and have chosen to remain nameless for the same reason that I have,” she said. “It’s important in our field to have some semblance of control over what personal information is out there about us, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have personal things to say.”

The Value of Anonymity

There’s value in writing under a name, but distance from identity can be just as important.

“I can understand why some people want to match a name and a face with their writing, but I think my anonymity allows me to be completely myself in a way I would have to temper if my name was attached to it,” Kurtis said.

But there are clear ethical standards to maintain.

“It’s complicated because people have the right to express their opinions while maintaining their privacy,” Kurtis said. “The Internet is a permanent forum — once something exists on the Internet, it can never be completely rescinded. However, a problem arises when people hide behind anonymity and use it as a way to be aggressive, cruel, insensitive, etc. without consequence. My general feeling, though, is that the best changes result from controversy and someone being willing to address something that others just won’t touch. It needs to happen publicly or privately  — the value is the same.”

Write for the Right Reasons

To Kurtis, blogging is not about fame or recognition — it’s about making her mark on the world through content.

“The best advice I can give is not to blog in hopes of recognition,” she said. “If you don’t love what you’re putting out there, you’ll be disappointed very quickly. I would also say, as cheesy as it is, don’t give up. Blogs don’t take off right away, and you really have to stick with it if you want to go somewhere. I love the idea of people waking up and seeing something delicious/beautiful/sexy before heading off to whatever job they’ll be doing that day.”

Write from the heart, and the mask won’t matter.

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