Fr. Angelo Mary Geiger on Keeping Secrets…

blogging, and anonymity.

I realize that it’s perfectly legit to write on the web under a handle and have, on rare occasions, done so myself for prudential reason. But mostly I have always had a scruple against it. I just feel funny writing things if I don’t have the guts to sign my name to it and take responsibility for it. I don’t hold anybody else to my scruple, of course. I just feel funny posting stuff without my name on it.

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  • Theodore Seeber

    I agree. I used to go under the handle Marxist Hacker. Then I became a distributist. I still have some problem with it on slashdot….

  • HornOrSilk

    There are many good reasons for using pseudo-names online, from the fact that you have a lot of stalker-types who will do whatever they can to destroy you, to the fact that it can free some people to say what needs to be said. And there is a history of great men using such false identities: just think of Pseudo-Dionysius as a key example here. Of course, this can be abused, but we should not let the abuse determine the rule, ever.

  • LFM

    While I certainly understand the reasons people might disapprove of pseudonymous blogging, I’ve noticed that those who are most likely to take a stand against it tend to be self-employed, often writers, who make a living out of stating conservative views and need not fear that doing so will get them fired. Unfortunately, people who work in government and similar areas – teaching, administration, certain kinds of corporate work – have reason to fear losing their jobs, and indeed the possibility of never working again in their field. I have occasionally asked myself whether I am called upon to make a martyr of myself in this way, but I’ve never quite been able to decide.

  • MarylandBill

    I am somewhere in the middle on this. I do believe that many of us have legitimate reasons for protecting our full identities. Indeed, I know a Catholic Blogger who had people contact his place of employment to try and get him fired (fortunately for him, his employer agreed with him). That being said, I feel it is important not to deny my identity as well. That is why my Pseudonym always reflects who I really am… The state I live in and my first name in this case.

  • Beadgirl

    It’s a real issue for women online, unfortunately. No matter what they write about — religion, politics, comics, tv — women are much more likely to get deeply disturbing and scary responses, and I can think of several instances where men have actually tracked down the addresses and phone numbers of writers so that they could harass and threaten them and their families “in person.”

    It’s why I use a handle. It’s not that hard to track down my real name, but the handle allows a little bit of a filter. And even with it, and the fact that I have about ten readers of my little blog, someone keeps leaving meanspirited (and often inexplicable) comments because I have the temerity to agree with Mark on some stuff.

    • Rebecca Fuentes

      I’d love to read your blog. Will you share its address?

      • Beadgirl
        • anna lisa

          Beadgirl, you make beautiful things.

          • Beadgirl


        • Rebecca Fuentes

          You have some wonderful things on there. I will enjoy taking the time to really enjoy your posts.

          • Rebecca Fuentes

            And in all fairness, here is my blog, though I’m a little sheepish to link to it here.

          • Beadgirl

            Thanks, and I look forward to checking out yours, too!

    • Erin Manning

      Beadgirl, that’s why I used a pseudonym in my early days of commenting online–several different ones, actually, because it seemed like I was always picking names other people were using and would have to change the one I picked for clarity’s sake.

      When I started being ready to do actual writerly things I changed over to my real name. It has mostly been okay, but then again, I’m not a mommy blogger nor do I visit lots of forums or things like that.

      One thing: when I was writing under mainly gender-neutral pseudonyms, most of the people who interacted with me assumed I was male. When I changed over to my real (and obviously female) name there was exactly one trad Catholic website where comments essentially went from “Interesting idea and/or good point, and shall we talk about this further?” to “Go cook dinner, silly illogical woman, and quit bothering the men.” Even on several other sites I am used to new commenters reading my name quickly and then addressing me as *Eric* Manning only to be surprised that I’m not Eric, but Erin. I try to take it as a compliment. :)

  • AquinasMan

    Some of us work in Christo-phobic, politically correct multi-national industries that would invite severe recriminations for sharing the Catholic position on faith, family, and sexuality, even on personal time. Never trust that someone else will understand the nuance of “and God created them, man and woman”. One day, I will go by my real name, but for now, I need to earn a living.

  • anna lisa

    What’s kind of funny is when trolls post under other names on the thread, to agree with them.
    I’ve also had the displeasure of having trolls post responses with *my* name.
    Most of the time, I use my own name, but from time to time I use a silly name to protect my family when I’m bagging on the stuff they/we do. Writing “Mom” is much more expedient than adding the disclosure: “some names and places have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent.”

  • Matt Talbot

    My fake name was given to me by my parents at birth, making it especially clever.

  • John Thayer Jensen

    It’s fascinating the change in attitude towards anonymity in 150 years. In Newman’s day, it was the norm not to sign your name to articles – perhaps it was thought to be indulging in vanity or something?? You were still accountable – indeed, you and the publisher were accountable.

    But I have the same feeling as Mark. I couldn’t use a pseudonym. If there were some reason I didn’t want my name on something, I just couldn’t say the ‘something.’


  • Lori Pieper

    For the same reason as you, Mark, I always use my real name (just not my real picture).

    My boss has always defended everyone’s right to say anything they want. He doesn’t trash my views, though very much an EX-Catholic. So I don’t have much to worry about. I’ve honestly never had much trouble.

    • chezami

      That’s not your picture? :)

      • Lori Pieper

        No, I’m actually much better looking than my picture. I just don’t want to brag. :-)

        • Lori Pieper

          Ok, ok, I look nothing like the above picture. Take that however you want!

  • Benjamin2.0

    Pshaw. I never post under a nom de plume!

  • Fr. Denis Lemieux

    I’m with you, Mark – I made a decision when I started doing social media type evangelization, that if I couldn’t sign my name to something, I probably shouldn’t be saying it. Of course, I get it that some people may have good reasons not to do that, but far too many people (in my experience) hide behind anonymity as a cover from which they can say truly vile and hateful things without consequence.

  • CC

    As several other females have said in the comments, there are too many creepy people online for me to be comfortable using my full name on the internet – plain and simple.