January 14, 2019

Prioritizing Blogger Safety | Why Writing Under a Pen Name is Perfectly Fine

From the first time I logged into a computer, I have been lectured about online safety. Parents, teachers, neighbors, signs in hallways, and TV commercials have all warned me about the dangers of the Internet, especially meeting strangers and giving them my information.

I am not saying that online friends are sketchy or not trustworthy, but the Internet has a lot of types of people and not all of them have your best interests at heart. For the most part, the book community has each other's backs and I have felt safe sharing about my personal life.

That being said, Tessa is not my real name. It's a pen name that my 8th grade self created in order to protect myself on the Internet (and so that I didn't get lectured again from my mom). I have always blogged under a pen name and I don't plan on changing that in the near future.

I have always been very open about my use of a pen name, but recently, a certain author has questioned the trustworthiness of bloggers who use a pseudonym. This event in the book blogging world, involving a case of stalking and invasion of privacy, is the reason that I chose to use a pen name so long ago.

Instead of getting into a debate about the specifics of the event, I would like to give a list of reasons why it is perfectly acceptable for bloggers to use a pen name.

1. Safety for the Blogger

Especially for those who start blogging at a young age, safety is a concern. The best way to protect your personal information is to not give it out in the first place.

I have hopes that my pen name will protect me from something as simple as not receiving unprovoked emails to my personal account to larger issues such as an angry author showing up on my doorstep.

This safety also extends to my own peace of mind when posting on the Internet. Under a pen name, I have the assurance that my information isn't out in the world for anyone to take advantage of.

2. My Name Does not Affect my Opinions

It's true that an online persona can become a mask; people have the opportunity to hide in the invisibility to cyberspace to safely launch hateful comments. I am not debating the existence of cyberbullying.

However, I do believe that anonymity can be used for good. It can be a protector of good instead of just hiding the bad guys of the Internet. My pen name is supposed to protect me so that I can write a negative (albeit respectful) review without fearing retribution.

My opinions don't sudden change when I sign off a blog post as Tessa. Tessa's opinions are my opinions, regardless of whether or not I am posting publicly on the Internet or having a personal debate with real-life friends. 

3. Branding

In one of the most ironic twists of fate, pen names are often used in the author community. Bloggers are not the only ones who used them, in fact, we didn't even invent them. Authors, like J. K. Rowling and Nora Roberts, have been using pen names for the sake of branding for years and years. 

In order to protect the fact that she was a female author, and to avoid the bias that came with gender, Rowling used her initials to leave her authorship unknown. Later on, she would brand herself as Robert Galbraith to write her mystery novels in the hopes to protect her new series from comparison to her other works. 

Nora Roberts did the same thing when she adopted the name J. D. Roberts for her mystery/thriller series. 

I mean, Dr. Seuss wasn't even a real doctor yet his ability to write books was never questioned. He never got his PhD, but that doesn't make his books any less enjoyable.

4. The Established History of Pen Names and Stage Names

Pen names aren't a new thing. They are even used in multiple industries, such as the stage name in the music world. No one questions Marshmello's authority on music just because he doesn't want to show his face. Sia is a household name, but no one has ever seen her face. Despite this anonymity, they are both allowed to create and are applauded for it.

5. The Power of a Name

Changing my name, especially to emulate on of my favorite book characters at the time, helped me become a more confident blogger. Every time I signed off as Tessa, I felt like I was contributing to the literary world. Even though I borrowed the name, I made it my own.

After blogging under this name for over six years, my pen name has become a part of both me and my blog. This name has become a symbol of my role in this community and I don't want it to be diminished just because it isn't my real name.

The fact is that no blogger, pen name or not, deserves to have their privacy violated. This is just the path I have chosen to try and protect myself; there are other methods to go about it as well. In the end, this isn't just about pen names and those who write under a pseudonym. Every blogger has opinions worth sharing. Every blogger has a powerful name that doesn't deserve to be attacked. Every blogger deserves to feel safe on the Internet.

How do you feel about bloggers who use pen names? How do you protect yourself as a blogger? Is safety a concern for you on the Internet?

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