Thursday, December 08, 2005

My mom raised me better than this; or, why I blog anonymously

There are two types of people in the bloggernacle: the onymous and the anonymous. I think our community is somewhat of an anomaly, in that so many participants use their real names. I admire the courage of Rusty, Ronan, Elisabeth, etc. who put their real names out there. Every once in a while though, some bloggers using their real names will complain about the anonymous masses. We anonymous types don't have anything at stake, they say; we don't have any incentive to behave. Perhaps they are right.

For my own part, I don't care about my anonymity. I don't actually know any Mormons and I'm not currently active in my ward. I can't embarrass myself in the Mormon community if I'm not really part of it. Also, I have a very common name. It is so common that the day I checked into the MTC, there was another Elder [Ned Flanders] reporting for duty. We had the same first and last names and they initially gave me his room assignment. (He went to Oregon on his mission, the poor bastard.) So even if I used my real name, people are just as likely to confuse me with my Oregonian doppelganger or one of the other thousands of other possibilities.

So why don't I pull an Athena, and reveal myself? My parents.

My parents are both very bright people, but they are singularly incurious about Mormon history or issues. I think my parents would rather have found a dirty magazine than a copy of Sunstone under my mattress. We had the usual assortment of faith-promoting Deseret Books (though I never saw anyone actually reading them) plus the Standard Works. End of story. What else do you need? A couple of months ago, my mom did give me an article about Joseph Smith that she printed out from the Internet. What site was it from? Meridian. Sigh.

I don't post onymously because I don't want someone to sidle up to my mom on Enrichment Night and say, "I read the most heretical thing on your son's website the other day." Among Mormons, it has become unfortunate custom to brag about the righteousness of your children. "I have five kids and they've all served missions and are married in the temple." It's like a Mormon batting average. My parents are batting pretty well for a baseball player but not too great for your standard Mormon couple. I've already screwed up their average, I don't want to add my apostate views on top of that.

I also wonder what effect the faithfulness of the children has on the callings of the parents. I once had a GA tell me that they don't call Mission Presidents who have children with problems. I don't believe that's true, but I wonder about it. Do any of the Seventies have wayward children? The Apostles? They must, right? Especially with the amount of kids Mormons have. I still think that unless your last name is Benson, it's probably not a good idea to have an apostate in the family.

While looking up an entry in my mission journal for yesterday's post, I stumbled upon an experience that I had forgotten. I had been in the country for about a month and lived in a tiny apartment with my companion and two other missionaries. The other companionship would come into our room at 6:30 am each morning to sing a hymn and say a prayer to start our day. One morning I didn't feel like getting out of bed to sing, and one of the elders told me that I was a disgrace to my father. (Nice guy.)

I don't believe that, but at the same time, I don't want to saddle my parents with any extra grief at this point in their lives. If that means lying low on the Internet, then so be it.

I will always be Flan-diddly-anders to you.


Hellmut said...

Obvioulsy, I am posting openly. Mormon culture is so fraught with taboos, it feels like a culture of silence to many of us. So I wanted to do my bit to encourage more openness (sp?).

Anyways, I somewhat regret that now. Pseudonyms are so much more fun and creative.

Tim J. said...

Another excellent post, Ned. It's as though you're trying to win one of those year-end awards over at BT.

Anyway, I understand your concerns and can sympothize with the whole "parents righteousness measured by kids faithfulness" ans vice-versa.

My dad is currently a bishop, and my wife and I recently moved into a ward in his stake. The minute we walked into the chapel, there were certain expectations people had of me that otherwise would not be there.

Jay S said...

Poor guy, you missed out on a great opportunity to go to the pacific northwest! (Unless he went to the lesser mission, the Eugene)

Blogging anonymously also has advantages in prevention of job discrimination, academic discrimination and lesser embarassing situations.

Case in point, I entered a comment on a blog whose name could be considered inflammatory, revealing semi personal details. Well someone in my ward who also reads the same blog made a comment to my wife. This wasn't so bad, after all we were in the same boat. But the name was such that I really didn't want to have to explain to anyone, "but really it isn't bad" etc.

NFlanders said...

That's funny, Hellmut. I always assumed you were a pseudonym (darned U.S.-centric outlook).

Thanks, Tim J.-- I admit that I have opened up the flood gates this past week or so. I figure that I might as well get all my posts out while people are still reading. When you only post once a week, you necessarily have a much smaller audience.

I sympatize with your being a SP's son. That's got to be tough. I had a similar experience in the mission, which is probably why that jerk elder said what he did.

Jay-- Good point about future employers. I have checked and there are several political bloggers with my name so I am safe on that account. However, in the small world of Mormonism, I would eventually run into someone I know. Actually I grew up in the same ward as one of T&S's past guest bloggers, but he's no longer in the 'nacle, so I'm safe.

RoastedTomatoes said...

Ned, way to go with the anonymity! By far the best approach. If my online name were, say, "Ben M.", would anyone even remember me from one comment to the next? Far better to be memorable!

I think your concerns for your family are perfectly acceptable reasons to speak anonymously, although there are others in our community who would disagree. My personal primary reason for anonymity is the academic profession one. I work in a profession where atheism is normative. Say what you like about my degree of orthodoxy, but nobody could mistake my online writings for those of an atheist, I'm afraid. So better for everyone if my future colleagues at the University of ????????????? can't easily connect my name with this persona...

NFlanders said...

That's a very good point, RT. I feel sometimes that I'm cheating a little because it is hard to distinguish between yet another, say, Lisa, or Geoff, but a cartoon character is pretty unmistakable.

a random John said...

Being only semi-anonymous has no real advantages as I have been recognized as arJ in real life by people I've never met before.

Ned, as long as one uses anonimity as a sheild to protect your privacy rather than a sword that allows you to eagerly bash others I'm alright with it. I've never seen you abuse the fact that we can't ID you, so keep it up.

NFlanders said...

Whatever, Random John, you are a jerk. Come and find me!

Ha! Just kidding. Ironically, you are the only person in the 'nacle that knows my name (or most of it, anyway).

Mark IV said...


You know Ned's name? Dish, man!

Flanders, the GA who told you that didn't know much. Check out Spender W. Kimball's family - 4 kids, 2 active, 1 inactive, and 1 I think is an active anti. And I'm not knocking Spencer and Camilla, I think that is just about average.

NFlanders said...

Those aren't the droids you're looking for, aRJ. And you don't remember my name.

Mark IV-- Very interesting to know. I always wondered about that.

Susan M said...

It's always weird when someone comes up to me and says, "Are you Sue?" But that only happens with people in my other online world, not the LDS one.

I don't care if anyone at church reads my blog or whatever, it's mainly family I'm trying to avoid.

a random John said...


Now you've gone and moved so my opportunity to stalk you has evaporated. At least I have moved as well (twice since then!) so you can't find me either.

Tim J said...

"Would anyone even remember me from one comment to the next?"

Interestingly, when I first began posting, I considered an alias for that reason alone--but I'm not that vain or shallow! :)

Gunner said...

My real name is odd enough that I go by it openly and yet people who see "Gunner" likely think I am a a blogging gun nut(I am).

So for some open is hidden. Now my secret is out.

lchan said...

Personally I'm not comfortable with giving too much information online. I blog in semi-anonymity (is that a word?). I use my real first name, but I don't give my last name. I don't post family photos because I don't want some freak getting interested in us (low possibility, but I've had people find me by searching for some lame keywords - it's almost enough to make me take out any mention at all of my kids).

I don't want someone who knows me in real life to Google my name and find my blog. I don't want my clients (I have a web-based business) looking for my business and finding my personal blog.

I do freely tell my family and friends about my blog. I personally don't like the idea of writing something in a public forum that I would want to hide from my family (and I don't write things that I would be embarasses of if someone I knew stumbled onto my blog). But, because of that, there are things I might like to share that I don't.

We all blog for different reasons. But, I actually think it's smarter to hold some things back.

NFlanders said...

Gunner Nelson, is that you? Oh wait, that's spelled Gunnar. I had just assumed you were a law student.

Susan-- I'm with you on the whole keeping the blog from the extended family thing.

Tim J.-- For whatever reason, I don't have a problem confusing you with anyone else. There don't seem to be too many Tims around here.

Laura-- I hear you on the semi-privacy thing. However, members of my family are the last people I would want reading my blog. We don't discuss church stuff.

The idea of keeping some things private is an interesting one. I hold a lot of things back, but sometimes I feel that if I don't share it, it will die with me, so what's the point of holding on to it? Sometimes I wish I could start over and reveal no personally identifiable information and just be totally honest.

Ann said...

When this came up over at FMH, I realized that I'm in that semi-anonymous first name only space that seems to render REAL anonymity. As RT said, who remembers me from post to post? That's the only reason I can think of for not being a best commenter in the BT awards (snif).

My DH is a very private person. He reads the 'nacle, too (though he very rarely comments) and I think it's good that we aren't necessarily "linked" online in any way, because I'm much more aggressive in expressing myself than he is.

One side effect of this is that my personal blog is rather dull, because I don't want to hurt anyone as I spill my guts for fun and profit.

Susan M said...

Well, for the record, I avoid my extended family in real life, too.

Jay S said...

Ned, I appreciated your thought about holding back. Material things are too short lived, and so our experiences are the core of who we are. What a waste for them not to be shared.

But There is holding back and holding back. That is why journals are such a good idea. Also, oral histories are great. One of The most precious posession i own is the 16 hours of interview and subsequent transcript of my grandfather & I talking about historical events.

Sure, I can read about FDR, but what did my grandpa think? Someday our grandchildren will want to know our take on contemporary events. Perhaps not to get the "truth" about the event, but using the event as a mirror to find out more about us.

The other holding back is diverting into the proper stream.

I may be old fashioned, but there should be certain shells of association. Personal, private, familial, public, general knowledge.

But I agree with the Taboos. I get weird looks from my wife when I go on certain sites from the name alone(FMH, Sometime Saint, etc)

Anonymous said...

Do the Apostles have any wayward children? Hmmm let me think... "Yes!"

One of my best friend's at Ricks College back in the day, was the son of a soon-to-be-called Apostle. Circa. 1988. This wayward son spent many nights in the local jail for various things etc. He also stole my girlfriend at the time. :(

RoastedTomatoes said...

Ann, I think I actually did nominate you for best commenter in the BT awards! So there you go.

Blain said...

Back in high school, I was friends with one of Richard G. Scott's kids. He was very...troubled. He was a really nice young man, just didn't fit really well into the "GA's Kid" kind of role. I've actually lost track, and I don't know if he has become active. Wouldn't be surprised if he hasn't. (I don't want to say that I'd be surprised if he *were* active, because that doesn't really give him credit for being the good person that he is/was). Anyway, to go with what Mark iv said--being a righteous parent doesn't guarantee that your kids are going to use their agency to choose the same path.

gst said...

Hey Ned, you know who else uses a fake name? Adolph Schickelgruber.

Yeah, I said it.