Monday, 24 October 2011

Please don't be shy!

One thing that intrigues me about the blogging world, and indeed about internet forums of all kinds, is why not everyone makes a proper personal profile available. In particular, why do some fail to show a contemporary photo of themselves when posting or commenting? You may see a photo of something else - a fluffy object perhaps, or an avatar - but not their actual likeness. Sometimes, there's nothing at all. I'm not suggesting that there's anything sinister going on, but it does make it harder to relate to them, and harder to evaluate what they have to say. Anonymity makes it easy to misunderstand, because there's no 'feel' for what the other person is like.

Now I'll admit at once that when I comment on blogs using Wordpress, you'll see no picture of myself. I simply haven't yet worked out how to set one up on Wordpress. And that could be the straightforward answer in many cases for Blogger users (although the Blogger procedure does seem easy to my photo-orientated mind). On the other hand, that can't be the simple explanation in all cases.

A very obvious reason for using (say) an avatar, or no image at all, and giving out only sparse personal information, is that the poster or commentator isn't fully 'out' and absolutely needs to be discreet. That's completely understandable. I follow some bloggers who are exactly in that position, as are one or two commentators whose remarks I appreciate.

But then there are a few who - judging from what they say, and the force with which they say it - have gone through the whole transition process from start to finish, and have lived a complete female life for years, but still use an avatar rather than a proper photo of themselves. And they supply only scanty personal information, so that it's quite hard to decide what they are like as people. I do wonder why there is this reticence. If they are totally integrated into normal life and have no need for discretion, and have important points to make, then why hide behind a kind of mask and risk undermining their credibility?

Is it just me? Am I abnormally free with publishing boatloads of detail about my personal life, including many, many photos. Indeed a huge number of shots, if you've ever clicked on one of the three Flickr links, and taken a good long look at what's on offer. I don't think the Police would be in any difficulty finding a recent picture of me if I ever became a missing person! In fact I think you could reconstruct most of the important facts about my life and current lifestyle from a study of the published material, the Flickr items forming a kind of visual diary on their own; never mind the stuff in the Blogger posts. You won't find my bank account details, passport number, national insurance number and similar things that need to be kept secret; but otherwise all the world can know me inside out. The only important thing missing is how I sound - but one day soon I'm going to attempt a vlog post. It'll be dire, but at least you'll hear my voice!

Contrast all this with the scant details some bloggers provide. Why is their personal appearance and life so invisible?

No doubt the diversity of human nature is at the heart of this. Some are naturally up front and in your face, others prefer a cloak of privacy. As simple as that.

But I would love to know some bloggers better, by seeing their picture, and knowing something about their real lives, even if distance means that we will never meet. Anonymity isn't a good thing.


  1. I have often wondered about that too Lucy. The reasons you give for why some folk don't post too much information I think are quite right. Another group come under the Anonymous umbrella in name too. They all have their reasons of course but I, like yourself think it better to be able to see people we read about and make contact with. It all helps with getting to know them and understand them more.
    The problem with posting a picture on Wordpress isn't difficult to resolve. I think what you do is go to Dashboard/widgets/image and add the url from which the image will come and here I think you can direct it to your flicker files. Personally I leave my pics on my pages so I don't frighten people away....LOL

    Shirley Anne xxx

  2. I think that many people prefer the anonymity of not being directly identifiable. People are afraid that someone could use knowledge of their identity against them.

    Sad, but understandable. Especially post op persons who have to start all over.

  3. If they are totally integrated into normal life and have no need for discretion...

    I'm not sure how these two go together. I'm totally integrated into normal life. That's the very reason I need discretion! If I were indiscreet, my life would be anything but normal. Or it would have its own normality, but not the one I want. Does that make sense?

  4. The thrust of this post is that it's a pity that some bloggers reveal so little about themselves, making it difficult to get a feel for their lives and personalities - and how to interpret what they say.

    I particularly have in mind those who express strong opinions. What are those based on? What type of person are they? What is their social and cultural background, and their experience of life? All these affect their credibility. Frankly, if you anonymise yourself enough, you could in reality be anyone.

    I'm not specifically complaining about 'trolls' or pseudo-trans people. I'm expressing a wish for more personal information (including photos) in some cases, so that we can all know each other better - and communicate more effectively.


  5. IT'S called D I S C R E T I O N.

    I actually LOOK like my Avatar. Not much to see really. Just a tall, blond, reasonably attractive female wearing boot cut jeans, boots and a tank top or a sweater or workshirt depending on the weather.

    And why is appearance so important to you? What has someone's appearance got to do with their opinions or perspectives no matter how strongly held? Not everyone is a narcissist, entralled with their own image.

  6. Surely it's self-evidently better to use a photo than an avatar, although of course it may not be prudent if an identity needs to be kept secret.

    As for the narcissism angle, I have to admit there could be a personal case to answer. But I think it would be Not Guilty in a Court of Law.

    Coumsel for the Prosecution: Here are some statistics for the Court to consider. Nearly 700 of the photos taken so far in 2011 by the Accused were self-portraits. That's just short of 10%. Members of the jury, have you ever seen such vanity? M'lud, the Accused is guilty beyond all doubt!

    Judge: Has Counsel for the Defence anything to say in mitigation?

    Counsel for the Defence: With due regard to my learned friend [bows to him] may I point out that over 7,000 (more than 90%) of my client's photos were of something else - including many of other people, which she never usually publishes.

    Judge: Case dismissed!

    Lucy (in demure attire, fragrantly perfumed, and with a wink): Thank you, my Lord.

  7. Think there's also a presentation thing. In my limited experience, photos of trans women tend to look a lot more male than they actually are in person. Because visual perception of gender is rooted so much in the movement of body language, what a photo does is strip it away so that the ravages of testosterone are exaggeratedly evident.
    For myself, I simply avoid looking at personal photos, though they're several of them on the net. But then I used to do that as a guy too.

  8. Lucy, it's not always any of the reasons you mentioned, it can be because we work in IT and are careful*


    about identity theft online. I try to keep mentions of my name, mentions of my family, location, memorable dates etc, very sparse indeed. I like to make it at least a bit tricky for thieves.

    As for photos, there are a few of me on my blog but to be honest - I don't think I'm that wonderful to look at.


This blog is public, and I expect comments from many sources and points of view. They will be welcome if sincere, well-expressed and add something worthwhile to the post. If not, they face removal.

Ideally I want to hear from bloggers, who, like myself, are knowable as real people and can be contacted. Anyone whose identity is questionable or impossible to verify may have their comments removed. Commercially-inspired comments will certainly be deleted - I do not allow free advertising.

Whoever you are, if you wish to make a private comment, rather than a public one, then do consider emailing me - see my Blogger Profile for the address.

Lucy Melford