Identity: What’s in a name?


The catalyst for this post was my most recent Introductions Over Coffee #10 post. There I discuss why new bloggers should use a name. That got me thinking about the nature of identity. In particular, why we feel its necessary for others to have names, why it might be difficult to pick a name and the likelihood of exclusion as a result. These are the themes I’m going to explore today.

Image shows a man with blue eyes holding a plain white mask to his face

Understanding Identity

For this post, identity refers to the name a blogger adopts within their blog and in communications. You will undoubtedly have seen people post in your comments, but you don’t know what to call them. When I launched my own blog, Curiosities, Castles and Coffee Shops, I failed to give myself a name. It quickly became clear that people didn’t know what to call me. At that point I decided to use my own name for my blog. Now we’re going to look at some of the concepts behind identity and understand the resistance to picking a name.

Social Constructivism

Don’t be put off by this fancy sounding title. Social constructivism theory revolves around the idea of belonging to a group – in this case our WP Community. As a community, we have “norms” that we consider as acceptable behaviour. Behaviour that we expect from our members. Members need an identity/name so they can engage with other members and so they know how to address you. This is one of these norms.

I would imagine that most bloggers want to be successful, and that includes seeing their website grow. A major factor in that success is likely to be how well they engage with us, the blogging community. Therefore to be successful, bloggers should have a name that can be used with and by the community.

Image shows 3 masks - one grey, one gold and one blue -  depicting different identities
Image by Irina Alex from Pixabay

Consequences of not having an online identity

There are quite a few negative effects for the blogger in not adopting an online identity or name. As discussed above, without a name to identify them, the blogger is unlikely to fit in with the WP Community. As the blogger doesn’t fit it, they are unlikely to develop relationships and make friends. Without the formation of these relationships, the blogger will not be able to promote their blog as effectively. Following on from the above points, it is possible that the blogger will be or may feel excluded and marginalised. That being the case, their blog will not grow as much and they may give up, demotivated by the lack of success.

As we can see, there are a lot of reasons why bloggers should create an identity and give themselves a name online. That said, lets now look at some of the reasons that this might not happen.

Reasons for not adopting an identity

  • It is possible the blogger is happy writing and posting and doesn’t want to be part of the blogging community.
  • The blogger prefers to remain anonymous, either because they don’t want to fit in or they can act without the inhibitions they may have in real life.
  • If the blogger is part of multiple online communities each of which have their own norms, the blogger could struggle to resolve the conflicted identities required by the groups.
  • Fear could be a factor for some bloggers. Depending on the situation, the blogger may fear discrimination, harassment or bullying etc if they identify themselves. In this case, they would be protecting themselves by not taking a name.
  • The blogger could be experiencing something called existential angst. This is a fear or negative reaction about the freedom and responsibility of creating an online identity. They may be feeling overwhelmed and are unable to make a decision about their online identity.
  • Finally, the blogger could be experimenting with different identities, to find the one that represents them best. In this situation, though, I would expect to see the blogger constantly changing their name as they experiment.
Image shows woman sitting at a laptop with her head in her hands. The background shows images of different aspects of her life. Showing different identities
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Given the reasons that a blogger may not adopt an identity, we can see that its not always simply that the blogger hasn’t picked a name. Maybe as bloggers ourselves, we need to think about this when talking to others without an individual name.

Final thoughts

Online communities, such as the WP community we’re all part of, expect new members to have an online identity. The benefits of this are that the new bloggers are welcomed, encouraged and, as they integrated into the community, their blogs will become more successful too. However, there may be a range of reasons holding these people back, preventing them from adopting an online persona. There is a risk that because of these factors, we could exclude new members. We should encourage them to adopt a name for themselves, but recognise there may be real factors preventing them.

Do we have an obligation to ensure our new bloggers feel included? If they take on an identity, and engage with the community, they are included. However, as I’ve indicated, there are valid reasons they may struggle with identity. In those cases, do we have an obligation to ensure they don’t feel excluded?

24 thoughts on “Identity: What’s in a name?

    1. Thanks for sharing your views. I’m happy to know that you would be inclusive, irrespective of the name/title people use 😁

  1. Your exploration of identity and the significance of adopting a name within the blogging community is both insightful and thought-provoking. πŸŒŸπŸ€”

    You’ve highlighted the importance of having an online identity in the WordPress community, where engagement and building relationships are integral to success. It’s fascinating to consider the social constructivism theory and how norms within our blogging community shape our expectations, making having an identity a part of these norms.

    Your breakdown of the potential consequences of not having an online identity is crucial for bloggers to understand. It’s clear that an identity can greatly impact one’s ability to connect, promote their blog, and ultimately find success within this community.

    The reasons you’ve listed for bloggers not adopting an identity are diverse and encompass various personal motivations and challenges. It’s essential for us, as fellow bloggers, to consider these factors when interacting with others who may not have a visible online persona.

    Your final questions about our responsibility to ensure new bloggers feel included and whether we should encourage them to adopt an identity are poignant. It’s a delicate balance, as we must be sensitive to individual circumstances and preferences while fostering a welcoming environment for all.

    Thank you for sparking this important conversation about identity within the blogging world. It encourages us all to reflect on our own online presence and how we can create a more inclusive and understanding community. πŸŒπŸ’¬πŸ€— #IdentityMatters πŸ™Œ

    1. Thank you Alvin. I’m glad that the ideas in the post are capturing people’s imaginations as much as they did me. I found I was wrestling a lot with the need for the group to form an identity itself, which then forms the norms for the members which then conflicts with the need to be inclusive and non-discriminatory. But would society collapse without group structure … and without the structure, can we be marginalised and excluded

  2. I suppose the reasons bloggers choose not to use their own name are similar to writers who use a pen name rather than their real name. I chose my blog name based on the theme I originally focused on. Had I known how my blog would evolve, I would probably have chosen something different.

  3. I love this post Brenda! There are several reasons for which a person started a blog, that go along with the reasons you listed about why they don’t want to have an identity. Maybe there are also people who just like to be on their own. I think we should always try to include them so that at least they have a chance to decide.

    1. Thanks Cristiana. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. You’re right, we should create the environment where they can decide if they want to be part of the community or not. I think it might br interesting to see how many people change their names when they settle and feel more comfortable

  4. You’ve raised all excellent points here, Brenda.
    On your final thoughts and after reading all that have shared, I think each is entitled to their preferences.
    Not having a name/identity to refer to during comments makes it difficult as many prefer using a name when interacting but again… to each their own and it should be respected. 🀍

    1. I agree, it’s not straightforward. We can certainly encourage, but after my research and understanding some of the motives for not taking a name, I wouldn’t want to make someone uncomfortable or feel stressed by pushing too much.

  5. Very true! When I first started a blog I started a site called On Becoming a Lemonade Maker. Later I wanted to change the name and the URL to my own, so created a brand new blog. Unfortunately WP wasn’t so user friendly to migrate all my followers, so I ended up losing a lot of people. Identity, especially online is so crucial, and we don’t always know what our future selves want or need.

    1. That’s so true. And I’ve heard from others about the problems of loosing followers when you change platforms.

      Im now at the stage of reviewing and updating my site now I have a clearer idea of what I want it to do

    1. Thanks Maria. ❀️ I can understand where you’re coming from. It feels so much more personal when we can use names in comments, or if we’re referring to them in a post

  6. I totally agree that it seems easier to get to know people when I know what to call them. But the list you gave of why people might not reveal their identity is also good. I suppose one of the things about the WP community that I like is that both ways are acceptable. Thanks, Brenda!

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