Anonymity and Blogging ...

Replying to a comment about anonymous blogging, I soon realized the subject deserved something more than a throwaway answer in the comments section.  I have been busy and distracted by other things but the idea for this post continued to linger on the periphery of my thoughts until now.

I began this blog five years ago, with a good dose of trepidation.  Who would I be, what would I write about, would I enjoy it, would I be any good at it and how would people respond to what I wrote?  Perhaps there would be lynch mobs sent to track me down or hackers trying to steal my identity.  I struggled with finding a nom de plume that I felt comfortable with, something representative of who I was becoming not who I was.

I began writing under the name Village Farang and eventually registered the .com.  Gradually Village Farang spread across the breadth of social media and I now prefer using VF to my real name. In time I developed a voice and became confident in my own ability to deal with a range of commenters, both supporters and detractors.  Righty or wrongly I surmised that I would be okay as long as I did not include personal and identifying information about myself or others. 

Like others, I had read articles about identity theft and wanted to err on the side of caution.  Then one day it struck me that I have a cousin with the same first and last name, who is a public figure in the form of a regional anchor on a rightwing news station.  It could be argued I suppose, that being on the more pugnacious, authoritarian and mainstream side of our societal divide is safer for him.  Yet his name and face are on the airwaves and the internet without any ill effects for him or his family that I know of.  Perhaps I was just being paranoid.

Slowly people living in Chiang Rai or the surrounding area began to contact me.  Reluctantly at first I began to meet people and let them merge the name with a face.  One colorful character, who was among the first, later enjoyed displaying his breadth of knowledge by outing me at public gatherings where we were both in attendance.  I ended up having mixed emotions about those outbursts.

Over time it became a losing battle, trying to remain anonymous.  People knew my face and formed an opinion of me either through what they read or the person they met.  Which one came first appeared to have some bearing on that opinion, I observed with interest.  In time pictures found their way to the blog.

Now I am quite comfortable with who I am and don’t mind people knowing that I am VF.  It is not like I am ashamed of anything I post.  I fear anonymity often serves no greater purpose than to embolden those who wish to inflict suffering upon others.  I have come to view Village Farang as a nickname or descriptive handle that relates more of who I am than my given name.

One benefit of being recognized as VF is exemplified by a chance encounter the other day.  The wife and I drove into town to run some errands.  Nothing urgent, more like excuses for us to make the drive.  After three stops we ended up at what I call the Mall.  We had a wonderful lunch at Fuji, making a point of trying new things on the menu.  Afterwards we went to Starbucks, me for coffee and my wife for some dessert.  Standing in line a gentleman approached with a warm and generous smile on his face.  He introduced himself with his online name and volunteered positive remarks about my blog.  Of course I knew instantly who he was and remembered past correspondence we had shared on a forum we are both members of.

After exchanging brief pleasantries, I carried my tray out into Starbuck’s mall seating area to find my wife.  As luck would have it the gentleman’s wife was seated at the next table, so when he returned with their drinks we pushed our tables together to facilitate conversation.  A good Thai friend of ours also happened by so we made room for him as well.  It was one of those lovely spontaneous encounters that I enjoy so much and something that would not have happened without VF’s help.

While it is regrettable that some individuals have developed an unfavorable image of VF, I feel it often has more to do with their own demons or a difference of opinion than anything of real substance.  Beside there are very few of them.  So now I find it hard to disguise my joy and satisfaction when I am recognized as VF, facilitating contact with a wider breadth of humanity.  I am glad to be out of the blogger closet of anonymity.