Ages 10-12 (Tween)Media & Technology

Pseudonyms and Internet Fame

My stepson doesn’t like to be talked about. At all. Whether it’s a quiet conversation between his father and me while he’s in the other room or a parent-teacher conference at his school, if it’s a discussion about him then he wants to be present and have a say. Even if he is able to participate, he’s often still uncomfortable as the topic of conversation. If his dad launches into a story about something that happened when he was a baby, he turns red and interrupts with an exasperated “Daddy!”. No tolerance whatsoever.

So it stands to reason that I was concerned about telling him that I was going to be writing about my experience as a stepmom for a blog about parenting, which by definition meant that I would be writing about him. On the internet.

I carefully planned out how I would break the news to him. I reassured him that I would be writing about broader topics on technology, skepticism and parenting from my perspective as a stepmom (and an auntie) in addition to the more personal stories, anecdotes and observations from our daily lives. I told him that I would use pseudonyms for each of us, and would make sure that I didn’t provide any identifiable information to help preserve his privacy.

Then I asked him if he had any questions or concerns. He looked up at me, smiled and asked “do I get to pick what you call me?” And there you go. Never underestimate the allure of a little internet fame.

After a quick discussion on what our respective pseudonyms would be, we decided that I would stick with “Tammy” (“Not-the-Wicked-Stepmom” seemed a little unwieldy). My stepson would go by “GT” which stands for something he came up with that sounds more like a magazine title than a person’s name, but I’m willing to roll with it. My husband put in a request to be called “Mr. Wonderful”, which (after some playful eye-rolling) GT and I immediately shortened to just “Mr. W”.

That was it. I was expecting resistance and I ended up with an 11-year old chasing our two dogs around the house to blow off a sudden and unexpected surge of excitement and nervous energy.

What I don’t think he paid any real attention to is why it’s so important to me to maintain our family’s anonymity online. In fact, he may enjoy a little internet notoriety — basking in the glow of whatever internet fame he achieves by being mentioned in a parenting blog every week or so.

Even before I joined the GP collective, I was keeping a pretty low profile online. I’ve never had a personal blog or web page. I only recently joined Twitter and Tumblr, and I keep my online personas fairly well segregated…my work world is separate from my “friends and family” world which is separate from my progressive/feminist/atheist world. I even have two Facebook accounts — one for family and long-time friends, and one for online friends and public interaction.

My privacy policy for my new, public, blogging presence is to obscure my family’s identity without being so general that I remove all the color from my writing. Pseudonyms instead of real names. General geographic region rather than specific state or town. Photos that (hopefully) conceal GT’s identity while still conveying who he is as a person. I realize that ultimately, all of this does very little to impede anyone who really wants to find out who we are and where we live, but it’s what I’m comfortable with.

Despite my general reluctance to expose too much of myself online, my primary concern is that I don’t inadvertently cause issues for GT. Middle school is hard enough without a stepmom writing potentially embarrassing things about him for anyone on the internet to see. I know I can’t control who he tells about the blog or how far that spreads. What I can do, however, is take these few simple precautions and hope for the best.

P.S. Be sure to check out Angela’s excellent post regarding her own feelings on writing about her son online.

Featured image by the author, all rights reserved.


Tammy was carefree and childless for most of her adult life before she married a single-dad and became the dreaded "Step Mother". She's also an auntie to five young nieces, on whom she's hoping to be the best bad influence possible. She spends her daytime hours as a computer professional. You can find her on Twitter (@SDTripleL) and Google+.

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