I have to admit I’m more than a little confused by the reaction here. I’ve read a fair number of Aja’s articles and I’ve known her (online) for close to a decade. She’s certainly no stranger to wank in fandom, but I genuinely don’t understand some of the reactions to her professional work. On the one hand, I don’t particularly agree with her defense that every other journalist will seek to exploit fandom in an unflattering or exoticized way. But the level of outrage over her supposed ‘outing’ of unwilling fans is baffling to me.
Fandom is not inherently a safe space. And fandom on tumblr in particular is especially not a safe space. To my knowledge and consistent with what Aja has repeatedly said, she does not quote private conversations without permission. Nor does she use someone’s real life name unless a) they make that name publicly accessible and connected to their online persona b) they give her explicit permission to do so.
There is a substantial difference between quoting publicly available text by attributing it to the persona it was published under and quoting anything and attributing it to a private persona. If you think you are safe on tumblr, then you do not know how the internet works. I can guarantee you that if you have your name anywhere on your tumblr, google and other search engines have probably already indexed it. If your primary concern is making sure your fannish endeavors remain completely separate from your real life; then do not put anything relating to your real life identity on the same sites as your fannish work.
I am in academics, believe me, I understand this dilemma of needing to keep your fan interests completely separate from your professional life. It’s the primary reason I completely abandoned a long time fandom persona about three years ago. When I was 15, I had no idea I wanted to become a professor; so I stupidly put my real name on my first blog. 15 years later and with a little creative googling you can still find some of those things despite my continued best efforts to erase it from the web. Some obscure journalist quoting my tumblr or fanfic under my online pseudonym is not what will out me. Me (or someone else against my will) publishing information that connects to my real name or real life position is what will do this. And outing someone in this fashion is deplorable and terrible; but it is not what Aja is doing so please stop accusing her of this.
YES, THANK YOU. Jesus fucking Christ. Being a part of fandom does not give you some sort of strange right to privacy not afforded by the law. EVERYTHING ON TUMBLR (except messages) IS PUBLIC. EVERYTHING. As far as I am aware, the site was specifically designed this way to make people think about what they wrote before they wrote it, i.e. to minimize hate. (Not saying that this is an effective policy, just that it was the original intention.) The thing that is specifically valuable about Tumblr as a blogging service is that you can put something on Tumblr and make it extremely easily accessible to millions of people via the reblogging feature. Furthermore, when you tag something with a popular fandom tag, you are MAKING IT ALL THE MORE ACCESSIBLE TO ANYBODY WITH ACCESS TO GOOGLE.
With regards to RPF - do you think famous people don’t Google themselves? Dudes, famous people Google themselves. Not all the time! But, uh, that definitely happens. You know who also Googles famous people? Their friends. You know who would be most liable to tell you that there was crazy gay porn about you on the internet? YOUR FRIENDS, LAUGHING THEIR ASSES OFF. This is how friendship works. (If I had a friend who was part of an RPF sensation online, I WOULD KEEP THAT PERSON APPRAISED OF THE SITUATION AS IT DEVELOPED IN GRAPHIC DETAIL UNTIL S/HE ASKED ME TO STOP. I would do this gleefully and with great relish.) This does not mean you have to stop doing what you are doing, or that you have to broadcast it to the entire world via your Facebook page, but please: Aja (or anybody else) writing an article about this stuff is just icing on the cake, at this point.
Oh, and about the whole “not broadcasting” thing: Aja (or anybody else!) quoting your anonymous blog in a news article does not magically attach your name to said blog? If I had a Teen Wolf blog named swingsforsourwolves or something equally atrocious, and posted lots of stuff about Teen Wolf without ever mentioning myself by name, and Aja quoted me in an article, my friends and colleagues… would never find out? My name IS attached to this blog, and I don’t particular care about my privacy in this respect, but that’s a choice I deliberately made, and if I had not made it, Google would have no way of finding this blog when it searched my name.
There is room for disagreement here! You don’t have to agree with all of Aja’s arguments! But for the love of god, could everybody stop arguing that a) fandom is some kind of inviolable private space when it really, truly is not, and more importantly, b) that Aja is outing people by citing their blogs, when this is also just manifestly NOT TRUE.
This sort of thing makes me SO GLAD I came of age when people were wary of the internet and its powers. I am probably more paranoid than most, with my multiple identities and different usernames on different platforms… but that doesn’t mean the underlying motivation isn’t true. When you put your name to something, BE DAMN SURE that you’d want your real name attached to it in the court of public opinion, whether it be the day you write it, or ten years later, because that shit doesn’t go away.
The corollary of this is that multiple identities is how you manage to a) speak your mind and b) keep yourself safe. Of course, Wil Wheaton’s ‘don’t be a dick’ should apply.
Hellotailor made a great post about this during the One Direction dustup over this same idea, the “how dare you link to our perfectly public Tumblrs” idea—which it seemed like many people in this corner of fandom were perfectly happy to ridicule at the time. Thank you all for recognizing that linking to a public post in a public space is not “outing” or “bullying” someone.
For the record: I have never quoted fans without permission, cited their names when they didn’t want to be cited, posted articles about locked or private content or conversations, much less shared that content, or connected fans to their real life identities when they did not explicitly authorize me to. I will never do that. (Also, just as a reminder or for anyone who does not know, in 2003, I was outed without my permission, and my full real name was permanently connected to my fandom pen name by someone who stole and reposted my locked, custom-filtered LJ content without my permission. I would never, ever, put someone else through that.)
There seems to be this argument that I am somehow trying to coerce other people into acting a certain way. But my opinion piece is just that, an opinion, not an attempt to dictate anyone else’s behavior or force anyone to come out of “hiding,” which as linzeestyle already said is a tenuous stance to take if your public fandom activity involves Tumblr to begin with.
eta: i can’t believe i’m having to clarify this but apparently i must: i have never quoted the actual words that fans have spoken to me directly via email, IM, private chat, real life, LJ comment, or otherwise, without getting explicit permission; again, journalists do not need to ask permission from a blog user before linking to a public blog or quoting what’s on it.