I met many personal finance bloggers during FinCon17 this year, and I was amazed at how many of these bloggers would not reveal their real names and real information, even at a blogging conference of all bloggers. I was having breakfast one morning with a group of bloggers, and at the table that sat twelve of us, only two of us used our real names. I pressed further with the one blogger who used his real name. He has a good online following of about 10,000 a month, and he expressed security problems he has encountered over his eight years of blogging. He regrets using his real name in his blog, and he told the group about how he has had people not like what he wrote, look up his information online, and show up at his house to argue with him. He of course called the police, but you could see the worry on the group’s faces. He has since moved and put everything he owns into a trust under a harder to trace name for his own protection. Everyone at the table was relieved that they all use fake online names and locations.
I felt sad at this story, and told the story to other bloggers at FinCon17 to get their opinions. Some agreed that safety should be considered, but no one has ever had a run in with anyone, but maybe a fan of their writing. Most of us don’t write much more than common sense finances and our personal opinion or spin on it. We even leave the comments open for discussions between any conflicting views. I’m even open to any new arguments I haven’t heard before and some have changed my approach to finances based on someone else’s better more logical argument.
The real sad thing about this story is that because of fear of online trolls, mentally unstable readers, and other general crazy stuff out there, we are loosing our fundamental right of free speech online in our blogs. The internet is one of the greatest most life changing inventions in world history, and it has the power to pull the masses out of poverty and connect the world like we have never known. People should be able to express themselves online and not have to fear violence toward them. If this fear persists, then we are getting censored ideas online, and we don’t get the raw language and ideas in their infancy being expressed that can change a person’s life.
Others stayed anonymous because they fear a work colleague, or boss, will read their incredible story, about their extreme savings and their push to retire by age 40, and they will lose their job or get passed over on a promotion. This is censoring a lot of the bloggers stories out there, because I bet a lot of your office is thinking the same thing you are, and if they knew you where doing this incredible thing and trying to FIRE yourself, maybe you could have helped them on this journey too. Maybe your boss is looking for an early retirement too, and you could help them travel down the road to financial freedom with you. Imagine if you went public, and a culture was built at you company where you work 15 years and retire multi millionaires with very little turn over. You would never have to put a help wanted sign out again if the word got out. These bloggers stories are inspirational and the anonymy of it all hurts our message, and our ability to change the world.
But again, we do need to protect our loved ones, and if people thought you had lots of money from being frugal, what is keeping them from trying to harm you or a loved one. Some people cannot delay gratification and be disciplined savers and investors online, so they are the ones who censor the incredible online stories that can change the landscape. They are the online terrorists, and even though violence toward a bloggers is statistically none existence, their ability to generate fear has killed a lot of free speech.
Think of that the next time you leave a comment, write an article, or post on Facebook. Do you want to be censored or do you want to help others with a positive message that anyone can do with a plan. Lets defend free speech and change the world.