Lately, several bloggers I follow have written about issues of privacy and what they are willing to reveal about themselves in their blogs. One of my favorite bloggers, Molly at Whoa, Molly! refers to offline life as the Real Meat World, saying she reveals everything in real life, but is more hesitant online and tries to retain some vagueness.
I’ve read a variety of blogs that are vague to the point of disconnect or ones that share so much information, that I suspect they are either fictitious or narcissistic. Some display a blatant disregard for the people in their lives. Some write as if they live on an island with no one else within miles of them. Most of us fall somewhere in between.
When I started writing for this blog, it was an exercise in public writing. I have, over the last year, been open about my flaws and struggles, willingly allowing the blog to become a collection of personal essays. I try to be protective of the people in my life, but write about aspects of our lives together. I regard very few things as sacrosanct, except that are personal to my marriage (my husband is a very private person) or that would affect my job (or future references from said job).
I assume that I am not unique – that my experiences and feelings have been experienced and felt by many other humans. Commenters have said that they admire my openness and honesty, but it is less about those virtues than the fact that I like to live my life the easiest way possible. I want to be the WYSIWYG (What You See is What You Get) version of myself online, because it’s easier. People who know me offline are rarely surprised by anything that I post.
Unless I am seeking specific technical information, I like reading blogs that carry the writer’s or artist’s essence. Those are the blogs where you may not know a name or where they live or what they do, but you feel a sense of connectedness, of familiarity – but not in a weird, stalker-ish way. I also enjoy blogs where the writer’s life seems completely foreign to me – where I come away with a different perspective, but still a sense of the writer.
Much has been written about the falsity and fraudulence of online life, to the point where it is mocked in popular culture (whilst many of us partake). I have a strange track record of electronic communication experiences. In the early days, I made the mistake of thinking a book or gardening chat room was about books or gardening, but eventually it was always about sex. There were always one or two people who would engage in virtual flirting, which gave sowing and reaping a whole new meaning (I used a biblical metaphor, rather than referring to chat “hoes” – I’m all about class).
Once chat rooms lost their novelty, there was email, the favorite route of communication for passive-aggressives. Am I here? Am I not here? I will deign to answer you much, much later in my pajamas while making out loud, rude comments about your shitty grammar and spelling skills. I have to agree with another fave blogger of mine, Ross at Drinking Tips for Teens, that email has lost its shiny new thing status as well.
Much of communication that used to entail your bestie through a private pipeline is now something posted, tweeted and pinned. People have mistaken gross and stupid for interesting and engaging. I won’t speak to the Facebook inanities or why birds everywhere are offended by the icon that now represents the dregs of human thought. I gave those accounts up a few months ago, after I decided I probably should make time to be a parent, take a shower and occasionally talk to my husband.
I am a midwesterner, raised by reticent Brits who would, if they ever read this blog, disown me in the time it would take for their tea to steep. I was raised on secrets and stiff upper lips and frowns of disapproval, so one would think I’d be a little quieter.
There are legitimate concerns to deciding what you will reveal about yourself online including: security, whether you impact offline relationships or work, if you have kids, are in a precarious domestic situation or in the process of legal action. These are significant and real concerns in an age where social media can be used to do real harm.
Lately, my bigger concern is how public self-revelation affects my psyche. The danger is that we’ve become navel-gazers to such an extreme that we’re evolving towards an inability to look outward. Does it create a bloated sense of self-importance? Does it alter my experience of offline life (everything is seen as “material”)? Does it elevate the mundane and typical to a spotlight event? Will I become a self-indulgent recluse? Maybe I’ll write about that…