The Mad Momma wrote today that certain circumstances made her wonder if she would keep on blogging. I have just one thing to say in response: NOOOOOOOO!
But that’s the selfish reader in me talking. The fellow blogger in me understands the dilemma she’s in. Because face it, we’ve all been there and wondered what we’d do if our blogs were discovered by someone we knew.
Would you feel exposed, vulnerable, abashed, ashamed, secretly glad, horrified, angry if your spouse, your parents, your siblings, you best friend discovered your personal space on the net? Why is it so much easier for us to share what are often intimate details with people we’ve never met in person, might never meet in ‘real’ life, than those with whom we share a roof, a family, ties that go back years to circumstances that are definitely fight club?
In the Mad Momma’s case, most of her family appear to already know all about her blog and as she blogs under her moniker rather than her actual name, she does have anonymity to cloak her a bit.
I, on the other hand, hardly ever mention that I’m a blogger in my offline world but I haven’t gone to any great lengths to hide my identity. My blog is directly linked to my name and that’s more than alright by me.
I tried anonymity once. The day I took the plunge and began to blog (thanks to Temporal‘s repeated urgings), I chose a moniker divorced from my name and decided that would be the name I blogged under. That decision lasted about as long as it took for me to publish my first post.
Call it ego or idiocy or whatever you like – I can’t hide my name. I looked at the post and the name under it and I felt terrible. Like a piece of me was missing. To put it simply, I work hard over every word that I write and I want attribution. This is not to knock those who use an alter ego or prefer to be anonymous. We each have our comfort levels and if that’s what you require then so be it.
It’s just that personally speaking, I need to see my name up there in the arclights. And it doesn’t just have the potential to get me in trouble, it has gotten me in trouble.
There was this class I took, a magazine writing class. It was my last semester in college and I just needed to wrap up the last three credits I had lying loose and unwanted, so I could finally grab my degree and run out of there. I mean, I loved school but enough was enough. The class was interesting and educational, even though I wasn’t very good at it and wasn’t (and still am not) sure that I will ever use any of the things I learned in it.
Like my very first journalism professor pointed out to me, my heart lies in another direction. Which is a nice way of saying I’m a temperamental, stubborn witch when it comes to my writing.
Anyway, there was this woman in that class who was a little older and she had one of the most bizarre life stories I’d ever heard including an extramarital affair with some guy that had lasted over 20 years or something and I found her hysterical.
So I wrote about her on this little online diary thing that was the precursor to my first blog, entirely apropos of nothing. It wasn’t even a good blog post, it was just a recounting of what I’d heard in class. The corollary came the next day when I was at a book reading and this other lady sidled up to me and asked if I was Amrita. I said, yes.
She introduced herself as a woman who was in that class and said she’d been Googling for some info on this author who’d come to speak to our class and found my blog by accident. She’d read what I’d written about that other lady and basically took me to task for being so “judgmental” and how she didn’t feel comfortable being in that class with me any more. To say that I was taken aback would be putting it mildly.
I told her I was very sorry she felt that way but I wasn’t about to censor myself and I wasn’t about to drop the class either to make her more comfortable. I said we could, however, go out for a cup of coffee and talk it over if she felt that strongly about it. She then said she didn’t want to talk about it and that she’d have to take it up with the professor instead.
Up until that point I was feeling a bit abashed. I hadn’t lied about the other woman or anything in my post but I’d looked at her solely as fodder for my mill – the primary reason behind writing about her was to save a vignette for future reference in case I ever wrote a story in which she could play a part. I do this all the time and it serves me well. I wasn’t thinking about her as a “real” person – just a person who could one day evolve into a character I might feel compelled to write about.
But the whole “I will tell teacher” vibe of this woman just ticked me off. Maybe she didn’t mean it like that. She was an older woman who was just dipping her feet into this writing thing and clearly uncomfortable with the situation – and we were standing in the middle of a bookstore full of Seinfeld enthusiasts (it’s a long story).
I told her to do whatever she wanted to do before going back home and writing an email explaining the whole mess to my professor. I sent her a link to the offending post and then changed the viewing mode of said post to “private” after writing another post that explained what exactly had occurred.
The more I thought about it, thought, the angrier I became. Perhaps I shouldn’t have written about a woman with whom I was sharing a classroom but I didn’t use her actual name nor did I break a confidence: everything I’d written had been culled from an article she wrote for possible publication that she’d then read out loud to the class. And I didn’t just blithely write that vignette either: I felt like an asshole for laughing at what was obviously a major part of her life and I’d said so in my post.
But the thing that really ticked me off was what that the woman in the bookstore said: she had happened upon my blog by accident. I googled the author’s name myself and by page 20, I was still to come across my measly one line reference to him. Coupled with the fact that that tiny little online diary was part of a greater site that had nothing to do with blogging at all, she either sat in front of her computer and read every single bit of information she could pull about that author or she was looking to see what the rest of the class was up to and thus stumbled upon my post.
In which case she had some nerve coming up to me like that. It’s one thing to come across something and be taken aback, it’s another thing entirely to deliberately search someone out and then buttonhole them about it. Or so I feel, at all events.
I don’t know if that lady had a talk with the professor or not but she was there in class the next day and I heard nothing more about it, either from her or the woman I’d written about or the professor whose reply was to tell me not to worry about it. Kahani khatam.
So I know blogs aren’t as anonymous as we like to think they are. But I continue to write because that’s what I do. And I can be nice or I can be an asshole and everything in between but I’m always me. If I don’t think it, I don’t write it. And if I don’t believe it, then I don’t ask you to either. And I don’t ask you convert your beliefs to mirror mine just because you read this blog – just as I won’t convert my beliefs to mirror yours simply because you do me the honor of visiting this blog.
Maybe in a couple of years or five or ten, I’ll look back at these posts and cringe the way I do when I read my overwrought, melodramatic crap from five years ago. Maybe not. But the point is, it’s still my overwrought, melodramatic crap. I wrote it, and that writing required some effort. And I’m proud of every scrap of it because it shows
you me how I’ve evolved as a person.
Evolution is something to be proud of in my opinion.
But yes, I don’t know how I’d take it if my family were to suddenly discover this blog and start reading it. It’s not like I have anything to hide or that they live in ignorance of the opinions expressed here. If you think you can’t shut me up online, you ought to see me offline! And most of my family are plugged in to the net. If they want to find me, I’m a sitting duck.
In fact, I know that at least three of my closest friends know this blog exists and I have a cousin who’s read at least one of my essays published elsewhere so for all I know he reads this too (Hey guys! Smooches!). There may be more of them around – cousins, sibling, exes, stalkers, haters, God only knows who all.
So what I do is what a lot of people do. I tell the truth but not the whole truth. There are things that I don’t write about: dilemmas I face that I don’t solve in public, topics that I don’t cover, people I don’t write about, places I don’t mention, questions I don’t ask… little things that are missing from the complete picture or are referred to in an oblique fashion.
We all compromise somewhere: some of us make adjustments in our name, others make adjustments in their opinion, I adjust my content. None of us is lying, but we’re none of us as open as some of our readers might think. Human beings are creatures of reserve. Each of us has a certain core that we never allow another person to touch or if we do, then rarely. I lived inside my mom for nine months: can I say I know everything about her? Can she say the same about me?
Hell, no! So what price anybody else?
A number of you have noticed that Salvador Dali painting I adopted as my avatar – one of the reasons I love it so is because it really does represent my online presence. Technically, you can see all of her, you get a sense of who she is and what her life is like, but in reality all you can see is one facet.
Is that fair? I don’t know. It’s just the way it is.