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To Blog or Quit?

04 Aug

 

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.

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18 Comments

Posted by on August 4, 2007 in Personal

 

18 responses to “To Blog or Quit?

  1. Coralina

    August 4, 2007 at 2:57 pm

    I think we all have a blog persona. We use pseudonyms not only to hide our identity,but also because we’re creating a character. I ‘ m “Coralina”,but I’m more than that and there are things I write as “Coralina” that I’d never say as myself. A blog is a bit of a fictional work,or,more accurately, a totally different way of presenting our reality. Even the apparently intimate blogs aren’t that intimate as that. At least,that’s the way I think.

    I think is fair: is our blog,we share what we want,the way we want.

     
  2. terri

    August 4, 2007 at 11:34 pm

    Amrita, you’re a sitting duck? Apart from your name, I’m not sure what part of the world you live in, whether you have any siblings, where you’re from, what your gothram is, how old you are, etc.

    P.S. Did you join journalism only to discover you meant to study creative writing all along?

     
  3. Poppins

    August 5, 2007 at 1:45 am

    Tell me about it. I was found and went private !

     
  4. some body

    August 5, 2007 at 3:49 am

    terri:

    me a snoop too, and the sherlock holmes in me got as far as you did – just about. at this rate, you need to get your nose treated!

    amrita:

    check out a similar discussion we are having.

    – s.b.

     
  5. rads

    August 5, 2007 at 6:21 am

    hmmm… wow, so many suddenly going through this dilemma of late.

    Thankfully though my sister reads my blog, we eash realize it’s my personal space and up until now she’s respected it, but then I haven’t written anything flaming either. Now, my husband – thats a whole different story altogether. Considering he’s a private person and I seem to flout, he’d be pissed. Sadly.
    There’s more, maybe I should join the gang and post on it.

    Simply put, suddenly it’s no fun?

     
  6. Aparna Muralidhar

    August 5, 2007 at 11:52 pm

    I’m not commenting on this post – I found my way here from comments on one of decemberstud’s posts. I like the way this blog looks! It’s beautifully done! And I liked your post too.

     
  7. Ramjee

    August 6, 2007 at 4:58 am

    looks like this blog is a partof my brains regular diet, not sure what part of my brain it is adding value though.

    I have had so many anon. blogs and even this blog(the link u can see) started out as anon. I don’t know how many in my family know of this, and now I don’t care.

    I can see what might be going inside you, but neverthless i guess you don’t hide yourself here and that’s the best thing!!

    keep doing what you like to !! Some day or the other they real family (we are your online family !!) might know the truth and i doubt you will give a damn for that day.

    If you understand telugu by any chance.. check out the movie “Bommarillu”. (it’s off topic but u might relate!!)

     
  8. the mad momma

    August 6, 2007 at 6:57 am

    thanks Amrita. I feel exactly the same way. I’d not be anonymous if I were single. There is nothing I say on the blog that I wouldnt stand by in the real world. it just gets a little more sensitive because of the OA. my life is his and so i give him that small degree of anonymity. that apart… our lives are an open blog 🙂

     
  9. Amrita

    August 6, 2007 at 11:17 am

    Coralina – there’s definitely a bit of character work going on. Meeting people online and then meeting them offline always makes that clear to me. It’s a strange experience: you find you’re going about things backwards… you have to match what you know about the person inside with the cues provided by the person outside.

    Poppins Mom: I’m glad you’ve come out now 🙂

    Terri – what can I say? I must be doing something right! 😛 Well yeah, I did what every confused indian kid does when s/he doesn’t know what to do: i went to biz school, then I changed my mind and did PR with a minor in journalism and then I said what the hell, and ran off to writing school. Best decision I ever made.

    SB – thanks for the link and 😛 to you as well! 😀

    Rads – I wasnt really thinking of going offline as much as musing aloud on factors I’ve often thought about, which came to the fore when I read MM. I went by your blog and while I didn’t read the post you deleted, I would like to say that I have a difficult relationship with my sibling and there’s quite a lot I’d like to say and bring out into the open that I don’t for various reasons and that’s at odds with what I’d usually do so I’ve often been tempted to write about it in the active hope that one day it would be read. But it’s possible that someone else in the family would read it and I’d mind that – but not you guys reading it. More weirdness. Anyway, the point being, you might not have intended your sister finding out but now she did I’m glad you’re keeping on blogging and I hope you work it out. I found out recently that I’m willing to work things through with my friends a great deal more easily than I am with my sibling and that bothers me. I hope it works out differently with you.
    And I hope you’ll write more on the topic 🙂

     
  10. Amrita

    August 6, 2007 at 11:22 am

    Aparna: Thanks 🙂 But credit where credit is due – the design is totally due to the fantastic team at WP.

    Ramjee – the popcorn side? 😀 I’m a lurker on your site and i think you have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of and much to be proud of instead! I’m afraid I dont understand Telugu but if the gist of it mirrors what you’ve said above, I agree.

    MM – I think you do a brilliant job of it, babe! 🙂

     
  11. December Stud

    August 6, 2007 at 8:17 pm

    Nice blog here…..isn’t it true that the Salvador Dali painting you have here is as good for you as it is fro a truly anon blogger?

     
  12. ScRiBbLeR

    August 7, 2007 at 6:11 am

    The painting looks very good & justifies the post ..

     
  13. Amrita

    August 8, 2007 at 1:42 pm

    Hey DS – thanks 🙂 Well, it’s a painting, it does whatever you see in it. What i see is above but what you said is equally true.

    Scribbler – Hi 🙂 thank you! Dali’s one of my faves

     
  14. OrangeJammies

    August 8, 2007 at 2:31 pm

    I agree with the Mad Momma. It is because I am single and unaccountable (well, for the most part) that I blog without a care about my real world persona. Once a significant other and future babies enter the scene, I wouldn’t want to embroil them in what is solely my responsibility… bouquets and brickbats. And yes, I use the word “embroil” consciously and deliberately.
    I just stumbled upon your page from MM’s link and I am super-thrilled, Amrita! 🙂

     
  15. desigirl

    August 9, 2007 at 12:07 am

    hmm, the things that happen when you go on holiday!!
    Well, babe, I know it has been a while since you wrote this but I still have to put my oar in and say this: you write for yourself. Anyone else can like it or lump it. So there!
    I wouldn’t want to give up on my daily dose of Ams’ witty / sarky ways of looking at life so maybe this is selfish! 😉

     
  16. Amrita

    August 9, 2007 at 11:16 am

    OJ – right, I agree with you about the single part but I’m afraid I’m a lot more demanding when it comes to the embroil part… I don’t think I’d put up stuff my future spouse wouldn’t be comfy with but he’ll become a part of my writing nevertheless, poor thing! Thrilled to have you here, OrangeJammies! 😀

    DG – where have you been woman?! Smooches!

     
  17. Desigirl

    August 10, 2007 at 3:17 am

    ahhh nothing like knowing you’ve been missed to stroke one’s ego, eh what? 😀

     
  18. Amrita

    August 10, 2007 at 1:32 pm

    😛

     
 
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