A reader emails to ask about writing real personal things on a blog you keep under your own name, as opposed to a private journal. I have been giving this some rather intense consideration lately. This weblog was never anonymous, but it always used to be relatively separate from my 'real life.' It was an experiment in technology, a place to have conversation with early adopters, a world that seemed unlikely to intersect with my daily life very much. Although I never kept it a secret, I didn't know many people who read blogs, let alone my blog. Now, that has totally changed, and it's kind of weird. Now it's more like a character in my life, with a life of its own.
Let's review. My parents read the weblog. My most recent ex-boyfriend reads the weblog. The Alpha Dog reads the weblog, which came as a surprise to me. The athletic director at the college mentioned the weblog to me, although I'm not sure he's read it. Several of my local friends read the weblog, although I'm not sure how frequently. A number of faraway or long-lost friends read it.
Most people in my life don't read the weblog, as far as I know. I never assume that anyone has read a particular post. But it's the first thing that comes up if you Google me. I therefore write my posts knowing they could be read by family, friends, men I may have a romantic interest in, employers and colleagues. Further, I have to keep in mind that my posts, unlike conversations, will be indexed, stored, and forever retrievable. So if I'm feeling sad and morose or cocky and foolish and write a post that conveys how I'm feeling, that transient mood will be archived and linked to me in a way that may be far more permanent and public than even an ill-advised tipsy conversation at a cocktail party.
Furthermore, the faceless audience of undiscernible blog readers turns out not to be so faceless. My perceptions of my readers has changed over the years, as you have left comments and shared stories and made suggestions and, lately, sent your pictures and begun connecting with one another. You guys feel like friends. That brings mostly warmth and benefit, more than I can describe. But it's also accompanied by some feelings of obligation -- when you misunderstand something, I'm troubled more than I used to be. When you make a suggestion that seems off, I think about it and wonder whether you're right. I worry about disappointing you, or losing your loyalty if I don't entertain or reveal in the way you've come to expect.
Does all of this make me less honest here on the weblog than I would be anonymously? I suppose so. But I think the primary effect is not to make my writing less honest, but to make the way I live more honest. That sounds smarmy and vague. I'll try to be more clear. I'm sorting this out as I write, so bear with me. First, I try to write only things that I'd be comfortable talking about. And there are certain things I generally don't touch on the weblog.
What don't I write about? I don't write about things that I want, that I'm trying to bring about, that involve other people. That's for a couple of reasons. The major one is that I don't want the post itself to influence real life and affect or jinx what I'm hoping will happen. The minor one is that if it doesn't come about, I don't necessarily want the world to know that something I wanted didn't happen for me. I don't want to deal with pity or judgment or advice, unless I'm seeking it out. Plus if I have a fallback plan (and I usually do) I'm not sure I want anyone to know that it wasn't my first choice. So, if I were interviewing for a job, or going on several promising dates, or trying to orchestrate an organizational coup, or whatever, I wouldn't say anything about it here. And that's dishonest, I suppose, because those things that may or may not turn out the way I want them to are often invested with emotion or anxiety or analysis, and they're the kind of things that make for a rich post. No way. Not going there.
What else don't I write about? I don't write about organizations I'm involved in or the personal politics therein. I don't write about coaching because this weblog is a selfish endeavor, and coaching is an unselfish one, and for some reason I like keeping them separate. I don't gossip. I try not to write things that would implicate people in my real life, or make them uncomfortable. I try not to complain too much, because on the whole I'm happy and I don't want to make the gripes I've got more powerful by locking them down in words. I don't write more about personal anxieties or hang-ups or self-criticisms, not because I don't have them, but because I believe the narrative of a woman's neurosis is pretty boring and I don't want to feed my own. In other words, there is a world of things I omit talking about here.
So even with all of these different audiences and these rules about what I oughtn't write about, I still feel like the weblog is a pretty honest endeavor. That's the point of it for me. I am trying to be an honest human being. I'm trying to live cleanly, without shame. So I'm willing to take risks and put things out there to this large, indiscriminate audience, friends and loved ones and old enemies and strangers and colleagues all alike. I'm trying to say what I can about how it feels to be me, what the world looks like to my eyes, without tailoring it to any particular group. I'm trying not to cover up the fact that I feel at times capable and at times clumsy. That I feel loved and isolated, brave and afraid. If I were trying to use this blog to appear professional and accomplished, I wouldn't write half the things I do. Ditto if I were trying to appear attractive and flirtatious. Or lofty and intellectual. I think that I am all of those things, a little bit. But I'm mostly trying to use this weblog to quit trying to "appear" as anything and just, instead, be who I am.