I got to thinking about this thing that we bloggers do, writing about our lives out here on the internet, for all to see. In varying degrees, and with varying degrees of anonymity, we expose ourselves to strangers–and to not-so-much-strangers. We talk about love and sex and relationship, losses, personal triumphs and failures, the people we meet, the people we love, those that love us, those that leave us or hurt us. We bitch, we commiserate, we criticize. We analyze (sometimes to death) others and ourselves. We gloat. We point fingers. We beg for understanding, or claim that we don’t care if anyone understands or cares. We cry out for attention, and sometimes loathe the attention once we get it. We live our lives–or whatever aspect of it we have decided to share with the world–in a fishbowl.
Moxie, of And THAT’S Why You’re Single, a dating/advice blog, talked about it recently in her personal blog in a post called Is Anything Sacred Anymore. I don’t always agree with her dating advice or take on men (though since I am not out there in the dating scene, she may be right on target, who can say), but I appreciate her willingness to put herself out there, honestly, to say what she feels and stick by it, and to be introspective and thoughtful in her personal writings. I thought that her “Sacred” post was extraordinarily so, and many of the points she made, about blogging in general, about the expectations we sometimes have about blogging and those who read us (or don’t) and about the effects of living a life examined and on view for potentially the entire world, to be right on target. She has also blogged for a long time, and her willingness to go back and look at herself, then and now, and to say, “So okay, this is me, warts and all,” to track her own growth and hold it up for public scrutiny, is extraordinary and an inspiration.
She is especially right about the potential dangers in being so open with our lives. Does being so transparent change who we are? Does knowing that our family, friends & lovers might read what we write change how we live, what we say, how we say it? Does our need for validation and approval justify putting ourselves (and sometimes others) on display this way? (And yes, I know that it’s not all about validation, there are many other reasons people blog.) Could it actually change the path of our lives, knowing that all our choices will be examined and held up for scrutiny?
As she says in her post, “Would my life be any different if I hadn’t been that way?”
In my case, I know one specific way my life would be different. In a past life, in a past blog, I lost a friend and lover by saying things there that I wanted, but was afraid to, say to her face. Things I felt she “needed to hear.” I said them anonymously, but she was a very private person, and saying those things in a public forum hurt her deeply and caused a rift between us that never healed. For my part, although I could make all kinds of rationalizations (she did need to hear it, it was anonymous, I said it out of love not malice, I didn’t realize how deeply private she was, etc. etc.) the fact remains that I feel guilt and shame to this day, more than 5 years later, and know that it was a egregious error and wrong on my part. And, if I had known beforehand the repercussions of writing what I did, I probably would have done things differently.
I learned a valuable lesson from that, and what I learned informs how I blog now. It does not cause me to censor myself, but it makes me think every time I write about someone else in this space. How are they likely to react? Is this something better said in person? Would I even say this in person? Am I willing to face the possible repercussions of having said this? I learned that in spite of fighting against being passive/aggressive all my life (my mother is horribly so and I abhor the thought that I might turn out like her in that respect), I could be as p/a as anyone else, and using “it’s my blog I’ll say what I want,” as an excuse for it is not acceptable. If I am not willing to say it directly to a person’s face and discuss it, then it doesn’t go here in my blog.
I do use my blog as a communication tool, though. Moxie says, “This idea that men feverishly read a woman’s blog is a myth.” Perhaps so. Many men ask me for my blog addresses. Some I give it to, some I don’t, for varying reasons, but of those men, I know that few read it “feverishly,” or even frequently. The only one that I know that reads my blogs consistently is W–and I love that about him. Indeed, oftentimes I write specifically for him, and when I do I await his response anxiously. I wish that Ad would read my blogs, but he says he doesn’t need to, that we talk it about it all at home. What he doesn’t get is that there is much, much more here than I could ever say out loud, as much as we do talk (all the time), that there are pieces of me that I share here, that I love sharing with W, and that I would love to share with him, if he would only care enough to read. And perhaps that is why I love the fact that W does read what I write: it makes me feel cared for. And lastly, there is the fact that it is not only to communicate specifics that I write here. I want him to hear what I have to say in general, I want him to enjoy what I write, I want to turn him on, I want him to know me as a writer.
That said, when I do need to communicate something that is hard to talk about, I do use my blog to do so–but if W didn’t appreciate it as a communication tool, if he didn’t understand my need to communicate this way, and respond in a constructive, positive manner, or worse, if it angered or displeased him, I wouldn’t do it. Luckily, that hasn’t happened, and we have used my posts as stepping stones to more in-depth conversation and to ever deeper understandings of each other. Which is exactly what I hope to get out of blogging. A better understanding of myself, my relationships and my lovers; hopefully, in return, they will get a better understanding of me.