Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Oddities of Blogging

I kind of got "outed" the other day. As I was talking about Iona and its sheep at lunch here at seminary, a woman who reads but doesn't officially belong to the RevGal list looked at me and said, "You're on RevGalBlogPals."

That got me thinking about some of the stranger aspects of blogging.

For instance, my kids know I blog (one of them reads it --hey, Chicago Son!) but none of my real life friends do, except for online friends, who count as real (!) to me whether I've met them or not. If my daughter reads it, she hasn't told me. Same for my husband. My son mentioned it to my father once and I nearly passed out, having just written something of an extended and passionate piece focused on an obscenity.

I'm not sure why I would think at this point in life that my dad would raise an eyebrow at my language. But he is my dad. I suppose that in reality he would get a laugh out of this paragraph.

I often ruminate about personal matters in my blog. I write a lot about the losses that have framed my life, but mostly only with respect to myself - and even in that respect, I leave the really tough ones out. Probably the biggest exception there was the series I did as my stepmother died from cancer, but I knew neither she nor her family would see it. I took care not to be exploitative as I tried to articulate my issues with her fruitlessly aggressive medical care.

On the whole, I try to be discrete where other people are concerned. Other than the occasional picture (no names) of my kids and their friends, I don't identify people and I don't shout my locale my from the rooftop. If I were getting divorced, you would not hear about it here until it the dust had settled. (No, I'm not.) I tend to stay away from the more controversial aspects of politics and theology and social issues, although I doubt that my locale on the spectrum would be a big surprise to anyone who reads me for long. (Do I need to clarify? In my community, pretty middle of the road. In the country as a whole, that seems to mean quite a ways to the left these days. It's not a secret. I'm just not into the mean-spirited debate into which blogging can degenerate so quickly.)

I guess what I am thinking about is: to what extent does this offbeat genre reflect who we really are? You get what you see with me, but obviously I censor considerably. Would I write differently if I knew that all my friends were reading? Everyone here at school? My former students and colleagues? Do I write about certain topics, or take certain approaches, with specific online friends in mind?

All questions worthy of reflection, and a good deal more interesting than the present active indicative tense in Greek, which is going to fill the next four days of my life.

18 comments:

Presbyterian Gal said...

There is nothing wrong with discretion. It is a healthy boundary which creates a playing field for being able to toss about the big important questions that need to be chewed on.

It's the small nitty gritty gossipy details of our lives that keep us mired in a lower level of consciousness. I'd even hazard to say juvenile.

Discretion is the better part of valor, as someone wise once said. I don't believe that it makes us less real. I believe it informs the reality of the larger issues we seek.

Lisa :-] said...

I don't censor myself much...I believe I've written about that, somewhere. Then again, that's how I am in real life. Which has got me into a lot of trouble now and then. It's just who I am, and I (and the people who care about me) have learned to live with it.

Cynthia said...

Even as open as I am in my blog, there is a lot that I don't touch as being not right for public consumption. When I check my sitemeter stats, I see that I have local readers, but I have no idea who they are. The husband occasionally reads my blog and consistently gets ticked over what I write. The daughter checks every now and then. This is a delicate issue that must be handled carefully.

lisa c. said...

And this is exactly why my blog has become dusty and populated mainly with photos. I decided that, as a writer, I couldn't be completely honest ... I was always filtering and, consequently, writing about silly things. Then, I discovered that a few of my employees had somehow found my blog and read it regularly. That creeped me out. Who knows, I might start blogging again at some point, but it will never be about very revealing aspects of my life.

alphawoman said...

My writing has totally changed since I was informed that one of my friends read my blog. That my husbands ex reads it and my older step daughter. Then people have found me by my references to my old college. Then someone told someone I had a blog and they left a comment! I feel outed and like the cloak of anonymity has been ripped away. I guess it's okay. I write less and am much more aware that even though it seems the blogosphere is a huge place, it really is not.

Kris said...

This blog is another part of Gannet Girl. And the parts make up the whole.
Even if you had a blog that nobody you know IRL could ever ever read .. how much would it differ from what you blog now?
Blogging ..imop..allows us to put yet another game face on in the game of life. Adds to the whole.

Diane said...

absolutely. sometimes we use discretion because we're anonymous, sometimes because we're not. It's not any less "real" because we're all choosing what we reveal. for ourselves and our loved ones. unless of course we're outright lying.

Diane said...

so I think, if I were publishing a book, under my name, what would I reveal? what would I tell about?

that gives me pause too. because it is "publishing"

Lovie said...

I am new to blogging and haven't really found/drawn my perimeters yet. At least I don't think I have. About half of my face-to-face friends know about my blog. I don't even know what my criteria is for determining who I tell. My family knows and reads from time to time. I try to keep most of my posts positive and upbeat becasue that is one of the reasons I began to blog-as a reminder to myself about all that is good in my life
Leenora

Mark Smith said...

I am completely "out" on my blog - I use my real name and the real names of others. You'll know when I'm trying to hide somebody else's identity when I refer to them by description and not name.

This may bite me in the backside at some point, but it reflects my personality in general. I believe that I have to be genuine to others, all the time. It doesn't hurt much that I'm lousy at lying and my emotions show on my face whether I want them there or not.

I will say that my blogging is very topic-specific and out of balance to the rest of my life. I blog mostly religion and church stuff, but that's really about 1/3 of my life. (Another 1/3 being work, and the remaining 1/3 being family, hockey, flying and other stuff.)

Mark Smith said...

Let me add this.

Is it right to take a strong stand on an issue (say, a church issue of controversy) on your blog while remaining anonymous?

I have the answer FOR ME, but I don't claim that it is the answer for everybody (though part of me wishes it were - it might tone things down).

Quotidian Grace said...

I'm with Presbyterian Gal on the issues of healthy boundaries and discretion.

One of the reasons I don't blog anonymously is because it makes me much less likely to make the blog all about me. That forces me to find more interesting things in the world around me to blog about.

Gannet Girl said...

Hey, this is a great discussion - thank you all!

mompriest said...

I blog in a semi-anonymous state. No one I know in my area or church read my blog...but some of my new blog friends know who I am and where I am. I do not use names of others and always speak from my personal point of view and from my feelings. I find blogging is a great way for me to journal and reflect on life, faith, challenges, and hope. And, through blogging I have found some really wonderful people I consider friends. even though I could not tell you where they live or what their real names are....

Jan said...

I've been glad that my oldest son and daughter read my blog. The younger two don't. I have no idea about my husband, but then he doesn't agree with my more liberal political views. I try to be honest, but not naming many people. Though friends and others in CC would recognize me, I'm sure.

LawAndGospel said...

I am blogging "semi-anonymously." I used to have a link to my church and then decided that maybe that was a little too close for me, depending on what I write. Blogging is IMO a morphing together of online journaling and a letter to others. How much of your diary do you want others to read? Or is this a letter that you want to convey a message?

I actually hope that I can become more probing and less filtered than in some ways I have been, because it feels more genuine, but there are things that will not be shared.

My older daughter sometimes reads my blog, and posts videos with my permission. My younger daughter will take a turn soon blogging about a specific thing.

I am not the only Blogging Lutheran at LTSG and we know who each other is and occasionally give shout outs. But I did pause when the Communications office person who helped me with some photos asked for the name of my blog so she could check it out.

I think the concept of our "identity" is one that remains in flux and each of us defines our comfort level, both in how we feel about what we have just revealed and how prepared we are that it might be seen. One of my standards is whether what is being said seems like gossip.

Kathryn said...

Having decided early on that I wasn't clever enough to remain anonymous, I now have to write with the knowldge that any of my family or congregation could be reading.
Most of the time that's fine though I wish I knew for sure that my husband wasn't ever reading....I think I'm more myself on my blog than in most places, because I hide less. Is that good or bad? Who knows??

RevDrKate said...

Good discussion. I weigh in with the semi-anons. My blogname gives me away locally if anyone cares to look but interestingly, no one in my church does. I know pretty much who reads but always write with an eye to "anyone might." And yet as Kathryn says, I find I feel free to be very authentic. I have been touched by the level of vulnerability expressed by some people and have been talking about this blog as a new way of being church to one another with folks. I have found a level of community here that is very important and stimulating both intellectually and spiritually. And yes, boundaries...always a good thing!