Thursday, February 18, 2010
Blog vs. Life
I read this article in the NY Times magazine this morning. It isn't new, but I just came across it, probably linked from someone else's blog—I forget how I got there. Anyway, it is by a young woman who tells the story of how she wrote a blog about her personal life, which led to a job at Gawker, a gossipy commercial blog. She talks about her tendency for "over-sharing," about how it cost her relationships and changed her life, not so much for the better. It was pretty depressing actually and while I don't really relate or see that my blogging is much like hers, it got me thinking. Especially about relationships.
She talked about the people who read her blog:
"Some of my blog’s readers were my friends in real life, and even the ones who weren’t acted like friends when they posted comments or sent me e-mail. They criticized me sometimes, but kindly, the way you chide someone you know well. Some of them had blogs, too, and I read those and left my own comments. As nerdy and one-dimensional as my relationships with these people were, they were important to me. They made me feel like a part of some kind of community, and that made the giant city I lived in seem smaller and more manageable." It's like that. The people who read and comment do become important. And that is what I have been thinking about.
It is easy to begin to feel like people who comment on your blog and you on theirs are real friends. But that's too simple, really. They know you as you want them to know you. They don't know your annoying habits, or foul moods or occasionally careless ways. Nor do you know theirs. They are much easier friends than the ones you actually interact with in real life. Not that they couldn't be real friends. But it is seductive to think they already are. And useful.
I have to remind myself of this. Blog commenters will most often tell you what you want to hear. That's always good for the ego, but it also lets you live in denial. You post a new piece of artwork and ask, "do you like it? Should I change anything?" Maybe one or two will give you something constructive, the rest will stroke your ego and make you feel invincible. Worse, you can blog about a gripe, someone who slighted you, someone who disagreed with you and get all the support and agreement you would ever want. Problem is, yours is the only side of the story they hear and they are "friends"—eager to make you feel better, or superior or smarter. It's something I observe on blogs a lot and I'm not proud to admit I've taken advantage of that myself on occasion.
In the article I read, the author talked about damaging her real-life relationships by telling stories about people in her life, revealing things they believed were shared in confidence, exposing their privacy. Reading this really did give me pause. I talk about my friends, my family. I hope I don't embarrass them or make them uncomfortable, but it could happen. I have removed posts written thoughtlessly and felt bad about what I revealed about someone else. I don't post pictures of my granddaughter anymore. Her mother wasn't comfortable with that, and while I told myself I was posting for out-of-town family to be able to keep up with her I also enjoyed having strangers tell me how cute she was. Reality check. There are some things I don't need to share with the world at large.
I have written here about the positive things that have come to me because of my blog and I sincerely believe in those things. I probably won't change much about what I am doing, but I think I may change some things about how I am thinking. I need to keep a clear distinction between my blog and my life and my online friends and my real life friends. I have to keep a perspective on the relative unimportance of what my blog means. I have seen bloggers refer to their readers and commenters as their "fans." Heaven help us all if we bloggers begin to see ourselves as having fans. Ayyyyyy. That just really makes me cringe.
And that's what I've been thinking about as I fuse scraps of fabric this fine sunshine-y day.