Monday, August 13, 2007

I Wasn't Lost But Now I'm Found

Posted by Amy.

One night I was sitting at my computer, entranced by the glow of the monitor, deciding what to post. It was an important decision because one of my favorite bloggers was linking to me the very next morning, and I wanted to give her venerable readers something really worth their time should they decide to "click over," which I hoped they would.

I chose a story that I'd published on a well-read website under a pseudonym, because it was somewhat adult content. I realized that it would be very different from what my friend wrote on her blog because some of the language was raw and the subject matter was sexual. It was also unlike anything I'd ever published on my own blog. But -- it was not off-handed or trite. It was – and is -- one of the most introspective things I've written, and by many strangers and a couple of friends, it has been read with interest and acclaim.

I had it all set up and ready to publish the next morning; and then I decided to click on my Site Meter. You know, my little blogging report card. After coming back to blogging full-throttle just a bit ago, I'm not hung up on comments, but I am curious as to how my traffic ebbs and flows. I'm not trying or vying to be a rock-star blogger. But, I am a published writer, as well as a blogger, and I want to be read.

But by my parents?

That's right, after 18 months of blogging under the radar, my family found my blog – as revealed by the details of my site meter and those tracking URLs. I felt like I was kicked in the chest. Like I was sixteen and my diary was read. Had I left it on the bed by accident? No. Was it under the mattress and easy to find? No. It was in my sock drawer, upside down, in the back, under the array of mismatched socks wrapped in an old tee-shirt.

Which brings up the question – can anything we bestow upon the World Wide Web really be private?

My answer initially was, well, I f-ing thought so.

And then I was just really, really glad I hadn't already published that post. It was not right choice for a general readership, and it certainly fell under the category of TMI for parents.

Before this happened, I had seven friends in real life who read my blog. The rest of my readers are internet friends, acquaintance and strangers. Half of the seven (yes, 3.5) live far away from me.

So it's ok to have some friends and any strangers reading about my life but not my family?

Exactly.

I do write some things publicly – things everyone reads – and I carefully compose those pieces with psyches and egos and temperaments and readerships in mind. And although as a writer I do some of that with my blog, as I don't believe its purpose (for me) is that of a diary.

I got a lot of different words of wisdom when I told my chosen few about being discovered. Everything from: "it's the world wide web, you can't put anything on it you don't want someone to find" to "look at your blog as a marketing opportunity for potential editors and publishers, and don't publish anything you wouldn't want them to read" to "abandon the blog and start a new one" to "tell them it's 'read at your own risk' and don't censor yourself."

It's all valid advice. I don't know what to do. Is there such a thing as privacy on the internet? Is it fair game if it's got a URL? Will my blogging change? Should I adopt a policy of 'read at your own risk'?

There are things on the blog that are not fodder for publication for one or a dozen reasons. The blog gives me an outlet to be creative and expressive and with myself as the only editor and publisher. My readers choose to read or not, comment or more likely to not.

I don't write about my parents, so what's the difference? I'm not sure. If it's now open to my family members, do I make it really public and start telling everyone about it? I don't think so. Because, even with the writing and the blogging and the swirling thoughts and opinions and my hours-long detailed conversations with friends about life details --- I'm a very private person (a statement which sent one of my closest friends into a hysterical fit of laughter and left her gasping for breath). There are only a couple of friends who really know everything about me. Everyone else, online and in real life, knows bits and pieces - what I want them to know, what they can understand, and at times, what they can handle.

As an adult, I get to pick and choose who knows what about me, my life, my kids, my thoughts, my feelings. I have a right to ultimate privacy and the parameters are determined by me and me alone. But obviously that's not the case on the internet.

So, in order preserve my privacy I may have to go back to a diary in the sock drawer. Oh, but snoop at your own risk. There are condoms in there too.

14 comments:

Nancy said...

I am exactly the same way, Amy. Some people might think that I'm pretty open -- it seems that way on the blog, I guess -- but I'm very private. And so my parents know I have a blog, but hopefully they will never read it. I wouldn't feel comfortable with that.

That said, I'm not sure what I'd do if my parents discovered my blog. I'd probably go with the "read at your own risk" statement, but I'm guessing I would start to censor myself (even unwittingly) if I knew they would be reading.

Sigh. It's tough.

Anonymous said...

I think that a big part of the discomfort, too, lies in the fact that most of us are not a single identity--we are a composite of different things to different people. Who we are with our parents (or to our parents) is different from who we are to our husbands/friends/children, etc. And it's not that one "self" is any less authentic or truly "me" than another is. It's just different. Having a blog somehow solidifies an identity or tends to claim some kind of authenticity on the person as a whole. Mom and Dad reading may not recognize their daughter in a post, and it's hard and feels like hiding. We create a self when we blog, when we write. The nature of the published blog is such that all these different facets of selfhood come up against one very concrete, written self. It can be threatening.

Mrs. Chicken said...

I kid myself that my blog is private. But I know that I'm just a Google search away from being found.

It keeps me up at night sometimes.

But I keep writing, because if I don't, I'll explode.

Laural Dawn said...

My blog is anything but anonymous in my family. I censor myself a lot. I sometimes wish I could be more open, and say how I really feel about things.
But, I can't. So, I steer clear of a lot of topics like work, arguments with my husband, and frustration with my family.
And, I think I come off as way more sweet and insecure on my blog than I do in real life - I don't think many people would call my blog bitchy, but in real life ... yep.
I'm okay with it.
But, I do agree that if you're going to use your name (even your first name) you have to know you could be googled!

Anonymous said...

I solve this problem two ways. The first way is by having more than one blog. There is a very public blog, where I'm me, and I try not to air my dirty laundry, and there is a "secret" blog, that has no identifying information at all on it. Even my husband doesn't know about the "secret" blog.

The second part of my solution is that the "secret" blog is on vox, which is probably not the best venue, but it has excellent, and easily navigable, privacy features. I can choose that a post be completely public, be viewable only by my "neighborhood," or only by the people who are marked as my friends and/or family, or even make it completely hidden, so no one but me can see it.

So, anyone who wants to can read my public blog. Only those people I choose can read my secret blog. And I get to write whatever I want. It works for me...

monkey girl said...

i have a public blog too - i write about things that i need to get off of my chest. i try not to worry about who is reading it. i have several friends - real life and internet - and my sister who i know read it. some of what i write is very private and personal - but i naively hope that if a reader is having similiar thoughts that maybe my blog might help.

mothergoosemouse said...

As one who is completely out and can be easily found, it gets easier to be honest in my writing in spite of who I know may be reading.

That said, I rarely divulge secrets or inner struggles, but I don't do that IRL either. I expect my family may be bothered occasionally by some of what I write, but it hasn't come between us. However, I know many people aren't that fortunate.

ewe are here said...

I think a lot of people who blog have the same worries: what if my family finds my blog? what if people find my blog? And then it happens.... what to do? what to do?

It hasn't happened to me yet, but it is something I worry about quite a bit, especially as I weigh the 'should I or should I not blog about X', extended family issues and dynamics that really affect me. Because my mom would never understand, and we have enough problems.

Day Dreamer said...

Every time I post something about my family, a streak of 'ut-oh' goes through me. What if they read this? I cannot help but worry about that, but I'm still compelled to let it out as it happens. I also know that I'm a google away from stellar downfall.

I just have to let some things go. I feel better to let it out. I never kept a diary, I never had any kind of outlet like this. I just love the freedom of it for now. And for now, I'm still hidden-ish. Only five people that I know personally know about my address or who Candid is. I like it that way, and pray that it stays that way for a long long time.

Anonymous said...

I've had an IM conversation blow up in my face just this week. The other party in this conversation copied the entire conversation and posted it on his public blog on MySpace. The worst part is, he used my real name, first and last.

Luckily, the conversation wasn't embarassing, but just the fact that I thought it was a private conversation between the two of us (plus the entire world has access to it, now) has been keeping me up at night.

Her Bad Mother said...

Anonymous at 10:07 - DUDE!!! Harsh.

Amy said...

Here's a question. Can we be completely authentic when we're anonymous -- or perhaps we are more authentic when we are so. I'm not sure.

The City Gal said...

I have steered clear of any controversial (e.g.sexual) content, since I made my blog and profile public again!

I used to write about dating and relationships when I had only limited visitors that I knew.

Jaelithe said...

Is there a possibility you could respectfully request your parents not to read your blog, because it makes you feel uncomfortable and makes you want to restrict your writing to topics you wouldn't be embarrassed for them to read about, and they might actually listen to you? Or are they not the kind of people who would be able to hear such a thing?