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Opt-ions Five

Still talking about the blogosphere and social media.

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Image: Ali T via Flickr

A long time ago (well, long in blogosphere terms), there was a movement called naked blogging.  The term meant different things to different people, but the general idea was to blog with absolute transparency.  To admit to your foibles.  To celebrate your accomplishments.  To not create a persona but instead to let it all hang out, announcing to the world, this is who I am, with no boundaries between yourself and the reader.

There is a lot of good that can be said for naked blogging.  It can be beneficial to the writer to own their past, laying bare a struggle such as alcoholism, or make sense of something emotional, akin to therapy.  A lot of us engage in a form of naked blogging by writing frankly about infertility.  We don’t sugarcoat it or sweep it under the rug.  There is a lot of good that comes from putting the good, bad, and the ugly parts of your story online.

And it’s clear how the reader benefits from naked blogging.  Nothing makes you feel less alone than going online and seeing someone else discussing something that affects you too.  In small towns, where people may not feel comfortable speaking out about a sensitive topic, to be able to come online and read someone else’s experience: it’s priceless.  It has likely saved lives.  I fully believe that while there are people who feed off of someone else’s experience, growing more anxious or upset than they would have if they had never heard the other person’s story — borrowing trouble, as some would call it — I believe that there are just as many who are quelled by someone else’s experience.  Who stop feeling abnormal in general and realize that they’re only abnormal in comparison to their small, inner circle.  Online, there are thousands of infertile women I connect with even though in my face-to-face world, I don’t know many who have had a similar reproductive experience.

It makes me feel like I’m part of a larger whole vs. being an anomaly.

Even though I rarely hear the term “naked blogging” anymore — probably because it leads to all sorts of uncomfortable Google searches — we do hear a lot about transparency.  Accountability.  Honesty.  Authenticity.  Truthfulness.  All those terms are positive terms.  I can’t think of a mainstream blogger with a large readership (let’s say larger than 5000 visitors per day) who currently blogs anonymously.  Sure, there are people who still use their blogging handle, but for the most part, with a quick search, we can find their real name because they’ve given us their real name.  They needed to do so once they got book deals or speaking gigs.  And the reality is that humans are too curious: once someone enters the mainstream, it’s a matter of time before enough digging reveals someone’s identity.  But most of the time, the person steps forward with their own identity after a brief time period of anonymity.

I think that there is a layer of honesty and authenticity on pseudonymous blogs that doesn’t exist under people writing under their real name, a freeing element when talking in depth about grief or anxiety that people wouldn’t feel comfortable stating if they knew that their boss or their mother or their best friend was going to read it.  But being hidden isn’t a coveted trait, you know?  We associate it with trolls, the dregs of the Internet.  They use anonymity to say whatever is on their mind thinking that it will never be traced back to their name.  And what they say is usually cruel.  Most people don’t go anonymous to say positive, kind things.  So we’ve started to think of anonymity as a negative trait, when it obviously isn’t when utilized well.

But under our real names, I’ve always wondered when modest blogging would catch on.  It’s certainly not as interesting; this idea of reserving thoughts just for yourself.  Circumspection instead of nakedness.  Kindness instead of blunt honesty.

I always think of that Jim Carrey film, Liar Liar and how everyone was destroyed by his honesty.  We sometimes need filters in order to allow other people to have self-esteem.  And in general, it’s sometimes better not to know what people think.  Not just what they think about us, but what they think about the world.  Sometimes ignorance really is bliss; and I don’t mean ignorance in the negative sense.  Sometimes it really is better not to know.

Do you think we can benefit from not knowing things.  Do you have a great respect for a blogger who lets it all hang out, or do you feel as if there are some things best left obscured or reserved?  Are you drawn to naked blogging, and would you want to hear an honest assessment of yourself, or do you think that it’s sometimes unhealthy to know all? (Even if our curiosity usually gets the best of us.)

11 comments

1 a { 06.23.14 at 10:16 am }

I don’t know. I admire people who let it all hang out, but I know that’s more of an illusion than most would be willing to admit. So iftthey’re getting something out of what they expose (comfort, community), that’s great. But usually, brutal honesty comes with negative side effects too. I don’t want to answer for 90% of the stuff that goes through my head (and it might be a fleeting response to a specific situation anyway), so I don’t let it out.

Am I drawn to bloggers who share a lot? Sure – if they interact with me at all. I’m not looking to watch train wrecks. And their openness lets me get to know them a bit, as my comments try to reveal a bit of me.

2 nicoleandmaggie { 06.23.14 at 10:51 am }

I think there’s a real danger in creating problems in order to have something to blog about when your persona is “raw and unvarnished”. We call it the Sandra Tsing Loh effect.

Which is cause, and which effect?

3 Justine { 06.23.14 at 11:10 am }

Well, I certainly started blogging less once I started working. But whether that’s because I knew my future boss read me first or because I have lost motivation isn’t clear. I see what you’re saying about anonymity allowing for expression of difficult things … I guess it can work both ways, depending on the kind of human being you are (either you use anonymity as a weapon, or you use it to connect). I hadn’t thought about it in quite that way.

4 deathstar { 06.23.14 at 11:29 am }

I tend to NOT be attracted to those who just write about topics without sharing a bit of themselves. That’s just news reporting. And I will always choose honest, raw blogging because I admire courageous people who just let it all hang out, warts and all. I think it only gets uncomfortable when they start to start overexplaining or justifying what they are saying over and over. It reveals an insecurity that makes me uncomfortable. And also if there is no interaction with readers. I’ve read terribly personal things and then the comments are turned off. Do you want a diary or do you want a blog? I want to be able to extend and receive connection and communication. Even if it’s just a you go, girl kind of comment. Don’t invite me into your house and then leave out the back door.

5 Kate { 06.23.14 at 2:29 pm }

I like blogs with a personal element because they are like books that never end (hopefully). I love seeing the good and the bad and yes, reading about a similar tantrum toddler or messy house makes me feel more normal. Personally I try and keep my site true but positive for all the normal reasons of future employees/ers or kids learning to read then google, plus, looking for the positive to write about usually helps me find it in life.

6 Alexicographer { 06.23.14 at 2:36 pm }

I enjoy learning about (many) aspects of human lives that I haven’t experienced, from a first-person perspective, or something close to one. So I can be a sucker for a good ethnography (not really first-person, but up-close-and-personal), or blog (?).

It’s definitely true that some of the blogs I get drawn into (Here Be Hippogriffs, Flotsam, A Little Pregnant) are ones I am reading in the moment as they are happening (all those listed are still current, but the suspenseful parts that really drew me in at first are long since concluded, though I remain a reader). Their authors don’t know how the story will progress (maybe more than I do, but often not all the way to the “end,”) so there is this entirely genuine feeling of Suspense.

I think where I get uncomfortable, and this could apply perfectly well to the blogs I’ve listed as well as to this one — though none of these have made me feel uncomfortable in this regard (but who’s to say *my* feeling of discomfort is the right metric?) — is that pretty much every blogger I read writes about “me” and “my family.” And how much about others it is OK to put on the internet, with or without their permission (and particularly when they are children) is a huge huge huge question mark for me.

7 Valery Valentina { 06.23.14 at 2:54 pm }

My blog is like a diary to me. Since infertility affected my relationship and I needed to talk with someone I looked for and found a few blogs that were honest about the emotions and struggles. All of us blog anonymously. But the bonds we form are so strong that some of us met IRL. The only place you can find my blog is here, or through comments I leave on blogs I trust. I don’t think I could keep my blog online if thousands of people started reading it.
So, since I know the comments I get are from people who think or feel like I do I like to hear if it’s just him or if it is also me.

And yes Mel, you are right about being hidden is not a good trait at work, my boss keeps telling me to show more of myself and my work, to come out of the shadows. (Not sure I will)

I like to keep what privacy I have left. So no social media for me, no FB, no smartphone, no pictures online.
When using my real name I try to use only services based in Germany, as they seem to value privacy more than Google/US/etc.

8 Queenie { 06.23.14 at 4:13 pm }

As you know, I blog anonymously. And I hope I’m not a troll. For me, being anonymous means I don’t have to filter. I don’t mean that I’m am putting up harsh, true things about other people, because I mostly blog about myself. But the anonymity means that I share more than I would be comfortable sharing if I was easily identifiable. I’m more comfortable being honest, being vulnerable. I blog because it’s a good way for me to document, and it’s (good, free) therapy. When I started, I was working in a somewhat high profile job in a relatively small pond, and I didn’t want to walk into a meeting and know that the people in the room knew about the state of my cervical mucus. And even though I’ve changed jobs (countries, continents!), I find I’m still most comfortable sharing my story anonymously. It may never bring me fame and fortune, but it serves the purpose I want it to serve.

9 knottedfingers { 06.23.14 at 6:35 pm }

I like blogs with a personal aspect. But sometimes people do get too much into it. I don’t want to see a photo of your baby crowning. That makes me super squicked out. However I’m all for seeing photos of your angel and hearing about losses and hearing about your life. Good or Bad.

I blog because it’s good for me to get everything out.

10 Haisla { 06.23.14 at 6:49 pm }

I love that term ‘naked blogging’ – what an apt description. I’m all for naked blogging and believe that blogging anonymously helps me to lay it all out there, as I don’t need to worry about hurting people I know. As Queenie said, it’s almost like a form of free therapy. The only thing is that instead of guaranteed unconditional positive regard you do take the risk of being attacked by trolls.

I think naked blogging, however, doesn’t mean that you have to be unkind to others. I try to be as open when it comes to my own stuff and as kind as possible when it comes to leaving comments on other people’s blogs, sort of in the vein of ‘do to others as you would have done unto you..’

I also notice that the more connections I build within the blogosphere, the more conscious I have become about other bloggers issues and hurts and sometimes it can be difficult to write about my own ‘shadowy’ stuff for fear of hurting someone else out there.. I guess I’ve just got to accept that I can’t take responsibility for other people’s feelings or reactions to my writing. As long as I don’t willingly go about causing harm, it’ll be okay..?

11 Battynurse { 06.25.14 at 3:42 am }

Depends on the situation or context. In some places I’m good with letting it all hang out, other places not as much. That said I know there are so many people with no concept of appropriate boundaries or what is appropriate to share and when. I’ll even admit to likely stumbling over that line a few (a lot) of times.

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