Still talking about the blogosphere and social media.
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.)