Exhibitionism vs. Prudence

I used to read strangers’ blogs.

By “strangers,” I don’t mean internet celebrities that I’ve never met in person; or stars of stage, screen and television; or acquaintances that I know from a podcast or a convention. I mean complete strangers: normal (or not-so-normal) people whose publicized slices of life randomly caught my eye.

Blogs were still new then — often updated manually, and created by people who knew how to design websites. I would click through blogroll links and stumble across a blog that had a striking design, and if the content spoke to me, it went in my bookmarks.

Some of the more fascinating blogs were the intentionally vague ones. I used to wonder why they were so elusive, never giving any details about names or places or actual events. They’d only speak of emotions, interactions, sometimes touching on major life events like a graduation or a breakup. It seemed to me that these people were adding just enough detail that someone who knew them might know what they were talking about, while a complete stranger such as myself would have absolutely no clue.

This was a time when I was blogging in much greater detail than was probably called for. Since I knew no one knew about my blog except a handful of college friends, I was spilling my guts about my shitty job, my co-workers, my wedding plans, my grandmother’s losing battle with cancer. My blog wasn’t a collection of witty essays or a vague smearing of post-adolescent angst. It was an online version of the written journal I’d kept since I was seven, with most of the juicy details that entails.

(If I had been taking the time to write witty essays, rather than scribbling down notes at work and then writing rambling entries after dinner, perhaps I would have become one of these internet celebrity types. —Actually, no. I doubt that I would have, now that I think of it.)

I’ve maintained my openness over the years, while prudently holding back on some details — my brother-in-law, for instance, doesn’t like his photo to be posted on the internet, and I have a friend or two who are uncomfortable with being Google-able. I’ve also tried to hold back on the posts about work and about specific people, since those could so easily come back to bite me in the ass.

Sometimes, I long for the days of locked LiveJournal posts, or just not giving a fuck whether a long-lost friend or co-worker read what I had to say. The internet is a volatile yet potentially permanent place, though, and I’d rather be vague and mysterious (about some things) than get myself in trouble.

2 thoughts on Exhibitionism vs. Prudence

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  1. I’m with “dental hygienist” on this one…

    I have had an ongoing discussion with a friend about how much I share on my blog. For me, since in person I’m guarded and private with strangers, it’s a way to say what I mean, share what I can, and be open. It’s also a way of codifying the world in words in a way that I cannot in speech. My friend on the other hand is horrified at the concept of having her life become so public, so permanent…

    There is a saying that I guess fits how we surrender control: “Once the book is published, the author is dead.”