Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Blogger Myth-Keyboard Reality

In recent correspondence with a friend who also maintains a blog, we broached the topic of what I am now referring to as Blogger Myth-Keyboard Reality; the notion that seemingly frank and personal blogs unknowingly create an alternate persona. Jazz snobs -- the sort of people who listen to Kind of Blue with eyes closed and head bobbing -- will sometimes tell you that a performer's brilliance can be heard not in what he plays but in the notes he does not play. "It's in the spaces, man." The same is true of blogging; it is what is not posted that counts.

To be sure, there are blogs where someone is attempting to create an online personality or something that is larger than life. But I think that the majority are simply web logs, someone's electronic journal (like the lessons learned that Doogie Howser would type up at the end of each episode). However, consciously or unconsciously, a person will always self-edit. A blogger may appear to be exposing his soul to the world but this is still a controlled environment. You only get to read the pages the writers allow you to see. Before I started thinking about the actual people behind these journals there were blogs that I would read and think, "this guy is completely nuts" and others where I thought, "I am in love with this girl." After thinking about this though it becomes more and more obvious that you really have no clue no matter how much personal content someone posts online. The Crazy Guy may only use his blog as a means of venting his everyday stresses, so readers are only exposed to his worst side which may in reality be the smallest component of his peronality. Awesome Girl, on the other hand, may be undateable and intolerable to be around -- one-sided "essays" are amusing and fun to read but imagine how potentially unbearable these expositions could be in the midst of a real two-person conversation.

As usual outward thought led to inward scrutiny so I turned this little theory around and examined my own blog. What was I leaving out? What details were being ommitted for publishing purposes? As it turns out, a lot. I read through many of my old posts, because I seem to forget about them just days after they have been written, and they tell a very colored tale. The "personal admissions" are all self-deprecating in charming way -- the sad and shameful truths are nowhere to be found. The dating dalliances look like they were lifted from a rom-com script -- none of my scummier exploits are present. And the "thought experiments" are all pre-researched and controlled -- my hyper-reactionary and sometimes mean ruminations have mostly been suppressed. Anyway my question is, how real is real? I do not know.

But I am not going to change the way I do things. It took a long time for me to be satisfied that this blog had a certain feel or groove to it so I am not going to go switching pitchers mid-inning. I will therefore continue to omit facts, massage certain details, and exercise literary carte blanche when recounting The Sacred & The Mundane that is my everyday world.

...I suppose we are all right back where started so I will avoid another elliptical post topic for at least a week.


At 10/05/2006 11:13 AM, Blogger Momentary Academic said...

I too have thought about the persona that I create. More than one person has read my blog and thought that I was a guy. That started making me wonder about my writing and how I mangaged to filter gender out for some people. I found that I didn't write about the same topics as my friends (other women who write whom I know quite well) and that my blog wasn't pink...

I've quite liked reading your blog and I have enjoyed reading about the posts that are infused with music. It's something that I've not written about in a while, but by reading your posts, I can be lazy and not write about music for a while.

At 10/05/2006 12:19 PM, Blogger Dara said...

Hmmm. Something to ponder.

I think I edit myself on my blog because the a lot of the people who are reading are my friends in meatspace. (Love that term; never actually got to use it before.) If it was really an anonymous online journal, there are a lot of things I could say that I don't. Isn't that true of most bloggers, though?

And, even though it represents like 95% of my waking life, I don't really blog about work because, (a) what I do would bore most people, (b) I like having a job (although often not this one) and (c) attorney-client privilege issues.

In terms of my 'persona,' I guess that means that my blog is mostly the outside-of-work me -- but in my funnier moments -- and without really exposing the depth and breadth of my mean streak.

At 10/05/2006 12:45 PM, Blogger Ana said...

Whenever I kept an actual paper journal, back in the day, I always caught myself writing as if someday I would have an audience. So there was still a lot of self-editing and persona-creating even when I knew that no one would ever read my journal, unless of course I became famous, which is supremely unlikely. I think that might be something that is just true of personal writing--we're all too self-conscious to be really honest even when it's just for ourselves. Or, maybe it's just me.

Either way, your blog is great, so you should stick with the persona you've created here.

At 10/05/2006 2:50 PM, Anonymous Ryane said...

Of course we don't share all of ourselves on our blogs...a lot of people don't share all of themselves w/themselves, let alone strangers.

Besides, I am not sure that editing/creating are such bad things, after all. I am sure there are things about my closest friends that I don't know, and in a way, that makes them all the more intriguing to me...

Ditto for blogs. But I know what you mean about wondering how closely do bloggers represent in real life...

At 10/05/2006 3:28 PM, Blogger Irish Red said...

I have no idea the persona i portray. For the most part I think what you see is what you get. Yes, from time to time, there is a little artistic license taken, but only when I post what I 'should have' said instead of what I did say, or something like that.

Also, obviously if we all wrote EVERYTHING about our lives...we'd be writing 24/7.

I think the biggest artistic licenses are the ones taken by the people that READ the blogs. And that's fine if my readers have this fantasy of me as a young annette benning, marcia cross in real life. We read what we want to read and see what we want to see and perceeve what we want to perceve out of the blogs we read. i guess you never REALLY know someone until you spend time together...and then...who really knows. (sorry the comment was so long)

At 10/06/2006 11:06 AM, Blogger Jason said...

I don't why I started thinking about this, but it doesn't really matter. It's not like these blogs are intended to be the Confessional at church. Besides which, the internet is mostly about truthiness and salt grains.

At 10/07/2006 11:32 AM, Blogger Kelley said...

Interesting post. My online persona is fairly out-going, whereas in reality I tend to self-edit my thoughts down to a string of awkward silences. They say wealth tends to magnify your personality; I think blogs do the same.

(Although, I just equated wealth with self-publishing, which, HA!)

Anyway, I just discovered your blog via DC Blogs, and I've enjoyed your writing.


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