"Some of my blog’s readers were my friends in real life, and even the ones who weren’t acted like friends when they posted comments or sent me e-mail. They criticized me sometimes, but kindly, the way you chide someone you know well. Some of them had blogs, too, and I read those and left my own comments. As nerdy and one-dimensional as my relationships with these people were, they were important to me. They made me feel like a part of some kind of community, and that made the giant city I lived in seem smaller and more manageable.
"My blog post was ridiculous and petty and small — and, suddenly, incredibly important. At some point I’d grown accustomed to the idea that there was a public place where I would always be allowed to write, without supervision, about how I felt. Even having to take into account someone else’s feelings about being written about felt like being stifled in some essential way.
"It’s easy to draw parallels between what’s going on online and what’s going on in the rest of our media: the death of scripted TV, the endless parade of ordinary, heavily made-up faces that become vaguely familiar to us as they grin through their 15 minutes of reality-show fame. No wonder we’re ready to confess our innermost thoughts to everyone: we’re constantly being shown that the surest route to recognition is via humiliation in front of a panel of judges.
"But is that really what’s making people blog? After all, online, you’re not even competing for 10 grand and a Kia. I think most people who maintain blogs are doing it for some of the same reasons I do: they like the idea that there’s a place where a record of their existence is kept — a house with an always-open door where people who are looking for you can check on you, compare notes with you and tell you what they think of you. Sometimes that house is messy, sometimes horrifyingly so. In real life, we wouldn’t invite any passing stranger into these situations, but the remove of the Internet makes it seem O.K.
"Of course, some people have always been more naturally inclined toward oversharing than others. Technology just enables us to overshare on a different scale. Long before I had a blog, I found ways to broadcast my thoughts — to gossip about myself, tell my own secrets, tell myself and others the ongoing story of my life. As soon as I could write notes, I passed them incorrigibly. In high school, I encouraged my friends to circulate a notebook in which we shared our candid thoughts about teachers, and when we got caught, I was the one who wanted to argue about the First Amendment rather than gracefully accept punishment. I walked down the hall of my high school passing out copies of a comic-book zine I drew, featuring a mock superhero called SuperEmily, who battled thinly veiled versions of my grade’s reigning mean girls. In college, I sent out an all-student e-mail message revealing that an ex-boyfriend shaved his chest hair. The big difference between these youthful indiscretions and my more recent ones is that you can Google my more recent ones.
The Feedback Loop
"(With)The commenters ...... It wasn’t quite friendship. It was almost something deeper. They were co-workers, sort of, giving me ideas for posts, rewriting my punch lines. They were creeps hitting on me at a bar. They were fans, sycophantically praising even my lamer efforts. They were enemies, articulating my worst fears about my limitations. They were the voices in my head. They could be ignored sometimes. Or, if I let them, they could become my whole world.
"The.... compliments were reassuring. And though I was reluctant to admit it, there was even something sort of thrilling about being insulted by strangers. This was brand-new, having so many strangers pay attention to me, and at that point, every kind of attention still felt good. Occasionally, a particularly well-aimed barb would catch me off-guard, and I’d spend a moment worrying that I really was the worst writer ever to work for the site, or unfunny, or ugly, or stupid. But mostly, in the beginning, I was able to believe the compliments and dismiss the insults, even though they were both coming from the same place and sometimes the same people
"Like most people, I tend to use the language of addiction casually, as in, “— I’m totally going through withdrawal.” And when talking about how immersed I became in my online life, I’m tempted to use this language because it provides such handy metaphors. It’s easy to compare the initial thrill of evoking an immediate response to a blog post to the rush of getting high, and the diminishing thrills to the process of becoming inured to a drug’s effects. The metaphor is so exact, in fact, that maybe it isn’t a metaphor at all.
"The will to blog is a complicated thing, somewhere between inspiration and compulsion. It can feel almost like a biological impulse. You see something, or an idea occurs to you, and you have to share it with the Internet as soon as possible. What I didn’t realize was that those ideas and that urgency — and the sense of self-importance that made me think anyone would be interested in hearing what went on in my head — could just disappear.
".........a single blog post can capture a moment of extreme feeling, but that reading an accumulated series of posts will sometimes reveal another, more complete story......taking the once-public blog and making it private, though tempting, felt like trying to revise history.
"Knowing that the worst of my online oversharing is still publicly accessible doesn’t thrill me, but it doesn’t scare me anymore either. I might hate my former self, but I don’t want to destroy her, and in a way, I want to respect her decision to show the world her vulnerability. I’m willing to let that blog exist now as a sort of memorial to a time in my life when I thought my discoveries about myself and what I loved were special enough to merit sharing with the world immediately.
"I understand that by writing here about how I revealed my intimate life online, I’ve now revealed even more about what happened during the period when I was most exposed. Well, I’m an oversharer — it’s not like I’m entirely reformed. But lately, online, I’ve found myself doing something unexpected: keeping the personal details of my current life to myself. This doesn’t make me feel stifled so much as it makes me feel protected, as if my thoughts might actually be worth honing rather than spewing. But I still have Emily Magazine as a place to spew when I need to. It will never again be the friendly place that it was in 2004 — there are plenty of negative comments now, and I don’t delete them. I still think about closing the door to my online life and locking them out, but then I think of everything else I’d be locking out, and I leave it open."
Those of you, who would like to read the full article, click on Exposed. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Would love to see your comments.