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Do you know who I am?

November 5th, 2004 · 13 Comments

Tomorrow at BloggerCon, I am leading a discussion on the Emotional Life of Weblogs. As I’ve been preparing, I’ve noticed recent posts describing how we relate through blogging.

Halley Suitt talked about the self she puts on her blog in Who We Really Are

Last month, Robert Scoble and his wife Maryam were visiting Boston and I offered to pick them up at their friends’ apartment and drive them to the airport. I had scribbled the directions to their place in my REAL DIARY — a paper notebook — and tossed it on the passenger seat of my car. After I picked them up, Scoble was reading the directions backwards for me to get us out of their neighborhood. I looked over at him and realized he was holding my real “blog” book with all my real secrets in it and said, “you know, that’s my real diary.” We both had a moment there and launched into a discussion of what blogging was all about.

She also linked to Meg Hourihan who wrote

This site has never purported to be a journal or a diary, or really anything more than a public place where I chose to share some bits of my life with people who are interested in reading them. But it’s all been very controlled, and I’ve been very aware of my audience — from grandparents to potential bosses to strangers — since its inception. And so most of what I think and I do goes unsaid on this site, which for the most part is OK, except that when I look back on prior entries, sometimes I wish I had a better sense of what was really happening between the lines.

Questions: Do you have a journal that is a separate record from your blog? Why or why not? What would you say blogging is “all about”? How controlled is the face you put on your blog? How aware are you of your audience? Do you blog as if you are writing intimate journal entries no one else will read, or do you see yourself on stage?

Jay McCarthy linked to Michael Williams’ experience.

One of features of the blogging is that it’s easy to pretend that nothing you write really matters. It’s easy to approach every situation from an aloof, unemotional vantage point that assumes all your readers will be detached as well — or at least not intimately involved with the topic at hand. That’s not always the case, however, as two comments to my earlier post about Gordie Bailey illustrate. I wrote that Mr. Bailey, a Colorado University freshman who died from alcohol poisoning, was responsible for his own death because he was an adult who freely chose to engage in harmful activities to impress his friends. I never really considered that anyone involved in the event could come across my post, but I recently received two comments, one from one of Mr. Bailey’s best friends and one from his step-father.

Questions: Who do we imagine our audience is? Would blogging be better if we could identify everyone who is reading or restrict access to posts? Is blogging better suited for certain kinds of relationships rather than others? The comments in Michael Williams post contain other examples of people who were surprised by the connections through their blogs.

Browsing through some blogs the other day, I came across this confession by Another Jen:

I always hoped that if some one I know stumbled upon my blog, they a) wouldn’t read enough to know it was me or b) would politely bow out and never return.

Questions: Do you feel like Another Jen, hoping that readers don’t know who you are? Do you prefer anonymity? Does what we write on blogs enhance existing relationships, jump-start new ones or eliminate the potential for ones that we might have had if we had met in person first?

The other day I was thinking about the limits I have made for writng about my children. There are aspects of their lives that I won’t publish on-line. But then I began to wonder: Am I protecting or pretending? When I hide pieces of my family’s life from public eye, am I presenting an illusion of who we are to the world?

If you are wondering who I am and would like to meet me in person, I will be leading a discussion at Bloggercon and also hosting a dinner group on Saturday night with Lauren Gelman. Maybe if we spend some time together in person, we can help find answers to these questions, and wonder how well we know each other.

I may not be on-line often between now and Sunday, but if you need to reach me, please email harrowme AT yahoo.com. Thanks!

Tags: bloggercon

13 responses so far ↓

  • 1 eclinkticism // Nov 5, 2004 at 10:36 am

    Who’s you?

    Do you know who I am? I need to come back to this later on….

  • 2 Chris // Nov 5, 2004 at 1:26 pm

    Excuse my language…but DAMN! I fly into San Jose late Sunday and will be spending the week in Sunnyvale. As Maxwell Smart would say, I missed it by that much.

    To answer the actual question…I originally converted ODonnellWeb to a blog with the idea that the dozen or so friends I have on a listserv would migrate to the comments on ODonnellWeb. One of the great surprises is that 99.5% of my comments have come from people I don’t know n real life, and listserv is still going strong.

    Another interesting thing is that one of if not the first person to blog roll me was a high school friend who is an ordained minister. The initial influx of traffic far more conservative than me did have an effect of tempering my randier side, and the site has never really progressed beyond PG.

    So yes, I am very aware of my audience, and the fact that what I write may be around forever. It doesn’t mean I fake it, as the site is a very much a reflection of the me you get in real life. Although I’m going to miss your chance to test that this weekend!

  • 3 jeffy // Nov 5, 2004 at 4:25 pm

    “One of features of the blogging is that it’s easy to pretend that nothing you write really matters.”

    Do people really do this? It seems awfully naive in this day and age. Unless your name is Smith or something. I suppose if you are very careful to never leave any clues linking a pseudonym to your real identity you could do it.

    I have an unusual enough name that with the advent of the first online Usenet archive, it was clear that any illusion of online anonymity I might have harbored was just that, an illusion. Toss my name into Google, and the first hit is my blog. The third link turned up is another Jeff Youngstrom, but every other search hit for pages and pages is me.

    With that knowledge it becomes impossible to put everything I might want to write about on my blog. Frustrations with family members go into private journals because clearly there’s a non-zero probability they would find the stuff even if I hid it in someone else’s comment thread 😉 Likewise for writing about dissatisfactions with my own behavior. I tried that in my new, little-known (yet easily found!), Live Journal, but my mom found it and I’ve been subjected to a series of emails denying that I have any of the problems I shared. Probably not going to put that stuff there again.

    So yeah, even someone with as little privacy conciousness as me will hold some things back from this big bullpen with the long memory.

  • 4 joann // Nov 5, 2004 at 10:10 pm

    Hi Julie!
    Too bad I can’t make it to BloggerCon. Would have loved the opportunity to meet you face to face. But you do live in the Pacific NW and I’m just a hop across the border. 🙂 One day, eh?

    So I created a post in answer to your post. Not really an answer, just musings. It was funny, how I happened to pick up a book and …


  • 5 fredshouse.net // Nov 6, 2004 at 12:47 am

    twas the night before bloggercon

    Just taking a random walk through the bloggercon blogroll, hope to meet some of these fine folks manana… The Peking Duck comments on lucky number 8 and the Beijing Olympics. It’s so true…I proposed to my true love on 8/8/88,…

  • 6 djchuang's metablog // Nov 6, 2004 at 4:56 am

    Bloggercon wannabe

    Bloggercon is happening today in the Bay area, other side of the US from me. Wish I could be there. (Tho’ there was JournalCon here in DC this summer, and I couldn’t make it due to scheduling, so it’s not just b/c of geographical proximity). There is a…

  • 7 Jeff Sandquist // Nov 6, 2004 at 9:51 am

    Here’s a new post of mine that ties to the theme of Emotional Side of Blogging.


    Not to the session in particular, but its an empotional post. Pretty much all my blog about lately is personal items especially about the life changing stuff I have going on now.

    Good luck with your session, wish I could have made it.


  • 8 medmusings // Nov 6, 2004 at 5:26 pm

    Bloggercon III Julie Leung Emotional Life

    Julie Leung is leading the session on Emotional Life and had a preview post to initiate discussion… people here: Lisa Williams http://www.cadence90.com/wp/ Susan Mernit http://susanmernit.blogspot.com Frank Tansey http://www.tanesy.net/towel Claude M…

  • 9 Chas Redmond // Nov 7, 2004 at 1:11 pm

    Well, I publish more of a journal than a blog and I do it deliberately because I have ideas, observations, and opinions which I believe are useful to others. I don’t know everyone who reads my journal, I do know some. Knowing some has tempered my comments in certain areas but not changed the thrust of what I say or the topics. I say tempered because one might not want to use certain terms knowing they incite certain frames of mind but one can still say the same thought using a different set of words. And, yes, I’m pretty much surprised by the broad range of strangers who email me (I don’t really support live, interactive comments mostly because of the software I’m using).

    And, I don’t hide that much except the personal data of individuals I might talk about or mention, unless they are already known enough that the personal data is a form of public data. I’m pretty straightforward with my own thoughts and expressing them in the journal. I don’t think anyone who reads any of my postings would get a wrong impression of me.

  • 10 Jo // Nov 9, 2004 at 7:24 pm

    You know, I had an online journal for three years that was password-protected and very anonymous, and in that one I was -quite- free with my personal thoughts. I lived in fear “somebody would read it” when in reality people — strangers — read it every day and felt connected to me and my private thoughts that I didn’t want the people close to me in my real life to read. My current blog is a more public place where I acknowledge anyone could find it and thus it’s… well, boring, really. At least it is to me. I can’t write the things that seemed to resonate with my flock of “anonymous” readers now that I’m a regular human being, for fear of real-life retaliation. It’s a strange trade-off.

  • 11 BloggerCon // Nov 11, 2004 at 3:20 pm

    Summary of the Emotional Life Session at BloggerCon III

    I am still unpacking what happened during the Emotional Life of Weblogs discussion on Saturday.

  • 12 Kathy // Nov 15, 2004 at 10:31 am

    This is all new to me. I read about you in the
    Sun. I am a senior (62) citizen and would like
    to here from other people my age, etc. How do I
    find other blogs?

  • 13 medmusings // Dec 3, 2004 at 11:54 pm

    Bloggercon III Julie Leung Emotional Life

    update: itconversations posts the mp3 of the session Julie Leung is leading the session on Emotional Life and had a preview post to initiate discussion… people here: Lisa Williams http://www.cadence90.com/wp/ Susan Mernit http://susanmernit.blogspot….