Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Once Bitten

I’m a pretty careful blogger. Topics that could get me into hot water with work or family or friends… I stay away from those. I never use full first names (unless someone is a frequent commenter and uses his or her full name to comment with), and I tend to exercise fairly conservative judgment when inserting someone—even offhandedly—into a post (@ always gets a “head’s up” before I write about her). Why? Because the only person’s life I have the rights to (celebrities and public figures aside) is my own.

That’s the way I see it.

Regardless, I screw up from time to time. A few months ago, I wrote about how, after my building supervisor told me that I should “get a boyfriend” to screw a light bulb into a ceiling fixture I could not reach (even with a chair and a few phone books piled up) my ex conveniently stopped by to drop off some remaining odds and ends I had left behind at the condo where he and I had lived together. I, of course, asked him to screw in the light bulb for me, which to say the least, pissed him off something terrible. He eventually conceded, but I was so annoyed about the fact that he had made such a big deal out of a little light bulb, that I wrote about it… specifically, I said that he needed to, “get over it.” And then… I published it on my blog.

Done and done.

Ok, sure. I didn’t smear his good name or make disparaging remarks about his character. It certainly didn’t qualify as libelous. But, our attempt at a friendship after our relationship was rocky—at best—and the last thing I needed to do was start talking shit, no matter how benign, in a public forum. However, it never occurred to me that he might actually read it!

When the next conversation with my ex-boyfriend took place several weeks later about something completely unrelated, the snarky comment I had made was a million miles away from my mind. But, without so much as a warning, our conversation turned ugly; he started yelling at me, telling me he didn’t want me bothering him anymore, for a “number of reasons,” none of which he had any intention of explaining. I was stunned, and then, after he hung up on me mid-sentence, I remembered what I had written. I immediately edited it… erasing it from history, removing my cheap shot forever.

Now, if you ask me about the proverbial “straw” that was our undoing, I will tell you a story about irrational anger directed at a simple request involving a light bulb rather than about somewhat justified anger directed at something I wrote. And... even though I don’t know for sure, I do know better.

A lot of people blog about different things for different reasons. I blog because I love it… so much so that with all those words in the dictionary, I cannot verbally express why or what… that’s how much love I have for this lil’ blog. I welcome—encourage—friends, family, strangers, anyone really, to read what I post. I once told @ that I thought I had about 15 readers (about 5-8 people who comment occassionally + some friends who I know are out there and faithful, even if they choose to remain anonymous). She suggested I enable my site to track the amount of traffic on my blog. That, @, was an excellent idea (you have so many of them)! So I did. As it turns out, 15 was a grossly inaccurate estimation.

Those of us who are willing to “put it out there” in this forum have made a choice (a bold one at that) to be read. We all have phantom readers--readers who don't know you personally and will probably never reveal themselves in the form of a comment, but are loyal and for whatever reason, interested. Maybe they found me by clicking on the “next blog” button in Blogger; maybe they followed a link from a friend’s blog to another friend’s blog to another friend’s blog, etc.; maybe they happened upon my Myspace or Friendster page; or maybe someone passed along my Web address. Six degrees my friends. Have we learned nothing from Kevin Bacon?

Sometimes, it’s odd to think that I’ve revealed so much about myself, said so many things (a few I regret), in this forum to people who are literally virtual strangers. But, when I began this blog, I made that choice to be read. That’s the one—if not the only—truth about blogging… if you’re writing it, somebody’s reading it and, it may not be the audience you initially intended.

I, personally, embrace that.


heidikins said...

I love this. It is so much in line with what I think, and also the reasons I blog. I am kind of paranoid that an X will find my blog at one point, and worse, if he will keep reading it. But, I love it too much to let that stop me. So I keep hoping I'll remain hidden from the X's and try and be nice about most other things, and keep publishing. :)


Lou's Sister said...

A story if you will. My friend, to keep her identity safe I’ll refer to her as Atiek, was thinking about volunteering at this pet adoption agency. She found out about this opportunity from a friend of a friend. This friend of a friend referred Atiek to someone at the pet agency. We’ll call her Izl. Atiek was told that Izl was really cool and young and also, Izl has a blog. So one day, Atiek was bored and decided she’d look for Izl’s blog, even though they had never spoken or met. And she found it! So she read it, and read it, and continued reading it. It admittedly became her obsession. A few weeks passed and she finally spoke to Izl on the phone about opportunity at the pet adoption agency. She was “hired” as a volunteer and they developed a friendship, but Izl never mentioned her blog to Atiek. When Izl told Atiek she had a date one night, Atiek had to pretend she was surprised. When Izl mentioned her family was coming in town for the 4th of July, Atiek asked about her siblings, even though she already knew Izl had a brother who was an attorney living in Boston and a sister in grad school in Raleigh. I don’t really know if there is an ending to this story. Did Izl ever find out that Atiek religiously read her blog? I don’t think so. Is Atiek a crazy stalker? No. Atiek is like the rest of us who enjoy reading blogs. After awhile celebrity gossip gets old and who really wants to spend their free time at work reading the real news? Reading about the life of “regular Joe” is interesting. Look at the popularity of reality TV. We enjoy this because we can identify with a real contestant, bachelorette, singer, model, inventor, comedian, biggest loser, etc. A blog is simply your own personal reality show on paper. Some people read random blogs and some prefer having a connection to the author (6 degrees like Lou said). I personally prefer the 6 degrees (so did Atiek). It’s kind of like when I tell people: “My ex-coworker’s gay partner is Madonna’s cousin. But they’ve never really spoken. When Madonna’s grandmother dies they will all probably meet at the funeral for the first time.” Or, “Do you remember that guy, Mike from The Real World London? Well a friend of mine from middle school, we’ll call her Mya, was friends with his sister back in 1990 when she lived in Saint Louis. Mya and I had a big falling out because Ennyj (another friend) asked out Atp (a guy) to the Saddie Hawkins dance and Mya was in love with him. I took Ennyj’s side. We’re still friends.”