Thursday, January 05, 2006

another irate customer

It is inevitable, as I invite people to read my blog and hope they're entertained enough to come back and read some more, that this little corner of Web space should cease to be my own. Sharing is, after all, giving away a piece of what's mine.

For the most part the blog has overflowed with unexpected benefits: My boss and some co-workers read, which may help make the case for my own column in our quarterly magazine. Some of my oldest friends read, which lets me keep in touch over long distances without bringing The Dreaded Telephone Machine into play. My immediate family reads, which has fostered a level of understanding between my mother and me that did not translate through the Language of Fighting in the first 30 years of my life. And as for the rest of my friends and relatives, I hope they derive some pleasure from my musings, come to know me better -- no small feat, I'm told -- and perhaps, as a result, find me a little less scary, standoffish and/or strange.

The unfortunate flipside to all these pros is that what started as an uninhibited catharsis has evolved into an exercise in self-censorship. My mother gets upset if she feels I've crossed a line. (Though that could be a simple misunderstanding based on careless reading.) My Grandma doesn't use the Web, but someone else in my family gets his knickers in a twist over a few stories I've told about her. (And to think, I was holding back.) I obviously can't write about work, not that I would anyway -- I think we all know where that road leads. I second-guess every post that covers weight, religion or lifestyle choices for fear that I'll offend a friend or, worse yet, destroy a friendship. Basically I'm no longer free to say what I really think about anyone or anything. Even though I sometimes say it anyway.

I cannot, for example, rant about religious hypocrisy or cheapness or wastefulness or boob jobs, bypass surgery, infidelity, ostentatious weddings, extravagant gift registries, children I can't stand or spouses I despise in enough detail that the subject of my discourse -- if there even is one, sometimes I'm just generalizing -- might get a clue he or she is on display. I am, however, welcome to describe any scenario that flatters the mind, body or soul of those in my family and their extended circle of friends. Be honest; be funny; but for God's sake, don't ruffle any feathers.

To some -- like those who aren't that close to me -- I say if you don't like it, don't read it. I'm opinionated and I use real-life examples to back up my claims. It's just sound journalism. And except for a few recurring characters I'm not naming names. But things get a little more dicey with the people I care about. The last thing I want is to hurt them, even if they are being hypersensitive. I once read an interview with a celebrity whose mother used to shame her for being a timid child: "Why do you shy away from people? Do you really think they're that interested in you? Don't be so arrogant." It sounded like the most awful thing in the world when I read it, but it's sort of the point I'm trying to make: I don't think anyone is arrogant for taking my opinions personally, but they should bear in mind that what I write on this blog, it's not really about anyone but me, what I think, what I feel. I'm not going to drag the skeletons from anybody's closet or ruin anyone's life (except maybe my own). Nor will I tiptoe around every topic that has the potential to start a little fire. That would be dishonest, and incredibly dull.

So yeah, I've got some of juicy stuff I'm not sharing. I'll just have to save it for another time, another audience, another, more anonymous blog. Which is fine with me; The Internet is a big place, with plenty of room for everyone. And most of my opinions, too.

If you're tempted to point out my hypocrisy, don't bother. I wear it on my sleeve.


industry whore said...

i feel you. this is why i've never told anyone about my blog, and have no plans to.

Washington Cube said...

Welcome to my world. Many is the time I want to express something and have to hold back because of my immediate readership of friends and family. I am constantly weighing what to talk about, and some of my best stories involve these people since they are closest to me. It's a fine line to walk, and I have no obvious solutions beyond 1) say it anyway (which I won't do; or 2) don't write at all (which I don't want to give up) or 3) what I'm doing now: self-censorship.

Velvet said...

Preach it sister. I totally agree. I think your answer is "secret blog."

Barbara said...

I find myself keeping my fingers crossed that the potential offendee (which is usually my husband) doesn't read the ones where he might take offense. The one time he did and told me, I found myself saying, "If I had to choose between you and my Blog, you would win." But did I really mean that? Fortunately we worked it out with some anonymously exchanged comments and he basically ignores my Blog. Phew! I just wonder sometimes at how much more interesting all of our Blogs would be if we really could tell everything we would like to tell. And unfortunately as our readerships grow, the need for censoring only increases. It is a real dilemma. This is how you get watered down journalism, which then loses all intrigue whatsoever. I think you have identified the single biggest downside to Blogging. There are days when I long for a steady stream of 0 comments. Some of those were my best posts...

Reya Mellicker said...

Because the blogosphere is such a free space, since we are not constrained by blog laws, rules and regulations, we're so lucky! We actually get to practice discernment. I see the choices I make about what to blog about as so much more than self censorship. For me it's incredibly empowering to make these decisions, to actually have to THINK because there is no blog instruction booklet explaining how it should be done.

Danielle, as you know, I think this particular post packs a serious whammy. It's making me think further about this art form, what it's for, who it's for, why I do it.

You and Cube have kicked my butt into gear (inadvertently of course). Where is my blog going? Cube made me think about that. How forthright can I be? Should I be? What is ethical?


Anonymous said...

Well. I don't have to have a ton of bricks fall on my head. I get what's going on here. Remember, just because I'm paranoid doesn't mean you're not out to get me.

You say this blog thingy is all about you? What about my needs? Don't I have any rights in all of this? And what about airline food? What's up with that? No wonder low cost airlines don't work -- no pot roast.

And don't think I don't know you're trying to distract me with all this business about airlines. What in heaven's name does that have to do with your purported self censorship? Do you ever even write your blog on a plane? Or in a car? Or on a box? I do not like this, not even with lox.

I know who Ted Geisel is, thank you very much, and I know he was born not long after the Wright Brothers' maiden voyage. Which, I don't need to be told, brings us right back to you and your apparent inability to distinguish between America's failing airline industry and self censorship. What's the connection? It's obvious! Don't play coy with me. Ever heard of Socrates? Plato? Aristotle? Morons!

Freedom of speech is accompanied by the freedom to hear. And the freedom not to speak is thus accompanied by the freedom *not* to hear. Are you with me yet? I'm talking about, as if you didn't know, the mixing of're operating in the commercial syndrome but you're self imposing guardian syndrome mores on yourself. That won't work. So long as you deprive yourself of the right to write, you're depriving your readers of their right not to hear. Which is exactly the same as choosing not to fly which in turn leads to others not knowing when you're arriving.

Are we on the same page now? No write = no read; no fly = no arrive. No pot roast = no low cost airlines. I can't make the diagram any simpler, can I? Don't taunt me. Let me try another schematic:

You write not because of your audience, but because you need to fly. If you forget that, you risk not just the pot roast, you risk yourself.

Nick, Jarrod! Fire in the barn!

Kristin said...

Well said. The post, the comments, everything. I would add my thoughts, but frankly, they are so well covered here that I would be redundant.

Anonymous said...

Dear Danielle, How about finding a middle ground; don't censor yourself, but use a light touch (think Chaucer)-- gentle poking (as opposed to stabbing. Best, Sh

Spencer said...

It makes me think of those shock jocks that mine their personal lives for material. How do their wives, lovers, siblings, etc. feel when they hear about their problems in the bed or that mean case of foot fungus on the air? It is a sacrifice as you say - you have to give up part of yourself for others to benefit.

Since day one on my blog there are certain things that I try not to include - gripes about my employers, coworkers, and my friends and relatives. After that - if you choose to read my blog, you have to deal with it. My rants on politics; my music snobbishness, my disdain for Pat Robertson, etc.

I think your life is the source of your material; a springboard. If you have to leave it out it's a huge compromise.

'Mazing Amy said...

Found you through amalah and LOVE your blog! Have a great weekend!

Betty said...

A friend's roommate read what I wrote about her and banned me from their apartment. She is also moving out and refuses to speak to my friend. Fuck, sometimes I have to change huge details if I want to write about someone.

JOYS said...

I admire your honesty and candor but I am so envious of the way you can string those all those words together. Ditto kristin.

Vixen said...

Secret blogs rock! I actually have 4 blogs for a reason, and i think that one can never be enough. If you want to write, and don't want to keep getting hate mail and such, you can also do what Iris on lostlush does. She closed her comments section permanently, and also doesn't have a contact email listed. This removes her dimension of the third wall and makes her free to write whatever she feels like.

If writing helps you emotionally....write away. Don't make your blog about your IS about you. Once you start catering to what everyone thinks, then you destroy the beauty and creativity of having a one place to vent, rant and rail away. Don't do that.

I hope you don't close this blog down...and if you do, send me the link to the new and improved blog:)

gina said...

I censor myself too. But then, I'd probably stay away from the really personal things even friends weren't reading it.

the deal said...

Keep on truckin'. People should lighten up! it just me, or are these word verifications becoming longer and more jammed together? I swear mine looks like a wiener dog.

Claire said...

It's an interesting dilemma. After a few people had been commenting on my blog regularly and I'd been reading/commenting on theirs, I started to care what they might think if I wrote certain things which, in my mind, defeats the point of blogging. I'm still working out what that means for me and my blog.

Chairborne Stranger said...

well i know there's a lot of stuff i want to blog about but it is just not possible-folks i work with, and the army just won't allow it. and sometimes it's hard to write some of the stuff when my friends and family read.

Gordon said...

You must not be silenced - speak out against ostentatious weddings and extravagant gift registries!

...oh not sure where that come from, maybe past experience of speaking out against ostentatious weddings and extravagant gift registries.

But anyway, you can't please all of the people all of the time and who has time to try.

Kayla said...

The important thing to remember is that this is YOUR space. Sometimes honesty is painful to the person reading it, but, hell - you are FEELING it... so write it. So much of our lives are spent telling people what they WANT to hear and not the truth. Now post something nice about me. ;)

playfulinnc said...

Did I tell you that my boss found my blog (hell, went on a search for it), and now I feel strong enough to ask her to stop reading.

If she's reading to get to know me better, she has my damn cell phone and email. I love to chat on the phone.

I am trying to be more of a front door galp-meaning, not saying anything on my blog that directly points to someone when I haven't had the guts to talk to them about it first. Is that self censoring? Maybe. But, I hate being called passive agressive, and want to keep my communication with the live ppl in my live just that-live.

Write what you want, cutie. But, in the end, if you tell ppl about your blog, it puts some roadblocks in it for you. That is why my family is banned from reading. Hell, we talk enough on the phone...what more could they want?

We're all with ya on this one!

Phil said...

You should read about the exchange my mother & I had over the dangers of "The Google" as it related to my site.

It is in the 'categories' section in my sidebar, if you are so inclined.

ejtakeslife said...

To echo both your well-written post and all these thoughtful comments, "PREACH." I know exactly the dilemna you speak of, and have both deleted things off my site to avoid offending other and left them up only to further hurt people I care about.

If I can offer a bit of unsolicited advice, secret blogs are fantastic for venting about the emotional stuff. However, anything having to do with your livelihood is best kept to old-fashioned, non-Googlable pen and paper. I used to keep a "secret blog" where I bitched about my job, and while I never got caught, I still kick myself for being so foolish as to presume I'd be undiscovered forever.