Monday, April 26, 2010

META Blog: Reflections on life in a blogcentric society

Here's to an atypical blog post this week.

I pose the following open-ended questions to my readers: What should be the function of a personal blog? How personal is too personal? Is it dishonest, as a blogger, to provide only the most superficial of windows into one's daily life?

I bring this up because of a recent complaint that my blog is disingenuously full of positive things, even when the truth is that the past few months have been a pretty trying time, emotionally, for me...and that (this, in a moment of projected psychoanalysis on the part of my critic, who shall remain anonymous) my blog has caused me to unnaturally stress myself out with a need to prove that I'm living life to the fullest.

So. I'd like to address that here, because I think it was a valid comment, and it's a fascinating opportunity to explore the psychology of blogging. First of all: regardless of what I'm trying or not trying to prove to my readers, the primary function of my blog, for my own purposes, is...stress relief! When life gets crazy and out of control and feels too much like I'm moving numbly through the daily grind, getting to meditate aloud in my blog on the positive adventures in my life gives me a sense of calm, happy clarity amidst the storm. It allows the joy of an all-day hike in the mountains to continue bringing me joy long after the hike itself is over. It gives me tangible evidence from the past few months that despite working way too much, I am still human!

Sure, there are plenty of more "personal" topics I'd love to write about in public space...but everything must be weighed against a sense of protection for the emotional privacy of those close to me, as well as gauging the appropriateness of revealing anything, given the completely open nature of the internet. I may have grown up in a generation of fearless, internet-savvy kids with a false sense of privacy about blogging (who was around to read my old Xanga?), but I no longer pretend that I can ignore the notion of an audience.

I write pretty much every one of my blog posts with, at the very minimum, the following POTENTIAL readers in mind: my parents, my grandmother, students I tutor, my own past teachers and professors, current work supervisors/managers/bosses (who've been known to peruse my blog using airport wi-fi on their way to Hawaii...hi Michael!), potential future employers, babysitting charges from my past, random strangers, close friends, acquaintances, OutdoorsNW readers, exes, people who may or may not have given me a t-shirt in high school with the phrase "Life is full of rainbows!" to make a statement about my sometimes obnoxious tendency to be overly optimistic in all situations...

GoogleAnalytics tells me that I have readers in Italy, Ecuador, Switzerland, Luxembourg, China (hi Daniel!), Australia, and the United Arab Emirates, among other places. I have the most readers in Washington state, followed by New York, followed by Ohio...It's strange to think that I don't even know who reads each entry; it literally could be anybody.

Frankly, anything written with an audience in mind is not going to be a 100% objective, honest account - not the way my personal journal is (and who can say if that, even, is "objective"? I'm aware that I frequently go back and read old journal entries, so perhaps even my own private journal is written for the audience of my future self...hmm.) It's part of the aggravating nature of social networking sites, blogs's personal information, written for someone else's consumption. Even the statement "I don't care what people think of me", so ubiquitous in Facebook profile About Me sections, is inherently false - if you truly didn't care, you wouldn't need to assert so.

But enough rambling. Here's the bottom line: I don't want this blog to feel "disingenuous" to its readers. If it does, it does a disservice to life and the nature of experience altogether. Life *is* messy, and I acknowledge that. I don't claim, at all, that my blog reflects an accurate and balanced account of my life. If you're interested in the messier parts, there's this old-fashioned thing called talking that I'd be happy to do with you! But for the big, wide world?

Rainbows it is :)


  1. I've never found your posts to be disingenuous, Yitka. It's been fun following your descriptions of starting a new life in a new city, with all the challenges and ups and downs that involves. I never saw any kind of "Pollyanna" glossing over of your life. As you say, putting information on the worldwide web, has to be done carefully to protect yourself, your family and your friends. It seems to me you've managed to be honest and sincere, while sharing experiences both good and bad with readers. If most of your blogs happen to be upbeat and optimistic, I'm not sure why that would be a bad thing. If I want depressing and hostile I can find any number of political blogs that will provide an abundance of negativity. I thoroughly enjoy your writing.

  2. Hey Yitka!

    I think I am probably your reader in Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates :) (I was working in Dubai for 5 months)

    I came across your blog one day on facebook and now read it periodically. I love it! If you ever make it back to Switzerland, let me know!

    xx Helen