The Watchtower of Destruction: The Ferrett's Journal - My Raison D’Etre: Why I Blog Honestly
February 23rd, 2012
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My Raison D’Etre: Why I Blog Honestly

So my friend Kat blogged today about appearing competent on the Internet.  She, like many, is cautious about what personal details she puts out on the net, because as a semi-public figure she doesn’t want to come across as whiny or idiotic.  As she says, “Here’s the thing about the Internet: it’s public, and it’s permanent….So I behave like I know that people are watching me, and most of the time that’s fine.”

Then she muses upon the things we lose by only blogging about the things that look good.

I don’t blog about the things that look good.

I air my worst aspects simply for the reasons she mentions: if I don’t write honestly about what I’m going through, people will think that they’re alone.  So I go to great pains to exhume some of my worst moments and put them out there for public consumption.

As a chronic depressive, I think it’s important to send the message to my fellow sufferers that yes, you can have this level of crazy pent in your head and still find a way to function.

As a writer, I think it’s important to send the message that even someone at my level of career gets a lot of rejections, and getting here took a lot of ass-in-seat writing.

As a polyamorous married man, I think it’s important to send the message that a lot of married couples deal with jealousy and squabbling and still manage to love each other very much.

These are all noble goals, and yet Kat’s fears are well-known.  Opening veins in public spaces comes with a cost, and that cost is pretty awkward sometimes.

Because writing is a static thing, and you are (I hope) an evolving person.  There are essays I wrote back in 2003 that I’d be embarrassed to admit to today.  I’ve evolved considerably in how I feel about race, about politics, about feminism – and yet the ignorant shit I wrote almost a decade ago is still on the record.

You don’t escape that.  People, by and large, don’t accept that semi-public figures can change their minds.  And so I know people who’ve read an awful essay I wrote five years ago, and think, “What a thoughtless sexist asshole,” and that’s who I am to them now and forever.  There are places where my name is reviled for stances I’d no longer take, and in many cases have actively backed off from.  People have actively tried to talk my girlfriends out of dating me, because they know what a jerk I am – they know this from a handful of essays they’ve read, but that’s enough to know I’m toxic enough that anyone who dates me must have no self-respect.

Which is fine.  But that’s what happens.  Write once, read forever.

For every person who gets what I’m trying to do, there are an equal number of people who have written me off as a drama queen.  They see my blog as a way of screaming for attention, rather than as a method of sharing.  And for every nice comment I get, there are the links I stumble across where people I’ve never met discuss their mutual loathing of me.

And then there are the days where people have gotten so used to me discussing my feelings in a public space that they forget that this is a very scary thing to do, and I’ll post something somewhere, and a long debate will break out on the intimate details of my personal life – as if my life were a football game.  That’s always a little unsettling.

Then there’s the cost of dating.  Being with me means being in the public circle.  Some of my lovers want more time on-stage, some want less time on-stage, and all of them want to be presented in the way they deem ideal… so The Blog is always an issue in relationships, a quiet thing to be constantly negotiated.

This is not to say that I haven’t done some good.  But the danger of talking about yourself as though you haven’t got your shit entirely together is that many will see you as a walking train wreck.  One post can cause years of trouble.  Some people never forgive for one post… Even if that post was written badly on a stressful day and you didn’t say what you meant.

I blog openly because I believe being honest about my inner turmoil makes it easier for people to see that even quote-unquote “successful” people can still have issues, and work past them.  Otherwise, all you see are the results, and you come to think that the people Up There can’t possibly have anything in common with you.  (Not that I’m a huge celebrity, but I’ve had some accomplishments.)

Most days, I’ll stand behind that approach.  But some days, if I’d known what would be involved, I might not have gone down this path.

It’s a performance that I can no longer step away from.  This blog and I are me, and if I deleted my public presence, there would still be forum threads in spaces going, “What the hell did that attention-seeking idiot do now?  I guess he’s trying to make people feel sorry for him.”

I deal.  It’s not for everyone.

In fact, I think it’s not for most.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/193752.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.

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(31 shouts of denial | Tell me I'm full of it)

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From:aiela
Date:February 23rd, 2012 04:08 pm (UTC)
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One thing I have noticed in a specific group of people online that I hang out with, is that lots of them have changed opinions of you over the last few years, so I think people CAN realize that people change.

However, there are still people in that group that want to judge me now on how I behaved in 1998, so there are always going to be people who cannot fathom that someone might, I dunno, grow up.
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From:mariadkins
Date:February 23rd, 2012 08:33 pm (UTC)
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my mother and my ex-mother-in-law fall into that second category.
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From:jeffpalmatier
Date:February 24th, 2012 02:15 am (UTC)
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I wonder sometimes if people do that because of their own insecurities; that they realize on some level that you have indeed grown up and they are intimidated by how much more formidable you are now.
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From:mariadkins
Date:February 24th, 2012 02:18 am (UTC)
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it's very possible.
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From:jfargo
Date:February 27th, 2012 04:51 am (UTC)
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This is pretty much exactly what I was going to say on both counts.
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From:daphne24
Date:February 23rd, 2012 04:14 pm (UTC)
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Your statement of how your blogging affects relationships reminded me of something Neil Simon wrote once. He said one of his wives once asked him not to put her in any of his plays. At first glance, this doesn't seem like a big deal to me. But it didn't take much thought to realize how difficult this would have been for him and what a wedge that request likely drove between them.

So there you go - you're not the only writer to experience that :)
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From:fallconsmate
Date:February 23rd, 2012 04:19 pm (UTC)
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It's not for everyone, no. I open myself up in comments on others' posts, but my own journal is locked except to the people I choose to let see everything. No one wants to see plumbing issues, hee!

And it is hard...depression, emotional abuse, jealousy, rejection, divorce, deaths of loved ones, those are hard to share. Plus crappy poetry. Or descriptions of nightmares. Or right-out-whining. Those are hard, baring your soul.

But I'm glad you choose to.
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From:stormdog
Date:February 23rd, 2012 04:54 pm (UTC)
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Since getting laid off from my corporate IT/help desk job and going back to school full time, I have chosen to be open in Facebook and Google Plus (I have been for a long time in LJ, but it's not associated with my real name) about being bisexual, polyamorous, and whatever else may come up in talking about my life.

On the last couple of national coming out days, I likened both to being out of the closet about being gay. I know there are a lot of people who are in a situation where they feel that they can't. But since I am in a situation where I can be open about those things, I feel an important responsibility to do so. I want people who read what I write who may not be familiar with people in those subcultures to realize that they really aren't so different from everybody else.

I'm not sure how this will affect future employment opportunity. Of course, to be quite honest, I'm not sure how my chosen degree will affect employment opportunity. For what it's worth, when I explained to one professor that the women I've talked about are two different people, and expressed hope that polyamory wouldn't weird her out, her response was "Polyamory? Oh, no. Do you know Cunning Minx?"
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From:roniliquidity
Date:February 23rd, 2012 05:05 pm (UTC)
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Even the people that are capable of realizing you have changed may not know you have changed. When they read an old post unless you have put a disclaimer in there, it's more likely you still hold the same ideas than have changed them drastically. Consistently reading someone you find objectionable to see if you still find them objectionable is an impossible standard to maintain, you'd have to do your research to see that they post enough that adding disclaimers is completely impractical. Even as I recognize your views have changed considerably since we worked together, I'm not entirely how they've changes or what your views are now until it's something you specifically address.

Also how many people actually understand your views in the first place? Most people grab a couple of data points, fill in the blanks with their own experience and decide that's how you feel with varying degrees of accuracy. That can vary widely from your actual views. Then, if your views change, they might not see it if theirs don't. You're a complicated guy given that the "real story" lies somewhere between how you feel, how you present yourself, and how you deliberately alter that presentation. That further obscured by your being very open about how depression throws a fourth variable in there that can change from day to day. Or to put it another way, it's not even a matter of if they can see you sharing vs see you screaming for attention. Some days you share that you're perfectly aware that today you are screaming for attention.
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From:erratio
Date:February 23rd, 2012 05:10 pm (UTC)
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Part of me wonders whether part of the reason you chose the more open route while Kat chose the less open route is related to the way each gender tends to get treated when they show vulnerability.
From:simulated_knave
Date:February 24th, 2012 06:24 am (UTC)
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This begs to be explained further.
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From:heldc
Date:February 25th, 2012 08:28 am (UTC)
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This.
From:tweentheeyes
Date:February 23rd, 2012 05:27 pm (UTC)
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I really enjoy how open and vulnerable you are in your entries, for what it's worth. You don't come off as attention seeking--just honest, and like you're hoping it gives hope to a reader who needs it.
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From:jeffpalmatier
Date:February 23rd, 2012 05:56 pm (UTC)
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Some people never forgive for one post… Even if that post was written badly on a stressful day and you didn’t say what you meant.

On one hand, those sort of people don't count . . . unless they have power over you, like in a professional context. I don't care about unforgiving and judgmental people. However, I have come to learn that in some situations, those very same people have the power to really stick it to you, so I'm more cautious about what I say or do in some situations.
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From:xiphias
Date:February 23rd, 2012 06:23 pm (UTC)
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I blog about the bad stuff mainly to make sure to have a record of stuff to talk to my shrink about.

But I friends-lock it.

On the other hand, my friends list is several hundred people, most of whom I don't know personally.
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From:xiphias
Date:February 23rd, 2012 06:29 pm (UTC)
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Also, the trick to being forgiven for one badly-written post is to apologize well. It's a skill I've learned over the, oh God, twenty years I've been online, since I first got a Usenet account.

The steps are as follows:
1. Work to genuinely understand what you did wrong.
2. Understand, accept, and believe that what you did was wrong.
3. Post publicly explaining what you did, why it was wrong, and that you accept and believe that it was wrong.
4. Explain what you are going to do to make sure that you don't do it again.
5. Don't do it again.

I do exactly as many horrible, offensive, embarrassing things as all the people who you hate most on the Internet. The difference is that I only do each one ONCE. It's the same number of THINGS, but not the same number of INSTANCES.

And I use the five-step apology whenever I do it.

Note that, if I DON'T believe it's wrong, I CAN'T apologize. I am unable to do a "I'm sorry if your feelings got hurt," or, even worse, "I'm sorry, but . . ." Those aren't apologies, and such fake apologies make people look even worse than if they didn't do anything.

Edited at 2012-02-23 06:30 pm (UTC)
From:anonymousalex
Date:February 23rd, 2012 07:12 pm (UTC)
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You are wise beyond your years. Yet it still seems to me that there is a place for something like "I don't (yet) understand what was wrong about what I did, but it was not my intention to hurt you by doing it. While I am looking into this, I do not want my education to delay apologizing for that unintentional harm, so for that I am sorry."

In the abstract, this is difficult, but given an example I'm sure I could word it less awkwardly. In any case, I don't feel this is a fake apology (if said sincerely, of course).

-Alex
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From:roniliquidity
Date:February 23rd, 2012 07:16 pm (UTC)
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I agree that's a reasonable addendum as long as it's genuine. I really want to post this comment thread far and wide.
From:anonymousalex
Date:February 23rd, 2012 07:17 pm (UTC)
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We can call it the xiphias protocol!

-Alex
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From:roniliquidity
Date:February 23rd, 2012 07:15 pm (UTC)
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It's amazing how many people don't know how to do that in real life, let alone online.
From:anonymousalex
Date:February 23rd, 2012 07:15 pm (UTC)
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You are braver (or more reckless?) than most.

However, it seems to me that anyone who reads more than a small fraction of your writing here should quickly gain the impression that you are genuinely open to correcting your positions. Which should blunt any impression that you're locked into a bad position. But maybe that's just me.

-Alex
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From:smallekins
Date:February 23rd, 2012 09:54 pm (UTC)
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I'm very grateful you have chosen the path that you are on, and a great many of us love you just the way you are. Terribly Quirky Ferrett, warts and all. <3
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From:roaming
Date:February 23rd, 2012 10:29 pm (UTC)
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Exactly. (clicking "like very much" button on this comment)(also clicking "adore" button on the icon)
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From:smallekins
Date:February 24th, 2012 04:19 pm (UTC)
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Thank you. My icon is one of my Schipperkes, and her name is Licorice. It was taken on our family farm. At that moment she was staring at some cows, which she wanted to chase in the worst way!
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From:roaming
Date:February 23rd, 2012 10:28 pm (UTC)
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I'm glad you do it. I find it inspiring. Inspiring for what I'm not sure I can articulate -- maybe for an ideal way to live honestly -- since I'm not a writer and my life isn't so interesting nor am I so lonely that I feel the need to put it out there/here/wherever. (In fact most days the stunning boringness of it makes me NOT want to confess to it. Let people think I'm just waaaay too busy having fun to have time to post. heh.)

Anyway, just by way of saying "Thank You" for being you and doing it this way. No matter what you post, I always feel better for having read you.
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From:sparkfrost
Date:February 23rd, 2012 11:05 pm (UTC)
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I enjoy your openness, partly because it is helpful to read about how someone else handles their depression, and partly because I simply enjoy your writing. So there's that.
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From:miintikwa
Date:February 24th, 2012 12:58 am (UTC)
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I had a huge falling out with someone nearly ten years ago now. (Yes, you know them. I am pretty sure we've discussed it.)

It had a massive impact on how I saw myself, how I blogged, and how I policed myself. (Thoughts and posts.) I have changed a LOT, and part of it is because I realized I wasn't the person I wanted to be. Online or off.

I am grateful for the lesson, even while I'm sad that it involved someone that I cared about being hurt.

I am also kind of aghast that there are people out there who think that I'm the person that I was, then. Or that I am the person that I was portrayed as, then. I don't think anyone can fully portray themselves online. I try to blog honestly. It's definitely not easy. Some days I'm more "honest" than others. But in the end, I'm an evolving person-- and I hope that everyone online is. People who don't change scare me.
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From:cyan_blue
Date:February 24th, 2012 03:42 am (UTC)
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I think that the more that people share their struggles, the more others feel confident in doing so.

Studies have shown that people resonate most with those who are clearly competent but let an occasional foible show, rather than with those who present an impossibly perfect veneer.

I think that one can keep one's respectableness while posting about one's negative aspects if one avoids drama while doing so.

"I sometimes am prone to jealousy in my poly relationships, and here's how I am working to handle it" - cool post.

"OMG my primary is out on a date right now with some bitch who batted her eyes at him during OUR date night out at the social gathering" - not so much.
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From:heldc
Date:February 25th, 2012 08:33 am (UTC)
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There are things I did 12 years ago (holy fucking hell, that's nearly half my life. The fuck is up with THAT‽) that I have never admitted online as myself, and don't think I ever will, tho maybe someday I'll get to a place where I can. These things definitely still need processing and dealing with, but when I can't even bring myself to talk about them, I dunno how processing is going to happen.

There are things inside my head that will never ever cross my lips because they are not allowed to exist outside my head (two can keep a secret if one of them is dead, etc). So many people I know get on to me about the kind of things I say online, because I censor very little. They don't get that comparatively, what I am willing to put out there is nothing.

I dunno, it's late and I'm kinda rambley and just catching up on LJ.
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From:shipofools999
Date:May 11th, 2012 05:50 am (UTC)
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Personally, I am delighted that you write the way you do. As a writer, you are able to put into words things that I and friends of mine experience as well. Sometimes it is a lesson that is useful to not have to learn by personal experience, sometimes it is a framework for things to think about/debate, sometimes it is just knowing that someone else has similar problems and they make it through them, sometimes it is entertainment. I wouldn't have kept reading your blog for the years that I have if you only showed the "good" side. The first thing of yours I read was how a spot on the ceiling looked like a spider and that kept you alive till the next morning. I still have it tagged in my memories and it still resonates. You have lots of ideas and insights that match the way I think.

I don't think I mind showing my dirty petticoats either. When I have been pondering things, that is when they get written up. Usually life is rather negative at that point. But I am not a public persona. My blog is not attached to my legal name so I don't have to worry about strangers with my fate in their hands (like future employers) judging who I am from the little slide that shows up on my blog.

Thank you for writing what you do. I find you very respectful and kind with a good sense of boundaries. I am sorry when you get slapped for it and feel bad. At times like those, I want to stand between you and that person and tell them to take their eyeballs and judgments elsewhere since they don't appreciate what you offering.
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From:theferrett
Date:May 11th, 2012 04:15 pm (UTC)
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Awww. Thank you.
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