There comes a point in the life of blog where the initial excitement wears a bit thin and you start to think about what it means to actually send your thoughts out into the world all on their own, where the ‘Yay! People are reading my blog!’ turns into a ‘Bugger, people are actually reading my blog.’
When you’re sat at home by yourself with nothing but a laptop, a selection of bad nineties music and a packet of bourbons for company, you forget sometimes that a world exists outside the front door. You forget that the words you write are potentially going to be read by thousands of people. Ok, maybe hundreds. Or tens at least.
For some people, it’s the thought of strangers reading that is uncomfortable, the idea that someone you’ve never met, on the other side of the world, gets to peek into your mind and learn all sorts of things about the way you think.
For me it’s more the people I know. The collection of family, friends, colleagues, boyfriends, ex-boyfriends, boyfriend’s ex-girlfriends, ex-boyfriends’ girlfriends… I know I have at least one of each among my readers…
Normally, we can maintain very different personas with the different groups of people in our lives – we share intimacies with our close friends, maintain awkward friendships with ex’s, strive for that ever elusive air of professionalism at work – yet here we are on a completely level playing field, with me sharing exactly the same thoughts with everyone. Some people have known me for years, seen me naked, seen me cry, would do anything for me. Others wouldn’t even speak to me, don’t even like me that much. That’s far stranger to me than the strangers.
I do of course keep a lot of myself back, but is the stuff I do share too much? In my last job, whenever I was about to interview a potential new employee, the first thing I would do would be to google them. (Is this legal?? I’m not sure, but I reckon everyone does it…) Nobody ever had anything terribly saucy or scandalous come up, but I wonder what a prospective employee would think if they googled me and found my blog? I don’t say anything awful, but there is probably a reason you don’t mention getting fingered by a nurse on your CV. ‘Jo Middleton is a highly effective fundraiser, with many years experience of working in the voluntary sector. And she is a lazy slut.’ Eye catching maybe, but possibly not what someone looks for in a personal statement.
“I feel at a disadvantage sometimes by having you read my blog,” I said to New Boyfriend this morning, “like I should have access to some sort of archive of personal information about you too.”
“Yeah?” he replied, “But I haven’t really learnt anything about you though from reading it.”
Hmmm… is that comforting or is he just not paying attention? It’s true of course that my blog persona is a more extreme version of myself. Bee finds it quite annoying sometimes. “But you never really drink gin in the actual daytime,” she complains. No, I don’t really. Not before at least 4pm. It’s not that I lie, just that I pick and choose what I say to fit the character, just as we do in different situations every day. So maybe New Boyfriend is right, maybe my blog doesn’t tell you much about me at all.
But then I think it does to people who know me well. Sometimes friends will phone or email me to ask if I’m alright. “You’ve seemed sad lately in your blog,” they say. Often I haven’t realised it myself until someone reads my posts and tells me. I like that bit of it. It’s like sending a message in code that only the special people will understand. Sometimes I find it difficult to talk out loud about the things that matter to me. When I write though, it is easy, the words pour out. No surprise then that in a lot of my relationships with men, words have played a huge role – letters, emails, msn, texts – I always feel more confident in my thoughts when I see them written down.
“So do I sound like me on my blog?” I asked New Boyfriend.
“No,” he answers decisively, “although maybe a little bit more as I get to know you.”
Which is real though? If the words I write are straight from my head, are they a more accurate representation of who I am, or is me, in the flesh, thinking more but talking less, the real me?
Perhaps I have already said too much.
It is not easy to find the balance between giving enough to keep readers interested and giving too much and revealing more than intended. I think that you have a good happy medium and enjoy the sneak peeks into the life of Jo.
I think you just have to go with your gut don’t you? Sometimes I write things and as soon as I press publish it feels wrong and I delete it again. Other times I get hardly any reaction and know I haven’t really put enough of myself in. Just practice I guess…
Interesting. I must ask my SIL, who regularly reads my blog, if she thinks my writing is representative of my personality in real life… I think I’m nicer on my blog :)
I think I’m generally much funnier and more interesting on paper. I don’t like using the phone either – it’s too instant, it doesn’t give me enough time to think of clever things to say :-)
*cue people who DO know me saying reassuring things about how fascinating I am in real life*
Wow. I loved this post because:
A. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen your blog.
B. I’m now going to be one of your tens of readers.
C. Your writing is awesome.
And oversharing is why we totally read blogs. Except a friend of mine told me how she googled and interview candidate and found how she hadn’t written on her blog about how bad she was in bed. And it’s kind of hard to seriously interview someone when that’s a fact staring you in the face.
Thank you Fadra, and thanks for the tweet – I am excited now about having new readers. I will have to do my best to be highly amusing for the next few posts at least.
God though, I would NEVER write on my blog about being bad in bed. Really, that’s not great advertising is it??
Oh and I just realized how poorly written my comment was (grammatically speaking) but you got the idea.
And the whole bad in bed thing? Yeah, your blog is where you can embellish your life. If you’re going to talk about it, rave about how fabulous you are. It might even help you get a job ;)
Haha, I fugured out what you meant. After reading it a few times anyway…
Well quite. It is a fact that I am AMAZING in bed. I can make a grown man CRY. *embellishes*
We are all a work in progress and reveal different parts/versions of ourselves depending upon the situation.
I love that you raise the issue of fairness with regard to access to history. I’ve got a lurker on my blog with whom I am not friends. She would likely deny visiting, but she comes nearly daily. I no longer know about her, nor do I care to, but truth be told, rankles the hell out of me that she comes back.
Now who has talked too much?
It’s a tricky one isn’t it? I know I do have lurkers from time to time, and sometimes I get comments that I have to spam, but I’m not techy enough to really keep tabs. To be honest, I don’t care enough either. It’s weird though isn’t it to think there are people reading your blog who DO care that much? Life is really too short to spend too much time reading about someone else’s…
Wow. What an excellent post. I always thought that I am who I am in my posts, that is until my friends started reading the posts. Then I discovered that they disagreed. I guess it comes down to this: the perception that others have of you vs. the perception that you have about yourself.
Exactly! That whole ‘perception of myself vs the perception other people have of me’ thing has always fascinated me. I can remember being at school and wishing I could do some kind of data gathering exercise, just so I could know what, if anything, people actually thought about me.
That is possibly sharing too much, it sounds a little odd when I write it down. It probably means I’m terribly insecure, with no self-esteem. I do think it less now than when I was in school. *digs deeper hole*
I’m pretty much the same IRL as on my blog, although I find that I hold back a lot of my true feelings about things because I’m aware that certain people will read it and take offense. I almost wish my blog was anonymous because I’m sure I would go crazy on some people I know.
I was thinking about the idea of being anonymous as I was writing the post, but to be honest I think I’m too much of an attention seeker for that :-)
I do keep things back sometimes so as not to hurt people, or not write about people I know would rather I didn’t. When in doubt I would usually not write something I thought had the potential to have repercussions.
Got here through @allthingsfadra’s RT and LOVED this. Get outta my head!
Hello and welcome! Glad you liked it, please come back again :-)
Once again, @allthingsfadra has led me to a wonderful blog! I love your writing, and I look forward to reading more and contributing. The questions you raised are ones those of us who write wonder. Or maybe it’s just the two of us questioning ourselves? Whatever the case, I think the exercise of writing allows me to discover more about me and anyone who cares to read about that is welcome.
Thank you :-)
Let’s hope it’s not just us! I think it must be something everyone wonders, probably whether they right or not – it’s like Kellyology said isn’t it, it’s about the perception of ourselves and how other people intepret that. I think you’re right that it has to be about personal discovery – if that doesn’t sound too corny – and I guess it’s good to share that sometimes.
But who are you anyway? And how do we know? What is a man, or woman… or blogger? I’ve no idea who I am. That’s what makes life interesting.
You know who I am! You’ve met me! I was the lady with the balloons.
Oh, hang on, that’s not what you meant…
You’re right though of course, there isn’t one ultimate ‘me’ is there? Just fun trying to find out.
Fantastic blog post Jo, you should definitely pitch this one!
Personally, I find it incredibly reassuring to read about the intimate details of people’s lives and discover that it’s not just me who’s lazy / untidy / tempted to drink gin before the yard arm, so for me your blog hits exactly the right tone. And clearly you’re connecting with people – look at how many comments you get, not to mention the MAD award.
But then again, you have to feel comfortable with how much you share, and that’s a decision each person has to make for themselves. I’m pretty happy to be open – I announced my divorce to the world through mine – but then I’m open in real life too.
Having met you online first and in real life second, I’d say you’re pretty similar in both circumstances, although, as you say, online Jo is probably the more ‘extreme’ version. But anyway, you’re lovely in both!
Yes, you’re right, that’s the other side of it isn’t it, the reassurance you can get from reading other people’s writing. The things that often get me hooked on a blog are honesty and vulnerability, I like reading stuff from people who aren’t afraid to lay themselves bare. It is hugely comforting to know you’re not the only one who worries about things or doubts themselves or has bad days sometimes.
I think most of us are our “magnified” selves on our blogs. It is comforting to be able express what I cannot clumsily do in face to face speech. Also- effing disconcerting that even “magnified”- some people probably still don’t “see” me.
I feel ya.
Clumsy is the perfect word for it. Sometimes when I talk outloud I feel clumsy, like I’m not explaining myself well, or not properly expressing my point, stumbling over what I want to say. I’m far more eloquent written down. Although weirdly, I hardly edit my blog posts or comments at all – how you see them is pretty much how they come out of my head – so it can’t be a case of having the ability to edit, more something to do with the way my thoughts flow more easily through my fingers…
When I first heard of blogging, I thought ‘WHY would you want to read stuff about the lives of people you don’t know’ but I found yours looking for a funny single mum blog and I keep reading because it’s still funny and well written. And you stick at it (no-one ever reads my hilarious blog because I haven’t worked at it enough, I think!)
I know what you mean! I must admit I don’t read LOADS of other blogs, but sometimes you come across one that draws you in – I’m very glad mine was one of those :-)
I’m going to have a look at yours right now….
The more well read your blog gets the less you can actually dish the really dirty stories about your friends, neighbours, kids’ teachers etc unless you go anonymous and then about five people will read it. It is truly a frustrating thing! I’d rather not hold myself back at all but there are too many uptight mums at my kids’ school for me to let it all hang out!
Also we’ve awarded you a Stylish Blogger Award you sexy mama you over here http://tinyurl.com/5uj28jd
Well thank you very much for the award my lovely. I am very stylish. *adjusts dungarees and alice band*
I do try to not tell stories about other people so much, it’s more the stories about my self I worry about!
Jo, I admire you so much for being able to write a blog like this, knowing that both strangers and friends, family and exs can all read it. I personally have less of a problem with strangers knowing stuff about me than people I actually know which is a real issue I have about not letting people see me completely. So, when someone like yourself does this I just have complete respect for you.
I don’t write a blog so I can’t appreciate the difficulty in deciding how much is too much but I can let you know that for someone like me who also would rather text, email or write an old fashioned letter than actually try and speak about how I feel, it gives me some hope that in future I might be able to be as open to people as yourself. For two years I have wanted to write about things in my life/my past but haven’t had the courage to do it.
Bless you, don’t over think this!! It doesn’t matter whether this is the REAL you or a persona or a particular part of you. It’s internet land… anything goes! And as long as you get something from writing it (and I think I can speak for many of us when I say, we enjoy reading), then does it matter?
Although I’m very jealous that you are able to write what you want. My lovely boyfriend has band me from writing anything about him. I understand completely and respect his wishes but it’s hard… I love to talk about us!
A great post, and one i think about often. I too feel a bit nervous about the people i know reading it. it’s hard to keep tabs on them all, and when they say something when you see them it all just feels a bit uncomfortable. It is a bit like a persona, even if what you are writing is truthful.
I find blogging a great outlet in escaping the world we live every day. Peeping into the lives of others is fascinating to me, I am a bit nosy but I enjoy this online community that brings people together, even when they live so far apart. Only a handful of my personal friends read my blog, and I don’t think any members of my family do. I quite like the thought of people from different backgrounds, different countries and different cultures reading my blog and discovering a little about my life. If it interests them then it means my blog has been written for a purpose.
Very thought-provoking post, great discussion.
It’s funny I was talking about this just the other night to my friend and my boyfriend and both said that when they read my blog its as if I’m in the room talking to them or telling them a story.
I guess I’m pretty open about most things in my life, so my blog is a representation of that. There are things I just don’t share in my personal life so I don’t share them on my blog.
Do you write and rewrite your posts? Maybe because you can put it into words it more though out than how you are in life, or maybe your blog is a true representation of you and people are discovering aspects of your life and thoughts that they didn’t really understand or knew existed. I have only just joined BMB and only just discovered your blog but I have enjoyed what I have read so far so will definitely be back.
PS – sorry for the long reply, I’m a little verbose at times :)
That’s the thing – I pretty much write and publish with hardly any editing at all, so what you read is really just how it falls out of my head. I just need to get the whole talking out loud thing to match :-)
Great post. I do often wonder about how people perceive me having posted all the mental health stuff on my blog. But then that is what ending stigma and breaking taboos is all about really. You are never really horrible about anyone or spiteful for the sake of it, which is what counts in the end.
There’s a reason why I blog anonymously and you’ve hit on it. I don’t want employers to read this stuff and as a journalist and broadcaster I have to be unbiased and so I don’t really want to mis this up with my personal life. On the other hand quite a few friends know who I am. A fact highlighted when I had an email a few weeks ago:
” I understand from your blog the funeral is today. Thinking of you.”
Can’t help thinking that’s not the best way she could have found out
I think we end um sounding a bit like our blogs sometimes…
specially if you’ve been doing it for a while as it actually becomes a psrt of who you are… or directly connected…
It can give you soe insight in the life of the person behind the words, but never tell all of it.. well… depending on what you write really…
Sometimes it is way to easy to read between the lines… the sad thing is when we read it wrong. :)
Agreed! I find it so much stranger when I think about my exes, my family, my colleagues and my boyfriend’s family reading my blog. I don’t go into personal detail on it for that reason.
I know for a fact my boss reads my blog so I do tend to censor what I say quite a bit. Also, I work for my country’s most popular newspaper, so I do have to be unbiased. Sometimes I wish I could speak up about local political issues but I don’t think that would benefit me so I keep quiet.
I’ve actually been thinking about starting an anonymous blog for that reason but then I doubt I’d find the time to maintain another blog, what with work, studies and theatre.
Anyway – great post. Definitely an issue common to all bloggers.
Such an interesting topic – comments are just as fascinating too!
My boss reads mine, so I have to be careful I don’t publish anything during working hours! Other than that I’m not sure who reads, but then I’m so new to it still. I think mainly it’s you guys and it makes me feel part of some kind of gang!
It does feel a bit like that doesn’t it? Welcome to the gang! :-)