Which parts of your self/family/life/etc. do you make available for public consumption? How and where do you draw the line?
That’s the first thing I would say about them.
Also, I’d say they’re wonderful. They keep me going sometimes, give me a reason to keep typing and sharing, a way to bounce ideas around.
A reason to remember my camera if I go someplace, a reason to go off and try things.
And that’s when they get complicated. ‘They’ meaning comments on my blog. I see them pop up in my inbox, and I’m instantly gleeful. It’s such instant gratification, the idea that something I wrote meant something to someone, that they have something to say in response to it, to my thoughts, to my life. Not only that, but since my blog over the past two-ish years has been a chronicle not only of my life, but of my life as it pertains to infertility, it’s very, very easy for me to use my blog as a sort of balm and forum for myself to essentially feel better and hash things out in a way I can’t with a lot of people in real life. And those comments that ding into my inbox mean that I get an instant fix of feeling good.
Many of the most popular technologies of our time tap into powerful reward mechanisms in our brains…responses to tweets or Facebook posts offer unpredictable rewards. Just talking about ourselves triggers reward mechanisms in our brains. When people pay attention to what we say, it feels even better…We even get a bit of dopamine when we talk about ourselves, which might help explain Facebook’s global popularity.”
Every time my phone pings with that comment notification, in other words, my brain is being wired to virtually salivate. I don’t know if this is a 100% good thing though, frankly.
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Blogging is sometimes problematic for me. And, I suspect, for others too. You see, when I blog, I’m writing about my life for an audience. My blog’s content is not the same stuff I write in my paper journal, but as the blog content gets more personal, that line seems to be blurring. Now, I’m no stranger to writing for eyes other than my own, but it’s only been in the last five years or so that I found myself unsure of my blog-footing. The line between the personal and the public, while a line that is mine to draw, feels foggy.
Am I living my life and blogging about it, or am I living my life to blog about it? Why did I feel a pang of frustration when my camera battery wasn’t charged before a hike? What is my goal with my blog–when I got a large spike in followers, did it mean I’d “made it” somewhere in the blogging totem pole of popularity? And if I had, did that mean I needed to continue with what I was doing, or did I need to do more, post more pictures, write more poetry (just what this world needs, let me tell you, har), do stuff to gain sponsors, maybe hold a giveaway? Which post about my life is the one that will suddenly get reposted a bunch of places, rocketing my audience numbers, letting me become one of the Cool Bloggers Whose Life You Envy? This one? This next one? The one I have planned for next week? How could I package my life to make it look prettier, more easily consumable as a Lifestyle Blog?
Blogging is seductive as hell, both from the writing angle (adoring fans! money! popularity never attained in real life suddenly dangled like a carrot in Internetland!) and the reading side (their lives look so perfect! I should try to be more like her!). Bitch Magazine ran an article a while back that I repeatedly refer to for this matter, entitled Better Homes and Bloggers, and author Holly Hilgenberg sums it up nicely:
There is something a bit uncanny about the genre [of lifestyle blogs]. Click through enough of them and you’ll start wondering: How is it possible that so many women and their toddlers spent their Saturdays in blanket forts made from vintage quilts found at a swap meet? And does the world really need more Instagram shots of early-morning trips to the flower market? One may get the impression that the Stepford Wives have swapped their pastel sun hats and starched blouses for sewing-machine tattoos and Rachel Comey shoes. The pastels; soft-focus and color-saturated photo filters; optimistic, sunny tone; and tendency to address readers as “sweeties,” “darlings,” and other diminutives characterize many of the most visible lifestyle blogs. Coupled with the focus on domesticity and the home, bloggers start to resemble a contemporary, superwoman version of a stereotypical 1950s housewife. These women don’t just maintain squeaky-clean, camera-ready homes and adorable families, they also run independent businesses, wear perfect outfits, rock exquisitely styled hair—and find the time to blog about it.
The fact is, while lifestyle bloggers share some intimate details with their readers—wedding photos, discussions about how many children to have, feelings of insecurity—such blogs are carefully curated.
That’s the thing, then. The camera-ready homes, adorable families, the perfect outfits, the rockstar hair–those things are the business of the blog. And these blogs are not full pictures of a life. They give the illusion of a person’s well-rounded life, but they’re snapshots being shared with strangers–and carefully chosen ones at that. Can one’s life be truly authentic if it is entwined with making money off of keeping readers, staying current and fashionable, making sure one’s photos are lit just right with trendy over-exposure just so? Where does the real life end and the potential Target ad begin? I ask these things not because I’m shaking fingers–I’ve done these things myself, and doing them (or trying) has made me think.
So. Here’s what I’ve come up with, as a way to guide my blogging habits in an attempt to keep my life balanced in a way that feels right for me.
- Firstly, my motto is this: My life is not a pitch. Bonus truth-fact: Yours isn’t either.
- I share what is mine to share. Anything else needs some sort of permission, and even then, I’m hesitant to share it (I have learned this the hard way). If I write about my husband, I run it past him first. If I go to a friend’s kid’s birthday party, while I may experience the event, it doesn’t make it my event to share. I’m a firm believer in adults being stewards of their kids’ online identities, taking good care of them so that when the kid wants to get online, they can do so with a reasonable online shadow.
- If I find myself wanting to do something just to document it for posterity, I do that thing, but leave the camera at home sometimes (not all the time, but sometimes). This weekend my husband and I went toodling around the countryside, and the camera stayed away. The week before, we went hiking, and I took it with me. My life is not a thing to be experienced for the sake of documentation, page views, and an extra bump in followers. Sometimes, I’ll document, and sometimes I won’t, but if I feel a tugging of “do something to make a cool post!” then I try to actively not, because I want to live first, without going into things thinking about the blog.
- Sometimes, simply writing a draft and leaving it as a draft is a good thing to do. There’s no rush to publication here. My life is not a stop-the-presses event unfolding. (That’s what my Twitter is for! Baby steps, OK?) If I’m not sure about sharing something, I don’t. There are pieces to my life that I don’t share on my blog, slices of the infertility journey I haven’t shared, and that’s not an accident. There are family photos I don’t share because I want our vacation memories to sometimes simply be ours. So yes, in a sense, I “curate” my life, but in this case, I like to think I’m preserving some semblance of privacy, even as I’m doin’ my thing, being all loud about it and stuff online. In short, if I have doubt, I go with the doubt, and don’t share.
- Theodore Roosevelt is credited with saying “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Indeed sir, indeed. I try not to spend my time thinking about how I can make my blog more like that one, or that one. And, by extension, that means my life, too. Sometimes it’s good to step away, both from the blank post page, and the blogroll, and simply live my life away from blogland.
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What it all comes down to in my mind is this: your life, right here, right now, is the only one you get. Don’t waste it documenting it. It’s yours already, so you don’t have to share it if you don’t want to. Your life is not a pitch for something greater, more followers, paid advertising, trend-setting, stuff to review. Your life is, simply, your life.
Photo by: Thomas Hawk