Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Outing

One of the great advantages to having a blog, over the last eight years, is that it has gradually made me real. I know, the idea most people have of online presence is that it's easily faked -- there are all these articles about people presenting their lives as perfect on Facebook, and so forth. People warn you that you "don't really know" people you've met online. But my personal experience of blogging, and online life generally, has been one of inexorable outing. The people who knew me as a massage therapist met, in my comment threads, the people who knew me as an Old English scholar. The people to whom I was primarily a software guy at IBM read memoir that I had written with an audience of radical lefty free-school kids in mind; the people to whom I was a hard-core Buddhist, arguing about the emptiness of emptiness of an evening, got to read my posts about how I couldn't resist ice cream. The process culminated when I found out my father was reading my blog. All these communities I'd carefully kept apart, at arm's length were all in the same room. And the explosion --

The explosion never happened. Nothing blew up. Nobody hated me, nobody thought less of me. People have been -- especially given how cranky and contentious I can be -- remarkably kind and thoughtful and spacious. I had been basing my idea of what was safe to expose to people on my experience of junior high school. In fact, junior high was the exception, the only community I've ever inhabited in which people despised you for having eccentric interests, and maintained rigid hierarchies of social cliques. I know there are others, and I'm very sorry for people who have to live in them. But the actual social world I live in now is very fluid, very generous. I have gradually learned -- through blogging and online communities -- that I don't really have to hide. Probably I never did, once I was free of compulsory schools: but it took a long time -- and a blog -- for me to learn it.

19 comments:

Kathleen said...

Yes, exactly! Isn't it wonderful? To be one's whole and varied self, among others. So much generosity and acceptance and sweet trust.

YourFireAnt said...

Somehow I think blogging is different from the other virtual things you can do to get to know people. Because it is your writing, and things come out in writing that don't in chit chat or comments.

I love reading blogs, and have met up with several bloggists that I read. All have been good meet-ups.

With FB and twitter it doesn't feel like I know the people in the same way. This is why for a long time I only had FB "friends" that I already knew in life.

And I agree such things make one more real, in the sense of winnowing down the stuff of yourself for presentation at the blog, or the FaceBook site in the case of those who appear there in a more-than-just hello how areya sense.

[Boy did this comment go on detour...]

Zhoen said...

The more we let people know who we really are, the more they will like us.

Dave said...

Hi, Dale's father! Glad to know you're reading. Mole is an inspiration to many of us lit-blogger types for its unsparing honesty and regular flashes of brilliance.

NT said...

(o)

rbarenblat said...

This is very much my experience too, Dale. And it's fascinating now for me to look back on early posts at Velveteen Rabbi, back when I was trying to "find my voice," back when I was so certain that anyone who wanted to read about Judaism wouldn't want to read any poetry (or to hear about other elements of my life even tangentially.) I'm grateful for the kinds of integration which my blog has helped to facilitate for me.

Sometimes I still feel flashes of anxiety: but what if they don't like me anymore because of xyz...? But I know that developing a fuller sense of people like you, online, has made me all the more fond of you; I just have to trust that the same will be true of folks who are reading me.

jeneva said...

I wanted to tell you that I'd been reading your short treatises on English literature with interest--I was once a Renaissance scholar. I'd wanted to comment, but I'm not so good at commenting, and life was moving very fast all around me, so I lost the thread on that conversation.

ntexas99 said...

I haven't managed to make the leap in believing about the multiple worlds colliding without any damage, and, in fact, recently deleted all of my many blogs. Maybe deleting the blogs was a step in resurrecting a less fractured version of me - perhaps the next blog will be the one where I feel comfortable being all the different versions of me in one space.

Your blog has inspired me so many times, and has humored me often, and has given me the chance to explore deep thoughts and ponder unanswerable questions, or sometimes it has led me to simply appreciate some of the juicy bits of life. All the bits and pieces of Dale that I've known over the years have been delicious .. yes, even the cranky or silent parts. Maybe especially the cranky and silent parts. The spaces where you share the parts that are usually hidden. If you've been outed, then I can only hope more folks follow your example. Big hug.

Lorianne said...

You've tapped into one of the reasons why the Google+ concept of sorting your contacts into "circles" so you can share separate versions of yourself seems so alien to me. Yes, I present a different persona to my students than I do to my family or friends...but my WRITING is where all those "selves" can become integrated.

I often think of the end of Doris Lessing's The Golden Notebook, when she finally stops keeping several journals, each color-coded to represent the different aspects of her life, and lumps all of them into the Golden Notebook, which contains her whole, integrated self. THAT is what I want my writing to be, not cleanly separated bits like a Japanese bento box.

Anne said...

Oh, I think you can tell all about yourself and nobody will get mad. But almost anything you say about other people is apt to make them livid, as I discovered to my sorrow. The trouble is, I am self conscious writing always about myself, and I really prefer to write about others as they amuse and entertain me. But I find in blogging I have to be estreeeemly careful about what I say about other people.

caroleesherwood.com said...

i'm so glad you blog. and so many others, too. and i'm glad i blog. there are whole bunches of people who wouldn't tell their stories otherwise. and i have found people i've met online to be just amazing -- it even pans out when i've met them IRL!

christopher said...

This outing thing is basically my experience too, though I must say I have followers who are still incognito, and there have been others who struggled and then left blogging. Some of us have people in our lives who are not kind people.

I still wonder at times and censor myself at others, but for the most part I too am more honest and forthcoming in general now as a result of blogging.

One of my former lovers is irritated when she perceives I am writing about her...she tells me to stop but she is not really serious. That is because you have to have known us then to know who she is. We of course do not agree that much on how things went, especially as we separated.

Beth said...

Like Lorianne, I have no desire to sort myself into "circles" where each aspect of myself feels "safe." Blogs as a progressive form of "outing" rings true to my experience; the last person to admit to holding back, however, may be the author him/herself. I think we are all masters of deception, especially self-deception, and writing can both help us unpeel or create further masks. Anne makes another crucial point...

Jarrett said...

This is true, but probably only for people whose various personalities and professional faces are already at peace with each other ...

Now and then, I put a link from my professional blog humantransit.org over to the personal one, urbanist.typepad.com ... I always feel a little lurch when I do it, like I'm pricking a balloon or knocking down a possibly useful wall.

When I do, very little traffic actually comes over, which is probably as it should be ... Most people don't want to see all of us at once, and it looks like narcissism if we show them more than they want to see.

Uma said...

I am so glad you blog, there are so many others I got to know through you. You have helped me build this beautiful world. And of the many poems I write, you are the only one who reads. Thanks Dale!

Jayne said...

Dale- Isn't it wonderful to discover that family has been reading? I've been blogging only a bit more than a year, and only two of my (very large) family members read (occasionally) my blog. That's when I really feel good--when I hear from my family.
Not that I don't appreciate other readers, as well. This is an outing, and I've found that bloggers are most generous.

I laughed when I read your comment about Jr. High and its cliques. I'm one of those people who live in a community that is still rather Jr. High-like, and anyone with the least bit of eccentricity is suspect. Which is why I was so happy to find the open-mindedness of the blogging community.

I often prefer to come here before I go anywhere else. (And I've never been one to pass on social activities.) Suburban life, at least here, is conservative and stifling. In this parallel, yet real, world of blogging, I feel most welcome. Maybe it's because most of us are writers. Maybe it's because we tend to look at the world through different lenses. I don't know, but I'm enjoying it, and always love to visit with you. You're the link, Dale. You bring it all together very nicely. ;)

Sabine said...

Yes. I have found that blogging allows me to be honest while communication in the non-virtual world is so often loaded with half truths and manners and expectations etc. and who would want to listen to raw and honest thoughts?

marlyat2 said...

That's an interesting saga--and I like the Golden Notebook comparison in the comments.

Your life seems wonderfully varied, you know...

Peter said...

Great observation well expressed. I'm behind you, but I think I'm on the same track you describe. (Someone complemented me on putting my real picture up in Google+, and I realized that I wasn't ready to do that in the general blogosphere for some reason. (Not that doing so would necessarily amount to a milestone.))