Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Self-Censorship

Here are the problems with having a blog:

1. If it's public, you could, at the very best, alienate people who read it (but have never told you, so you don't know they're actually reading until they tell you in person, and then you quickly go over your entire blog in your head --almost 4 year's worth --to see if you somehow offended them and are very suddenly relieved when they say they actually enjoy what you write), and at the very worst, welcome psychotic people to exploit your photos and words, as well as give fodder for the untamed conversation, which tends to end in contentious discourse.

2. If it's private, nobody can read it, unless they have been invited, although being private prohibits the blog-obsessed from reading your blog on Google reader, which, in most cases, becomes the life-line for the blog-obsessed; in order to read blogs, some people must do so through an electrical/wireless(?) interaction, because time is so limited. Also, the chances of becoming friends with new people via a blog introduction cannot happen if your blog is private because how can one find your blog if nobody but the people you already know have access to said blog? Therefore, there are no readers. Or very few; which is fine if that is the reason for the blog.

3. Using a blog as a journal of sorts is fabulous when one blog is private. But why have a private blog to journal when you can just type it out in a word document? Having a public blog proves that the journal is for others to read. The problems arrive, however, when you type on a private blog, and wish people were reading it, or when you type on a public blog and wish people weren't. The conundrum is found in the writer's psyche, of course --there is no reason why anyone MUST write privately or publicly --you just want to. You want to share with the world; you don't want to share with the world. You do want to write private thoughts; you don't want to write private thoughts. And this brings me to...

4. Self-censorship. Self-censorship is a must when communicating with any person; you cannot begin to write without knowing who your readers are. A novelist, I understand, does not necessarily have to worry about this self-censorship (of course, and unless, this is a sequel or a novel with expected proportions from the intended audience, as well as writing for a very specific and intended audience...) in the way a blogger does. This is because a blogger is publishing a document of --usually-- very little edited content --this content does, also, and most usually, contain personal feelings of some kind and the personal relationship of the writer (blogger) to the written word (post) is usually quite pointed. When you write (you, the blogger), you are putting your heart on your proverbial PC (or Mac), and are putting it out there for others to read it --and to read it immediately. The writer knows their document will be published without effort; the reader knows they can read immediately without waiting for sequels or release dates. The purpose is this immediate gratification on that of the writer ("look, I'm writing!" or "Look! I'm keeping a record of my people!") and that of the reader ("Loved this post!" and "Hated this post!"). This instant relationship is attained only because two people (or four, or twenty) decided that communicating instantly was better, easier, and nicer than writing that book. [Or perhaps --in most cases than not --the writer and reader both wish they could write a book, or haven't finished one, or...maybe not. After all, anyone can write a blog --as well they should! Blogging isn't just about perfecting writing or reading or fostering relationships --blogging can also induce pride, envy, compassion, tears, laughter, or disgust. Everyone experiences this; blogging or not.]

However! Writing books aside, putting every thought out there for everyone to read is simply an impossibility. As stated in the first point, at best, you will alienate friends and family who you believed would understand. At worst, it will induce contention that is either not wanted, nor solicited. Another awful, awful result of blogging about true feelings is the immediate assumption on the part of the reader that what they are reading is a veil covering some distant truth the writer is simply trying to avoid --by hiding under clever words.

Ha! Like this post I am writing; no doubt a reader will assume I'm offended by a particular person, and yet I am not. I'm merely being observant of my own situation in which I cannot truly, truly, truly write the feelings in my heart and head without self-censorship. I cannot begin to dictate my deepest feelings upon this page because I am very aware of the diverse audience I have reading it. I do not know who will be reading at any one time, or who has stopped reading altogether. As stated before, this is the curse of the public blog --the one which you advertise in public forums (Facebook) and talk about with friends and leave on Christmas letters. Is the old boyfriend reading? Is my aunt? Perhaps the friend from high school who I never talk to anymore --does she read? What of college friends? Ward members? Neighbors? The paranoia, if you let it, can run amok; this is why I try to gently ignore it.

Some will say the paranoia is insanity, something brought about because of a desire to please everyone. This is partly true. But I do believe that my paranoia is also alive because I have a solid sense of propriety. I do not care to make people uncomfortable when I can prevent it, and I truly mourn the loss of friendship over words that could have been exchanged in a better manner. This is the problem with compassion, or at least the self-depreciating side --to care more about how others will understand, perceive, or react to the way something is written, than to care what the subject is that is being written about. The curse, as it is, is something I have embraced. In all reality, it can be seen as a deformity of sorts, but I see it as the chance to exercise some respect and care on the side of my reader. In my own defense, I do not hide the truth --only details. I do not ignore my life --I only refrain from writing about those things that could incriminate people I love, including myself. This is self-censorship, is it not? And when writing for a public audience, this censorship is a must in my mind.


What about you? Why do you write your blog? Is your intended audience privy to your deepest thoughts, or do you also censor yourself? And can you tell I'm reading Jane Austen again? Persuasion this time. Holy cow, you'd think I talked like this all the time!

P.S. My next post will have lots and lots of pictures!

11 comments:

Christy said...

i am offended...yep - highly offended :) ha ha! j/k! Please know me well enough to know that really...i am just laughing at you!

remember how we just talked about the private blog on sunday (well, a couple of sunday's ago)? I hate having a private blog - i hate that crazy people have forced me into thinking that I need a private blog...but - i do post other peoples pictures/kids on my blog - so i feel like i need to protect their privacy too. I hate that friends can't access my blog unless they know how to send an email to me and request me to invite them. I hate that google has a limit of private readers...yep - i could go on and on - put simply - i hate being private. but - i love you :)

I suck at cencorship - so being private helps me with that. If it were up to me - i would make the world honest and NOT creepy...then i wouldn't have to be private!

Annette Lyon said...

My blog has only a tiny snippet of my life on it. What is there is real and true and totally honest. But it's only an itty bitty fraction of my life.

It's also a very public forum, because it serves a different purpose than the typical personal blog. In many ways, it's my professional face to the world.

So I absolutely have to censor what goes on there. I often envy women who put more personal stories on their blogs, who share inner conflicts and problems. There are things--more personal, journaling type things--that I'd love to write out in a cathartic way, but I can't, not on my blog. That's my reality. But yeah, sometimes I wish my readers had a better idea of what my real life is like.

Cardalls said...

I have a blog to keep in touch with family and close friends and to have a family journal. Because I put so much about my family and friends I choose to be private. I also enjoy writing and find it is my outlet. i have considered doing a public blog with just my thoughts....not about my family, but don't know if I'd get any readers....and don't know if I have the time to keep up with two blogs....I love comments so a public blog would either be good for me or bad (no comments would be bad). It's a debate I have often with myself :)

madhousewife said...

I find that I write better when I'm writing for an audience. Even back when nobody was reading my blog, the knowledge that somebody might read it, because they'd be able to, made me write better.

Of course, I self-censored less back when nobody read it. I self-censor a little more now that several people I know read it, including my husband. I censor mostly for my husband's sake, really. Sometimes I am tempted to start a new blog to put all my self-censored stuff in, but that would probably be a pretty downer blog to read. I'd probably write it poorly, too.

Brandon (the husband) said...

Wait, you have a blog?!

bythelbs said...

I think it's very possible to know too much about me, so I am definitely a self-censorer. And for those of you who read me regularly, yes, that does, indeed, mean there's a ho nuva level of crazy I'm not even telling you about.

Mother of the Wild Boys said...

My biggest impetus for keeping up with my blog is to let my mom see my kids grow up (she lives thousands of miles away).
The second biggest reason is so that I can keep a family journal/scrapbook type thing. I love going back and reminiscing about the funny/scary/cool/dumb things we've done over the years.
Thirdly, but not at all lastly, I write my blog for myself. I don't share my deepest feelings, mostly in consideration of others, but I feel that I have a certain amount of freedom to share since my blog is private. Those posts are usually less common, but they are cathartic.

I don't miss having my blog public. I don't really have time for making new blog friends. Also, I figure that with the friends I already have, my true friends will take the time to stop by and sign in so they can check up on me.
Plus I make it easy for everyone...with a public blog which only contains links to my private blog, so that the Google Reader addicted bloggers can still know when I've posted something new. :)

Anyway. I enjoy your blog. I enjoy you. And I enjoy Jane Austen. ;)

Gio, Judi and Boys said...

I so look forward to your posts! They make me think and reflect. And it helps me to know that others think what I do, they (you) just know how to put it into words so much better. I'm not a writter, or a professional blogger. My blog is for me, and for family that is far away....they may not understand the words, but they see the pictures and that is important. My blog is my journal/scrapbook and I'm glad that I do it. I do censor some of the things I write, because some things are personal. But I love blogging!

Mama Corleone said...

Amen! My first blog gave too much away, so I went private. But then no one could read it. Even some invited people struggled. So I stared a new blog, which gives must less away. It's a hard choice.

I never really think much about what people think of my blog (apart from the crazies). It is my opinion, my stories, my life.

I DO love your blog by the way. A friend of mine told me about it, and said you were very "real." Refreshing.

evitafjord said...

My blog is very self-censored because I'm pretty private in my "real" life. If I were confident that no one I actually know would read it, then that would be very liberating. I do have a separate, private, not listed (I think) blog that no one is invited to where I jot down the deep, dark, horrible stuff. Like a diary with a key.

Becky, I have a cat, actually two now said...

"Perhaps the friend from high school who I never talk to anymore --does she read?"

Of course I read!!! I'm not illiterate!!! I'm so offended. *flounce*