Over on NYCmoms today I’m talking about whether or not a blog is the place to get even or at least get angry at people in my life. Personally I think I’m too afraid of offending people I know than actually being honest when it comes to issues with family and friends, and it turns out even casual friends. I don’t review products that I don’t like either rather than write something mean about them. Politicians and the like are fair game but the people in my circle, however distant they may be from its center, are basically off my slambook radar.
I remember a writing teacher in college who told me that Eugene O’Neill sealed his autobiographical play Long Day’s Journey Into Night in an envelope for his publisher and that it wasn’t to be produced until 25 years after his death because he couldn’t bear to have anyone related or close to him see it. While it didn’t quite work out that way, I understand that push-pull between wanting to write your story and yet respect the characters involved in the truth. Then there’s Truman Capote who went the other way and betrayed all of his friends when he wrote a sordid short story revealing and trashing his best friends’ marriage. He would have loved blogging no doubt.
So, there it is – the eternal personal blogger’s or “generalist’s” conundrum: What is personal and what is private and where do the two meet? Read the original nycmoms post that started the debate
Don’t Get Mad. Get A Blog?
The other day I went on to my Facebook account and changed a privacy setting on just one “friend.” I clicked the option to NOT let that person see any links or updates that I post on my wall. Why? Because I really wanted to write about them and I needed the space to do it without fearing for the fallout. Now this person is not a true friend in real life but they are more than an acquaintance; someone whose life intersects with mine for a couple of reasons but none of them of my choosing exactly. I wasn’t going to name names, but the situation I wanted to write about had enraged me and they were a central figure, and to explain the background of my frustration would make it patently clear to anyone involved exactly what and about whom I was angry.
My husband thought this was a terrible idea. He felt I shouldn’t write about it at all because it was stirring a pot that was already boiling over. And in the end I didn’t write about it because it blew over in real life, and it worked out the way I had hoped anyway. But still, I couldn’t help and think what am I blogging for if not to write about the personal? For me writing has always been about getting “it” out – whatever that “it” may be. What I realized though is that my blogging self is much more cautious and self-aware than my normal writing self. When my kitchen appliances by a major brand failed and basically fell apart I tweeted my disappointment, but I never railed against the company by name in a blog post. (And honestly, after their completely lackluster response I probably will take them to task because now they deserve it)
Maybe I stick too much to the idea that if you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all. Well, no that’s not true. Maybe it’s that much like the necessary separation of church and state I believe in the separation of public and private. The temptation on a blog to let it all hang out is always present. And when you see the traffic of the bloggers who reveal every stretch mark and chin hair underneath the smooth veneer of their life it’s easy to be jealous and give in to that reality show mentality. But I’ve realized that it’s just not me. A blog does something a reality show can’t – gives you the ability to shape your online and public identity – and in doing so helps define your off-line, private self as well. I’m not going to shy away from what’s honest or painful or downright unjust (have you heard about the insane school overcrowding?), but I am going to think before I write when it involves another real life person. And maybe that’s the bottom line – anger blogging is right up there with drunk dialing – seems like a good idea at the time, if feels right, but it tends to look embarrassing and messy in the light of day. And, now I have to add that truly horrifying last line – my husband was right.