Friday, July 20, 2007

Privacy: the best policy?

I was thinking recently about the difference between keeping a public blog like this one and keeping a private diary. So many people keep blogs nowadays for the entire cyberspace to stumble upon and read, and there are plenty of pretty private posts out there. I know I've got a few, like the ones I wrote about Dr. Schwebel. So why didn't I just write them in a private diary? Why did I write them for the world to see?

Why does anyone write about their thoughts and feelings in public? Is it because of the hope for replies? Is it because we crave human connection? Because, honestly, although it is the internet, people reveal so much more about their inner selves in writing than they do in person. At least, sometimes. I find that I learn a lot about the way people think by reading what they write.

The draw towards keeping a private diary is, of course, that it is private. There's no need to censor yourself, no fear that someone is going to judge you based on something you write in anger or frustration or pure emotional overload. You can be completely honest with yourself.

But with a private diary, there is no hope for human connection. No one is learning anything about you and no one can offer you comfort, advice, kinship, nothing. So then - is a blog entry a cry for attention? And not in a bad way, but in a way that says, I need a friend right now, please know this about me. Of course, I don't mean non-personal entries. I'm talking about the deep ones, the philosophical ones, the emotional ones. It is like we are saying, please, this is bothering me, let's discuss it. Or, I am upset, please reassure me.

I think we write blog entries when we specifically want people to know what we think, how we are feeling - we are on purpose making them public. We need that human connection. We need to know we are not alone.

And yet sometimes -- sometimes it is better to keep things private. Sometimes certain thoughts and emotions should not be shared with the world. There is definitely a line about what you plaster across the internet, what you share with a few close friends, and what you share only with yourself. And if we find that line, if we find that balance, then that is a very healthy thing.


Scraps said...

I guess that for me, there's an automatic line in place, because I'm not completely anonymous. I have to think about it every time I post--"Do I really want everyone who knows me and reads this blog to know ___ about me?" Yes, it's annoying to have to self-censor, but in a way I think it's a good thing, because you're right, there are lines we shouldn't cross. And yet, it's so much easier sometimes to just put it out there and hear back from people "I know what you mean," "I feel that way too!" than it is to open up in real life. And sometimes, it's not that I mind people knowing things about me, it's just hard to figure out the right time and place to share things, so I say it online and if they find out, so be it.

But there are some things I'd never, ever put out there. Some things are not for the world to see.

haKiruv said...

I've been thinking about this too, lately. I'm a pretty open person though, so I don't care much if someone knows me. Barring bank account numbers and the like, I find that if I'm hiding something, it's usually negative. Being open is a way to exist just as I am and not exist as a mask. Being open though, I've found a sense of immodesty. When I write something open about myself, it feels self-serving sometimes or something, even though I don't mean it to be. Maybe that's why I have like 30 posts in draft form that I haven't published yet. :-D

Good thoughts.

Rebecca said...

I agree with you, Erachet.

And yet, one of the reasons I don't have a blog of my own is because I can't find myself willing to open up to a public anonymous. Sure, some people who will know me and respond; others I don't know will respond as well. I only know a few bloggers here, and I think I wouldn't want to know everyone anyway. It'd be to confusing. But besides that, what you say is exactly why I don't have a private diary--I correspond through e-mail with someone I'm very close with, and that serves the purpose of my need for self-expression. Although sometimes I wonder if I should start a blog...

Ezzie said...

I think a blog is a bit of a combination of all of those - private to an extent, open to an extent, a good way to reflect on our own thoughts and invite others to express their own opinions of the same - almost like a check to what we're thinking.

Princess said...

I totally agree with you, we do need to be able to find the line between what should be posted on a blog and what shouldn't. Without that balance, a blog can become a very dangerous thing.
Unfortunately, sometimes, for some people (myself included), it's very hard to find that balance.