Thursday, October 04, 2007

Keep Your Catharsis in a Nightstand Drawer

There appears to be a theme this week. Anonymous blogging, standing up for yourself, but not being blunt. Here's what they all add up to: free speech is not a free pass. This post is adapted from some comments I left on I Now Pronounce You. (http://inowpronounceyou.wordpress.com/)

Years ago, I briefly dated a guy. Who was, incidentally, wrong for me in so many ways that it boggles the mind. We got in an argument, and he posted something truly cutting about me on his blog (basically, calling me a nutjob). His name wasn’t on it, and my name wasn’t on it, but it still hurt like hell. Anyone who knew either of us could have figured it out.

When I emailed him about it, he refused to apologize. There was a whole Internet out there for the taking, and I could just read something else. It was anonymous. The blog was his own personal catharsis, and he could do with it what he wished.

Personal catharsis is a diary kept in your nightstand drawer. A blog is out there for all the world to see. It isn't personal. If you wouldn’t, couldn't or shouldn't say it, then it doesn't belong on your blog. It was bad enough getting bashed by a boy whose name I've since forgotten, I can’t even imagine how I’d feel if a close friend or family member did it.

Public catharsis is a new thing in our society (thank you, Internet and reality TV!) and it’s something to be very carefully considered. People are so connected to one another that true anonymity is impossible. Privacy is over. An anonymous blog is never anonymous, ever. Someone will find you. If you really want to say whatever you want however you want, keep a diary.

Sometimes I inadvertently offend people I care about (my blog isn’t anonymous, after all, and never has been), and I try to make amends. I don’t brush off the person I hurt by telling them to look elsewhere. I blog about what it's like to be divorced, but I don’t discuss my ex or our relationship. That’s between me, my girlfriends, and a tasty glass of beer. I also don't discuss employers or my work except in very general terms.

I think the key thing to remember about a blog post is that it's there for the whole world to read, forever and ever. It’s a permanent thing, and it’s a responsibility. Some people just don’t want to read about themselves, and they don’t want their issues out there for everyone to see. Sometimes, if someone is hurt, the honorable thing to do is to see their side of it, delete the post, and apologize. Some people choose to be open, others choose to be private. I don't have the right to make that choice for anyone but myself.

But not always. It’s a tough call to make, but I usually err on the side of protecting the people I care about. I simply don’t have the right to hurt people, and free speech is not a free pass: there are always consequences to everything you write.

4 comments:

Daniel said...

No kidding... The Internet makes it hard to recall something once its been shot out there. I for one forgot and pray that I will be more careful next time.

jennyalice said...

Amen! My mother reads my "anonymous" blog now... Thank God I try IRL and online to never say something I couldn't say to the actual person (I am willing to admit that I do write things which would be very painful to tell someone, but things I could say just the same).

Shannon said...

Of course, it can be very hard to predict what will hurt or offend someone. We aren't all mind readers. So sometimes I really put my foot in it.

I have a philosphy that if it's important, the people I care about will find out through me, not my blog.

Domo El Mono Loco said...

I am torn about this blog. As a poster of catharsis, I understand the theraputic value of getting it out. The main reason I write it online is cause my frieds are intersted in keeping up. I have changed the names, but should any of them find the blog, and its not hard i dont keep it a secret, they would know it was about them. But ur point is valid; what right do I have to blast them online. Not sure how I am going to take this one, but I am going to think about it. Said it before and I will say it again, great blog.