Today I am covered in bugbites.
I think that writing a sentence like that is a perfect segue into a discussion of the narcissism that is undeniably inherent to the act of blogging. Why should anyone care that I am covered in bugbites? And (arguably) more importantly, why would I want to share such a thing?
I don’t have a straightforward answer to either question. As an avid reader of blogs, especially lately, I can’t really explain what I find so compelling about them. I am endlessly fascinated by reading about even the most mundane experiences in strangers’ lives. The more I read, the more I feel the urge to join in with my own voice, my own experiences and trivialities. I am nothing if not a product of my generation — the generation devoted to Facebook, Myspace, Flickr, Twitter, and a thousand other websites devoted to (over)sharing.
When I wrote my first livejournal entry, I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do with the space. While in high school, I mostly used it to entertain friends by posting silly things I found online and griping about minor annoyances. It eventually evolved into something more personal. It became a way to record major life events, and to work through some tough times. However, there was a lot I chose not to write about.
Finding the line I deemed appropriate between public and private wasn’t always easy, and this is a sentiment that has been echoed by a lot of other popular bloggers on the internet today. For example, dating columnist and entertainment talking head Julia Allison has been raked over the coals by Gawker website (and other media) for her seemingly shameless self-promotion, via her website. While at the same time, Emily Gould, the former co-editor of Gawker, recently wrote a New York Times cover story, “Exposed,” about her experiences as a blogger — and the struggle she has gone through in trying to strike that balance between public and private. Finally, notorious “mommy-blogger” Heather Armstrong, or “Dooce" is another example of how difficult it can be to speak candidly to the public without hurting anyone in the process. Early posts in her blog (now removed) dealt with her extreme disdain for the Mormon religion she was brought up with, causing a rift in her own family. She was also fired from her job for writing blunt entries about her boss, exaggerated for humorous effect. Although she now makes a living by her hugely successful blog, she continues to be questioned by the media, and by readers of her site, for her choice to share intimate photos and stories about her life, and especially her daughter, in such a public manner.
I don’t feel that I have a right to say who is crossing what line. Everyone chooses for themselves what they feel comfortable putting out for anyone to see. Whether this means setting your facebook preferences to private or blogging intimate details of your sex life, I see it as a personal decision in an impersonal capacity. However, as the bloggers I mentioned above realized, when we write about other people, our choices are no longer entirely personal. This is part of the reason I tend not to write in great detail about my friends or family, even though they are a major part of my life and who I am.
So why do we blog or write in internet journals or post things up anywhere online? I think we want to share everything because we want so badly to be understood. And we want to be a part of something larger than ourselves, to know that we are contributing to the internet — something dynamic and alive and responsive. While a public journal might seem to some like an oxymoron, it carries with it the idea that we are not alone. That someone out there is listening. Even if it’s just to hear me say: Today I am covered in bugbites.