honesty and openness in an online world

The other day I was thinking about how I want my mom to start a blog, and as I thought about it, I wanted to tell her, "Don't water yourself down!  I want to read your blog with all your amazing insights and thoughts!"  But I realized that really, that's harder than it sounds.  I try to do that here on my blog, and it doesn't always happen.  Sometimes I don't have anything to say, so I end up saying something inconsequential about what I'm wearing or the weather.  And I think it's okay to not say anything profound if you don't have anything profound to say.  I don't have deep thoughts every second of my day, and some days when I'm blogging I sit in front of my computer for a long-ass time trying to squeeze something interesting out of my brain to accompany my photos.

But sometimes there are things I think about, and want to share on the blog, but it's the internet.  And the internet can be a scary place, people.  For one, it's everyone.  Everyone is on the internet.  Not just your friends.  Not just people who agree with you.  Not just nice, courteous people.  Not just people who would ignore you if they disagree with you.  Not just people who would discuss controversial things in an open and nice manner.  Everyone.... the kindest person you'll ever meet, serial killers, your mom, trolls, people from high school, your boss, racists, people from other cultures, people from other faiths, your ex-husband, people who hate you and have never met you, people who love you and have never met you, americans, germans, russians, who knows maybe even space aliens are tuning into Reddit.  That's a lot of people, and an almost infinite amount of different perspectives, opinions, and backgrounds.  The fact is, you can't appeal to all of them.  But, at least for me, my initial reaction is to want to.  I want to appeal to as many people as possible, mostly out of my desire to not offend anyone or put anyone off, or (horror-of-horrors) have someone dislike me.

In real, non-internet life (you know, where you're meeting people in person...) you have so much more control over someone's impression of you.  You have charisma, body language, tone of voice, words.  You can tell how someone is reacting to you.  You can tell if they misunderstood something you said by if their body language or facial cues are telling you they didn't get it, or are having the opposite reaction you expected.  At that moment you can ask if they understood, or clarify what you said to try and clear up any misunderstanding.  Online, you get none of that.  We aren't creatures built for communication over the internet.  We're built for person-to-person physical interaction.  But here we are in this modern age, where most of our communication is in the form of email, facebook, text message, or some other text-based interaction.

Blogs, at least personal blogs, come into a weird place within this whole issue of impersonal communication.  We try to be honest and open, to share our humanity and our lives.  We understand that there is great power in creating those connections with other human beings.  To show that we aren't alone in the things we're going through.  Every time I've ever written a more personal blog post, the amount of comments along the lines of, "I'm going/went through the same thing" always amazes me.  Even I think that I'm alone in what I'm going through sometimes, and connecting with blog readers through comments can be extremely reassuring and comforting.  But while there's that positive aspect, there's also a tremendous fear associated with writing more open, honest, and personal posts.  It's vulnerable.  And vulnerability, plus the accessibility of the internet to everyone... that's kind of scary.  Usually when you are vulnerable, you get to choose who you are being vulnerable around.  You choose that list of people very carefully, because when you're vulnerable, you're much more susceptible to being hurt.  You choose those people carefully because you know they'll respect your vulnerability.

So the catch-22 of the internet and personal blogging?  How do you open up and allow those connections to be made with people, when you can't control who you're being vulnerable with?  Well, you can't.  Because it's the internet.  You just can't.  You have to choose to be vulnerable with everyone.  You have to expect that not everyone will respect your vulnerability.  Some people will misunderstand you.  Some people will flat out disagree with you.  Some people will be rude.  But most people will appreciate your vulnerability and connect with it.  The hard part is accepting the people who don't respect your vulnerability.  Sometimes it means growing a bit of a thick skin, because you can't take every hurtful, rude, insensitive comment to heart.

I want to create a space here on this little web-real-estate where those human connections are made.  I want to share life experiences and allow vulnerability to create those links to one another.  It's not always easy, but I feel like it's important.