Blogging Paranoia: When Avatars Become Real People

image

In the real world, I am careful about what I divulge to people, particularly those that I would consider to be acquaintances rather than friends. In the blogging world, I have become far less careful. While I never include names, faces and personal details and I avoid talking about it in my professional life, I have become quite blasé about the content of my posts and frequently forget that the stuff that I send into the online world is actually read by real human beings, instead of an Avatar on a computer screen.

Yesterday, I had an opportunity to meet up with a group of WordPress bloggers and Tweeters from all over the country in person. They were a nice bunch of people of different ages and experiences, and I had a really enjoyable time chatting to some of them (time constraints meaning that I had to leave before the end as I’m taking The Bloke out for his birthday so didn’t get to properly speak to them all). I got to know a little about some of them and have been invited to further meet ups in the foreseeable future. We exchanged Twitter handles (I never thought I’d actually be douchey enough to write that, but there you go) and I left to go and meet The Bloke.

As I was on the way out, I suddenly had a realisation: oh sh*t, what if they actually read my blog? Suzie81 Speaks, effectively, has become almost an online journal and offers a far more personal insight into the cloudy muddle that is my mind, dotted intermittently with the occasional cat picture and rant about the British Education System. These people were no longer just Avatars on a computer screen – they were intelligent human beings that had the power to openly judge what I write… to my face. Initially, it was quite a scary concept.

image

This is the risk that we take when we blog on a website that is open to the public and it is important that we are accountable for (and indeed, confident in) what we create.

As I always do when I feel nervous about something, I asked myself (and answered) a few questions on the way home.

1. Who do you blog for? Myself – Suzie81 Speaks is the best form of therapy I have ever had.

2. Do you enjoy it? Immensely – I can easily spend all day on it given the opportunity.

3. Are you proud of what you have created? Absolutely! I have a list of posts that I can reflect on and be proud of. Granted, one of my more recent posts was simply a picture of a guinea pig wearing heart-shaped glasses, but who doesn’t like guinea pigs?

4. Are you going to change what and how you write in response to negative comments? No!

Panic over. Suzie81 Speaks may not be suitable for everyone, but it is certainly suitable for me! And who knows – maybe the new bloggers that I have met may discover that they also like guinea pigs in heart shaped glasses!

What about you guys! Have you ever met anyone from the blogging world? Did it make you paranoid about your writing?

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog

60 thoughts on “Blogging Paranoia: When Avatars Become Real People

  1. Nice going on the meetup.
    I still haven’t publicised my blog to some friends/ colleagues – i feel there’d be an element of feeling judged if I knew they knew. But then more viewers is always good, its a tough one to balance.
    Anonymity has its perks.

    • Most of my friends know about it and they follow it through the associated Facebook page I created. Some of my colleagues know about it too but I don’t discuss it with them anymore…

  2. I like the questions you asked yourself (and most of my answers would be similar, yay!).

    I have met people from online communities, blog and others, and only had one really bad experience. Aside from that, almost everyone is exactly like they are online, just maybe a little quieter since some are like me and do better writing than speaking sometimes 🙂 That’s great that you got to meet some others that are “out there” 🙂

    • Thanks! I hadn’t read much f their writing before I met them, so I hadn’t a clue about their characters, but they were all really nice people, so it was a really positive experience! It’s a shame that you guys don’t all live around the corner – the evenings spent in the pub would be amazing!

  3. I had a strange incident where one of the waitstaff at a resteraunt called me Alli (after I paid, so they’d seen my name on my card), which I pretty much only go by on my blog -but my full name is available and connected, and I don’t make my general location a secret. Probably was just a coincidence, but I had a moments pause. A “wait, do they read me? What do they think of me?” second.

    • It’s really odd when that happens! The organiser of the event yesterday made a reference to The Bloke, which is the term I use for my partner. It caught me off guard – I didn’t even realise he read it!

  4. I have met one person–in person–who I met through WordPress, and it didn’t bother me a bit. I think knowing that my friends and family are reading what I write keeps me accountable for what I include to a great extent though.
    Nice post! It made me think. 🙂

    • Thanks Linda! The accountability factor certainly has a much bigger influence on what I write about now the blog is more popular, which has both positive and negative aspects to it… Perhaps I should create a second one anonymously where I include all my thoughts that I would never say out loud!

      • I tried that – after a while I couldn’t see the point. The things that were most important to me I was able to say, with a little tact, on my regular blog. I just got bored spewing things I wouldn’t normally say in public, because as it turned out, that wasn’t me.

    • There are certain bloggers that I REALLY want to meet as Ive formed a relationship with them that now cover emails, Facebook and twitter, and I’ve got to know them over the last 18 months. The conversations that I have with them are far more personal than what I write in the blog, so they already know the things that I wouldn’t discuss on here. I think if we met there wouldn’t be the worries that I experienced yesterday. However, meeting complete strangers was a whole different issue… But it turned out really well!

  5. This is such a great post and timely for me too, as I have been thinking about my social media presence recently.

    I have met lots of my Facebook friends because they are my real life friends and family. I have only met one blogging follower because I knew him before I started my blog. I know one of my Twitter followers too.

    That said, I also write for myself. However, while I have never gotten any negative comments on WP, I have gotten a lot of blowback on FB. So, I stopped posting there.

    The reason I get negative comments at all is because I voice my opinion on injustice wherever I see it, especially in the realm of children, women, the poor, and the animal kingdom. Some people don’t like that. So, I have had to decide. Shall I use the blog for me, to express my thoughts out loud, so to speak? Or do I keep everything superficial and happy to please the majority and develop a bigger following?

    I haven’t decided. Tell me what you think!

    😀

    • Thanks for your comment Beth! Honestly? You need to consider what you want from the blog. If you’re writing for you and what you genuinely believe in, then you should stay true to that. Negative comments are never nice (I was told that one of my posts would have been useful for Hitler the other day), but it’s your little space of the Internet and you should feel that if a cause is something that is important enough to write about then you’re entitled to do so. However, if your blogging goals are focused on stats – your following, number of views etc, then you could keep things a little less opinionated. Personally, my experience of the WordPress community is that it is hugely supportive, and if you choose to write about controversial topics there will always be those who will have the same POV. Either way, it will create an interesting discussion!

  6. I think it is wise to be cautious: no phone number, address, photos of your children…but not paranoid blogging is fun, connecting with people is fun, most bloggers are fine but on the Internet you do find the odd troll or creep…it tends to be worse for women than men.

    • I love the whole process of creating a post, from the initial idea to the final editing. After eighteen months of blogging almost on a daily basis I still have yet to be bored – it’s fun! I have had the occasional troll, but nothing that I couldn’t handle. I’m not sure about the men/women thing – I know of quite a few of my male bloggy friends that have experienced a large amount of trolls, but perhaps this is because they focus on more controversial topics… It’s an interesting thought…

    • I know! I received an email from someone that I follow on Twitter, who runs a blog that had reblogged some of my posts. He was organising two events, and one of them happened to be ten minutes from my house, which was lucky as he didn’t even know I lived in the area! Certainly an experience I intend to repeat!

  7. What a great opportunity! I’ve only met one blogger – we’ve been reading each other’s blogs for a long time. We had a good laugh – she was “just like” the way she writes. Paranoid? No. Worried I’ll talk them into a coma? Yes.

  8. I’ve not yet met anyone. If I did I think I would be a different person than to what they might expect from reading my blog. I tend to be much more open whilst writing and find it an easier form of communication.

  9. I’ve gone to quite a few blogger events but luckily non of the people there read my blog, I say luckily because if any of them would have taken issue with it I’d have pooped my pants. I’m used to having to stand to degrading comments about me where I live which has made me tough but that wouldn’t be appropriate. Eek! Hope we just meet lovely real people that aren’t stalkerish or really rude. Are you going to Blog On at MOSI next year hon?

      • No way Suzzie! It’s the biggest bloggers event in Manchester and people go from all over the Northwest. They have practical lessons on everything blog related and talks and giant goodie bags. The early bird tickets will prob have gone by now (even though it’s not until May-ish 2015) but they are still reasonably priced. There is a Facebook group for it: Blog on MOSI I learned about it from Manchester Bloggers and then North West Bloggers (UK) on Facebook x

  10. I’m sorry to have to be confrontational, but I’m not a fan of guinea pigs. Aside from that I’m a fan of your blog, and like you said, you write for you, but you are performing in front of a live audience, some of whom may know you IRL. My first blog was not known by any IRL people, but I’ve since relaxed but I’m always conscious that anyone I know might be be reading. Actually sometimes I have to remind myself that if I don’t occasionally upset someone with what I’ve written then I may be being to passive and “safe” on my blog. I did once meet a blogger in real life. No surprises. It was nice to see someone in 3D that I had chatted online with for a couple years.

    • How can you expect to be voted as ‘Sexiest Man Alive’ if you don’t like guinea pigs? Most women are suckers for men who like fluffy animals… Think on Phil!

      I am conscious too about what I write at times just in case I offend someone… Who did you meet?

  11. Paranoia? Oh yes, right after I started blogging, when I realized that I was OUT there. (Refer to your second photo for a visual.) But now I just shrug because, like you, I want to blog. Maybe I am shallow about relationships but I feel like I KNOW many bloggers because of how well they communicate their stories- like you!

    • I feel the same way – of course, I feel a bit silly when I make those assumptions because you could be speaking with anybody with a persona, but I like to think that the bloggers I talk to are the real thing…

  12. I’ve always been pretty hesitant to showing my blog to people I know in real life — largely because my writing/poetry is often about my experiences with people, how I feel in regards to a situation with them, etc. I don’t want to feel limited or worried about I post… and I know I would if I grandly announced each post to everyone I could. For that reason I don’t mention my posts on facebook, and I rarely mention my blog in real life…

    A few of my real-life friends have a blog, but other than that I’ve not gotten close to many “bloggers” so I’ve not really run into anyone! But I think fellow bloggers would be more understanding of needing to rant on a blog than a casual Facebook friend.

  13. Excellent post Suzie. I have a question # 5. did you regret that you went to this meeting? . if you don’t mind I will ask you the same question after 6 months. Thank you Adrian.

  14. Interesting read! I also stop and thinks sometimes – who is actually reading this stuff that I write? Anyone who knows me, apart from my family? I agree with you that I write for myself and love the planning, thinking and creating that goes into it. Some of my friends and colleagues are surprised at what I do but for me it’s my way of being creative and expressing myself. I think I play it safe at times, just in case, but I may get gamer and change that soon. I asked myself your same questions and got similar answers so I’ll continue blogging while ever I enjoy it and get some response from readers from time to time. Stay true! 🙂

  15. This is why I stick to the cartoon face. Maybe help out people feel more relaxed. I mean, it’s a cartoon avatar, definitely not a REAL person here. :]

    Very cool that you went to a meet up though.

  16. My blog started as a the equivalent of postcards to friends and family as I traveled. I loved writing so much that I kept it going. Consequently they all have my blog address. I have decided that the opinions I express are mine and so my friends and family should respect that. Having said that, if its a touchy subject I have been known to post almost a blog post as a comment on another’s blog when they discuss subjects I’m not able to put on my own for whatever reason. I always apologise for my rant .
    PS this looks long but it’s not one of those rants I mentioned hahaha

  17. So you don’t feel so out there, when I bIog it is for myseIf and therapy asweII. However I spiII aIot about myseIf and inner detaiIs towards my Iife that I don’t confide in anyone with. My Iogic toward it is rather wierd, but posting it onIine for anyone to see is better than making an effort to teII a person directIy and there is stiII a chance the message is never recieved from any party. It’s funny to me, in a dark way. But it is aIso there so that I may read it Iater and think of myseIf infIectiveIy than in my own conscious state of mind.

  18. Pingback: ORRsome blog posts from the week that was Week 43 | high heels and high notes

  19. Hello Suzie, I enjoyed reading this blog. You bring up some very good points. From time to time, I will post a blog on my FB page. It’s interesting, I find the folks at WP of a much kinder spirit than FB friends. You have a very good point about some of your FB friends, and I could relate to that very well. There is the old classmate from seventh grade, whom you were pretty good friends with at that time. Now, the pages of the calendar are torn away, the common bonds just ain’t there any more. That is the kind of person, for some strange reason, that takes great pride in posting a private message to you on FB, that is far from kind. At any rate, great blog!!!!! Sincerely, Richard

  20. You know the same issue, exactly the same issue had been bothering me for a while now but I refused to speak about it and threw the thought away in some far corner of my mind, but reading this brought it back, standing tall and straight. I too was a little hesitant over the thought that I’ve written about almost my entire life on a public blog so anyone who reads it knows me if not inside out but almost to a personal level.

    But ..BUT as I progressed reading further I realized you’re right! I too can spend my entire day in the wordpress world and won’t regret it. Blogging has become a therapy for me too. In fact I need it to the level that I need these constant thoughts to be channelized and projected in some way and my blog is THE place for that.

    What a completely relatable post Suzie, I’m so glad I followed your blog.

  21. I’ve never met anybody from the blogging world yet, Suzie, but I’d like to. I’ve made so many wonderful new blogging friends that I’d love to throw a huge party for them all and get to meet them. But, alas, I know I can only dream about that, but maybe one day I will be able to meet up with one, maybe two of them? Something to look forward to.
    Like you, I would spend all day and all night on my blog if I could, but life gets in the way. I treat my blog like a living person and care for it by posting on it and introducing it to other blogs, building a community it can be a part of. Blogging, to me, is sheer bliss 🙂

  22. I’ve never met anyone from the blogging world yet, no–I can imagine it’s a weird experience! I feel like for me it would be less worrying about what they saw on my blog and more worrying that they think I’m less awesome in person. My blog is all the best things about me–energetic, fun, intelligent, organized, funny. I have some friends from the blogging world that I’d consider legitimate friends, so I’d be really sad to find out that they thought I was somehow less exciting after they met me!

  23. Yeah, in some ways I’m actually more comfortable “sharing” with people I don’t know than with people I do. Not having to see their reactions when you get too personal, knowing that they’ve never seen you drunk or naked – it can be a nice change. But ultimately I think it’s just a different type of relationship, like the kind you have with your friends from high school. You have a history, and you keep in touch, but it just isn’t the same as seeing them in your day-to-day life.

  24. I definitely write for me as opposed to an audience, but I do consider who is reading before I type something, although I do still use first names (I don’t see the harm) and I post photos of my daughter as I know some of my readers are friends who enjoy watching her grow. I don’t really feel like I’ve especially connected with anyone on wordpress to meet up, although I have met a couple of people from a 365 project website I also post on.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s