Friday, August 12, 2005

Help! I've Been Outed!

Blogroll Me!

Okay, so I have a blog. I have a signing name of TorontoPearl. I write about my family life, my social life, my community life. I might give some revealing details, but I do not name names. I try not to represent Lashon Harah, although, if need be, I could excel at it! I am not the only Pearl in this city, nor the only Pearl who matches up with several of those revealing details.

But I've been outed.

A couple nights ago, I was talking to a fellow school mother and she mentioned the upcoming Yidstock music festival being held at Monticello Racetrack in the Catskill Mountains. I told her I knew about it, having read about the festival on a blog, and then I asked if she knows what a blog is (many people are like I was a year ago; I'd never heard or used the term) and then mentioned I have one.

"I know...I've been on it."

WHAT!!?? I silently screamed. HOW COULD YOU KNOW ABOUT IT?

She went on, as if she'd read my thoughts: "I can't remember how I know about it, but I know about it..."

I felt as if my fig leaf had been ripped away, my protective cover stripped away.

How could that be? you wonder. A blog might be a personal online journal, but it is ONLINE, and thus public.

I do have friends I've mentioned to that I keep a blog, but aside from one who found it on her own many months ago through a link, nobody has asked for the URL and that's been more than fine for me.

How do I explain it to them, or to myself even, that it seems okay to let a bunch of strangers worldwide read my words and think, "Hey, she's just some gal overseas/in the Great White North, who has some interesting things to say." They are exactly that: a bunch of strangers. I've met some of the strangers already or have corresponded offline with several of them, and all is fine with that and even that they associate the offline Pearl with the online Pearl. But somehow I can't get around the fact that some people who might know me are reading these words, and now know me even more. It's as if I still want to keep this part of my life a secret, a private part...away from my regular circle of friends and acquaintances, away from school and shul people. If I wanted them to know so much about me, well I wouldn't keep it a secret, would I?

It's difficult to explain that near-fear and dismay that clutched at me when this person told me she'd read my blog. It wasn't her per se I didn't want reading it, it's "them."

You are you, and they are "them." Subtle difference, but a difference nonetheless.

The question now is: Should I toss my head and say, "To hell with THEM!" and keep on writing, or should I take my writing underground and say, "To hell with blogging!"


Doctor Bean said...

Hmmmm.... Tough decision. I guess the question is, would you be writing differently if you knew that people in your community were reading?

Count me as one person who knows you in both blog and RL (real life) and thinks you're fine in both settings.

AbbaGav said...

I actually give my name in my profile, so I can't even claim to be trying for anonymity, but I understand at least a little of what you feel.

I find myself posting links and signing up for blog publicity sites far and wide, inviting the whole world to read my blog. But I scarcely mention it to friends, family, or especially coworkers. And I scarcely even mention them in my writing.

I think it's just that I feel the whole world doesn't know me, so they will just judge my words, my writing, my opinions. But I have this feeling that those who are closer to me would have the extra option of judging "me". I need to get over it. I have a lot of goals in blogging, mostly related to writing, and one of them is to develop psychic calluses, to toughen myself up so I'm not afraid to write what I need to write.

Good luck. By the way, I enjoy your blog. Thanks for the info-tainment.

A Simple Jew said...

As Doctor Bean commented, it is indeed a tough decision. Someone who has the URL to your blog has a key into your mind and the thoughts you think each day. This is why I keep mine anonymous. People don't know my name [other than a few] or where I live.

If you look at your problem from a "risk management" perspective, I would imagine that not that many people in your community are familiar with your blog, so if you are comfortable with this other woman reading what you write, than keep on blogging!

Air Time said...

Pearl - I know exactly what you are talking about; I have been in the same situation a few times.

I used to send out an email newsletter that went out weekly to friends who lived out of town. It was usually very funny, and would get passed around, and of course, a local friend would be talking to an out of town friend and suddenly I would get an email asking me to add them to my email list.

I never minded writing about my life for friends who lived far away, but I got increasingly uncomfortable with the amount of local people who were reading it, and eventually stopped writing it.

One of the reasons I decided to stop blogging a few weeks ago (a decision which didn't last longer than a week) was the number of local people again who had stumbled on it, either through jrants and figuring it out or from a friend who did have knowledge about the blog who would make a comment about it in front of another group of people.

So now there are about fifteen people from my shul who read it, who make comments to me about it in person. Not something I am entirely comfortable with, but something I can handle.

I had a problem with a client of mine that I wanted to blog about, but a member of the board of this particular client reads Air Time on a daily basis, so I skipped that post.

Other than that, though, I decided to keep on blogging. I try to imagine that no one will read anything I write when I write a post, so that what I write is not influenced by who is reading it, and for the most part, that works.

Two or three weeks ago, my Rabbi mentioned that he ehard about my blog. As you know, I have not always been kind to him in the blog, but I have always known that he could read it, and while I would prefer to avoid confrontation, there is nothing that I wrote that I would consider to be malicious or exaggerated.

Starting over means that in six months, or a year, when someone else outs you, you have to start over again, and build up your readers again.

Anonymous said...

Keep writing. I'm "out" even though I still use a pseudonym on the blog. My shul cantor knows about my blog. Old friends and aquaintances know about it. Who knows who else?

All in all, being known helps me be honest. It helps me avoid doing and saying unwise or unkind things. It can be scary, but in a good way -- like standing up in a meeting to say what you need to say. I recommend it.

PsychoToddler said...

I've had the same experience, Pearl, and it can be creepy. I remember when I figured out my sister-in-law was reading me and thought, "crap! who else is reading this!"

The truth is I like it when my friends stop by. It's like we're having a visit. I've gotten in touch with more than a few long-lost childhood friends through the blog, and I encourage them to comment.

It's more difficult I think when community members who aren't necessarily your friends start reading. They are familiar with the school or the rabbi or the organization that you are writing about, that you may be critical about, and they form their opinion of you in person based on what they are reading here,not on first-hand knowledge.

Then you are put in the unenviable position of censoring yourself to avoid getting you or your kids in trouble.

I don't think you have anything to be embarrassed about, but I know I've made a few changes at Chez PT as a result.

The other thing I noticed is that now that I know people are watching me, I have to live up to my online persona a little better. If I write about being a good dad, for example, I now realize that I ACTUALLY HAVE TO BE A GOOD DAD because people will know if I'm faking it! In a way, it's like I've made up some online goals to reach, and now people are watching to make sure I live up to them.

So look at this as an opportunity.

torontopearl said...

Okay, PT, now when I read your blog, I'll have to look out and see if you're in fact being "older and wiser."

Everybody, go wish PT a very happy birthday...and make sure his words make him sound "older and wiser."

As for everyone else's comments, I thank you for taking the time to comment and provide your own pearlies of wisdom. I guess it's a point of mind over matter, as you all seem to hint at. Writing this blog gives me too much pleasure; even if I open up shop under a new name, like Air Time said, I'll be discovered at some point in time.

Guess I have to just say, "More power to me. 'Yashar, yashar, kadimah!' "

Good Shabbos, everyone, and have an easy fast.

Anonymous said...

I don't have a blog. I do read them and I really don't understand them.
If you don't want people knwoing what you are thinking why write about it??
I'm not trying to agitate any bloggers or start a fight. I was just wondering.
And everyone should just be careful becuase I read an article about people that have lost their jobs when their bosses have found their blogs

Anonymous said...

It's probably wonderful to be anonymous, to be able to post whatever you want.

Since I'm not anonymous, I do self-censor when I post on my blog, or on other people's blogs. I try not to reveal personal information about my family, my agent, my editor, publicist, publisher....

I also find, that as an author, I'm reluctant to write anything negative about other writers--probably because I would hate to find myself the object of criticism, and because I don't want to be perceived as being envious of someone else's fame or acclaim.

Tom Cruise, on the other hand, is fair game. And Paris Hilton.

Chaim said...

Pearl, Keep at it, I like what Mirty and PT said, great advice.

Annon, Welocme to the 21st Century.

Jack Steiner said...

Hi Pearl,

In the very early days of blogging I gave my URL to two people. I don't know if they still have it, but part of me hopes that they do not.

I have been very expressive regarding some very personal issues and I understand the "yucky" feeling that this engenders.

There is enough about me on my blog for people to figure out who I am, so I must not care all that much.

But there is a certain level of unease. Go with what feels right.

Jean said...

Well Pearl, I sure hope that you let it all hang out. I finally did. I started totally anonymous as I am very opposed to the war, but I support the troops totally. As my son is currently living in Baghdad, I didn't feel that I wanted to come out. I also have a mental health diagnosis and had been working in the mental health field for years. I wasn't totally comfortable coming out and less comfortable with the fact that I would be bringing my family with me. Yet, how can I advocate for folks with mental illness if I am totally anonymous? How can I say that stigma sucks if I am not willing to stand and be counted? How can I help people understand that folks with mental illness are not crazy, that they truly just have an illness? I now have my picture posted on my blog. I may never get another decent job, I may never get another date, but I am being true to myself. I hope you stay, but I can understand why you wouldn't want to if you felt as though you couldn't continue to write as you have in the past. I hope that when I come check in next week or next month I will still find you here, but if not I will totally understand.

Just Passing Through said...

Pearl, I selfishly say you should keep blogging. But if you do decide to start another one anonymously, send me the link ;-P

callieischatty said...

oh screw them and keep bloggin!

Hey Pearl, will you help me talk to this anti israel cretin who is a minister at Princeton no less?

I need some help over there
come by and bring your friends