I was just reading a piece on Pop Discourse from the ever-insightful Christine Koh. In it, she talked about something I consider to be the paradox of “pure” blogging. Having had the opportunity to talk with Julie Powell of Julie and Julia fame, Christine reflected on the irony of blogging: once your blog become well-known, typically due to open and candid sharing, you become more restricted about how you can express yourself. Instead of your blog being a written reflection of your feelings, you are expected to to have your writing reflect the theme or tone of your blog. The thing that most struck me was the idea that you can no longer write for the joy of writing. Instead, you’re forced to censor, tweak, edit, until the purity is gone.
This is something I’ve been dealing with on a smaller, more personal scale for some time now. My more personal blog, More Than Mommy, has been my outlet for sharing the joys, challenges and musings on my life. Most of my friends and family remained blissfully ignorant of my blog and I was able to connect online with a community of bloggers who shared my frustrations and joys. And then, people I knew started to discover my blog and started to *gasp* read it. And all of a sudden, I became ever more self-conscious about my blogging topics. I’m constantly checking and double-checking to make sure my content won’t insult someone, either because it reflects negatively on them, or because I’m sharing news that I haven’t taken the time to share in person. And weirder, still, is the phenomenon of being cut-off mid-story by a friend, who simply nods and tells me they’ve already read about it on my blog.
I started blogging back in 2001, expressly to share things with friends and family. I was traveling extensively, and wanted to post my stories and photos for the people waiting for me at home. When my son was born, I stopped traveling, and started looking for an outlet to share all of the crazy emotions that came with being a parent. As a lifelong journaller, blogging had a lot of appeal. It meant that I could get my experiences out of my head, and into a place where they could be shared with others who were in a similar place in life. But the realities of parenting are such that I get frustrated with my in-laws, annoyed with my friends, furious with my husband, and absolutely sick of my children. These stories are harmless in an anonymous forum, but can be hurtful to the real-life people they reference. They’re the dark things in the back of your mind that you just want express so that they don’t fester.
While I’m not a big enough blogger to have to worry about protecting my brand, I can empathize with the loss of freedom of self-expression. And although Christine suggests a “return to the basics of creativity and communication” in lieu of worries over monetization, I’m not sure it’s that simple. Regardless of your end-goals, the reality is that blogging is a public forum. Unless you’re an anonymous blogger (which creates a whole other level of challenges and seems less-than-worthwhile to me), you’re limited in some way by your ethics, values, and basic human kindness. There are days when I long to return to my old-fashioned paper journal (and occasionally, I do) where I have no concerns for anyone’s feelings but my own.