Monday, August 27, 2012

grumble grumble grumble

Or, This is why I hate the internet: Part 2.

There is a difference between public and private spheres.  Thanks to Internet, a lot of us have been confused about the distinction. But once upon a time, around the mid-90s, there was a thing called "private information" and a thing called "public information."

I'm as guilty as the next girl of blurring these lines on occasion, but I also do my very best to maintain certain hard lines.

You will never see the actual names of any of my relatives or friends or guys I date on this blog. You will never see a big enough picture of my house that you could identify it. You will never hear about my job or my doctor appointments in any detail.

And this is not because I think you, dear reader, are creepy. 

I would be the creepy one if I were to start sharing my private information in the public sphere.

I would be the one getting dangerously close to the line of exhibitionism.

But at the same time, I want to be as open as possible about my public information. I like talking about the books I read and the movies I watch, college football and bar exams, the funny things that happen to me here and there, some of my goals (emphasis on some), and my thoughts on political and philosophical issues. And I like hearing your thoughts on those same topics.

The trouble, I think, is when someone starts blending their public persona for their private benefit -- or in other words, their financial benefit.

You see, I don't make any money off this blog. I probably couldn't if I tried, but I don't want to try. If this were a money thing for me, I would worry about the fact that I lose just as many followers as I gain, that some days I get 200 page hits and some days I get 30. Blogging would become a chore instead of a fun thing I do.

People who make money off their blogs are in a bit of a pickle.  Most people don't read personal blogs religiously to hear about funny anecdotes and TV recommendations--they do it because they crave a pseudo-personal connection with the blogger.  Which is why, I suspect, the biggest moneymaking blogs all prominently feature professional-level pictures of the blogger's children, houses, husband, and self, along with information that you would never share with a stranger on a bus, but for some reason is okay if the stranger is on the Internet.

And that is fine, if that's how you want to be.  (Although, I've said it before, and here I'll say it again -- your kids are never going to thank you for putting cute widdle nakie pictures of them online. But the virtual child pornography industry will.)

But you can't turn around and say, "You don't know me."  Because while you're right, your readers don't know you, you have successfully tricked them into thinking otherwise.

If you don't want people to think they are friends with you on the internet, don't tell them overly private details of your life. The feelings of personal connection inevitably follow.

I don't aspire to be friends with strangers on the internet. Most people -- probably 99% of people -- fall into this category.

If we do somehow become friends, well, that's another matter. (Hi, internet friends who became real friends!)

But when you come out preemptively and say, "Don't try to be my friend," it irritates me on two levels. The first is that you were happy with pseudo-friendship when it resulted in your financial benefit. Very happy indeed. There was no encouraging anyone to know their place in the social hierarchy of life when they were giving you money, no sir.

And the second is that it presupposes I actually wanted to be friends with you. It makes me feel like I've somehow been creepy, when in actuality you are the one who chose to put pictures of your children, house, shoes, Social Security card, and sixth grade class picture on your blog, Instagram, and Twitter.

In SAT terms, I am to the viewers of E! network as you are to Kim Kardashian. Perhaps a classier, smarter, funnier, nicer, or more talented Kim Kardashian, but Kim Kardashian all the same.

One of us crossed a boundary, and it wasn't me.   

I don't mistake your over-sharing for actual friendship. I seriously doubt anyone stable does. So it bothers me that people who became successful, partly due to all their oversharing, insist that I do. Yes, you've been creepy! Don't try to be my friend! We aren't friends! Now gush over this sonogram and my adorable shoes and don't you DARE ask where I bought them!

Do I think all successful bloggers, etsy shop owners, and authors on the Internet think this way? No.

But I think most of them think at least a little this way.

And a few of them think a lot this way.

Unfortunately, that is enough for me, the consumer, to find myself annoyed with almost all of them on a regular basis.


  1. "One of us crossed a boundary, and it wasn't me." So, SO true. And it drives me crazy when I see blogs that aren't private with pictures of naked kiddos.

  2. I'm glad we went from just internet friends to being real friends! Now that I'm back in town, let's do lunch sometime :)

  3. This reminds me a Will McAvoy, Newsroom, Aaron Sorkineque speech. This is one of the highest forms of praise I can pass along.

  4. You now have me a bit worried about the photo of my house I may or may not have posted three years ago when I moved. Hmmm.