When I got my first publishing contract I was told that I needed to start blogging in order to attract and connect with readers. The obvious question is: what to blog about? I went through lots of different author blogs and discovered that the most popular blogs and the most interesting blogs were ones in which the author shared personal details about his or her life. On some level we are all voyeurs. We want to hear about other people's trials and tribulations not just because they can be juicy but because they help us realize that other people have dealt with the same challenges or experiences that we have. We want to know that what we felt, what we did, how we coped was not really abnormal, that there are other people out there who are not only able to relate but are comfortable enough with the situations to be public about it and therefore lift a taboo or a repressive stigma. It's why gay activists urge celebrities to "come out." It's why people read autobiographies about dysfunctional childhoods or humorous parenting experiences. We don't just want to know, on some level we kind of need to know. And the funny thing is that when someone shares certain types of things with the world we all expect more of the same. If a close friend cheers another close friend's accomplishment with a Tweet we expect them to do the same for us when the time comes and when they don't we wonder about our importance in that person's life. People sit around and wonder if the person they've been dating will tag themselves in the cute "couple's photo" posted on Facebook. More than anything else, support and acknowledgment is expected to be publicly declared. But then again, isn't that what support and acknowledgment is supposed to be all about? Perhaps we should be grateful that it has become more difficult to pay lip service to those things. If someone wants to support us they need to put themselves on the line for all their friends to see and...well, support us. I don't dispute the value in that.
And yet the more I share online the more precious the things I don't share become. There are things about myself that I will only share with the closest of friends or a most trusted lover. I think the fact that I share so much of myself online confuses people. They see me as a completely open book, someone who borders on exhibitionism. There are times that a person that I trusted has carelessly given out a private detail of my life, made a vague but transparent reference to a personal issue for the consumption of others without it ever occurring to them that I would mind.
They're wrong, I mind a lot. So much of myself is exposed on the pages of my blog, woven into the posts of Facebook and Twitter that I have come to cherish my secrets as benign as some of them may be. Despite many editorials that have been written which state the contrary, privacy is NOT dead. It wasn't killed by social networking. It's just that sharing has been (and should be) encouraged. But now our privacy, like our Facebook settings, have to be customized to meet each individual's needs. And I'm not the only one. Celebrities who cry on Oprah still don't want to talk to you about that argument they had with their best friend. The girl on the cover of Playboy doesn't want to tell you about all her neurotic insecurities.
So when an author recently emailed me to ask what they should write about I told him to write about himself but to figure out right now what he didn't want to share. Tuck those secrets into a locked journal. We need to know you, but honestly, we don't need to know everything.
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So Much For My Happy Ending
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