Recently I’ve been wondering lately how much of my true self I should expose online. How honest, how confessional, I should be.
The other day, sipping a pint in my new favourite pub in London, I casually mentioned in passing that I kept a blog to a friend, a ‘real person’ (I know – they had skin and hair and noises came out of their mouth when they talked and everything).
He seemed astounded. From that point on, what had previously been a mildly amusing, if somewhat immature, conversation about attractive cartoon characters became an interrogation about my blog. Like a terrier with a bone, he wouldn’t let it go. What was it called? What’s it about? When would he get a mention? (Now Tom, now). I don’t know why he was so interested, but I told him a little about it. As I spoke however, the feeling that I really didn’t want him to read it quickly developed. After about 5 minutes, I became practically certain that I wouldn’t really want anybody I actually know in the physical world to go reading my blog.
I can’t really say why this is… I like to think I am a consistent person in the way I interact with others – whoever or wherever they may be – and so I think there is nothing in this blog which I won’t happily talk about face to face with someone. At the same time however, I kind of like the anonymity of a blog, that I can freely admit to actually preferring the fishy half of the Little Mermaid, or that I sometimes even sing ‘Under the Sea’ in the shower, and not be seen blushing.
But I feel disingenuous; I am holding back. Some folks out there put everything, in raw, unflinching detail. I admire them for it, but I’m caught. I would love to do this, to write down exactly what I thought, felt, did. At the same time however, I’m not sure that I would like to see that stuff, written down in black and white, and I certainly wouldn’t like others, especially those who know me, to read it. I have some shitty thoughts, and do some shitty things sometimes. We all do, right? (…right??)
Perhaps being able to translate these aspects of ourselves into words in a blog, or characters in a work of fiction, is where writers of real ability truly shine. Like Raskolnikov in Dostoyevsky’s ‘Crime and Punishment’. Thanks to the author’s genius, you can’t help but empathise with the guy, even though he is basically a deranged murderer.
I’m no murderer, but sometimes I wake myself up by breaking wind at night. Empathise with that.
F.S Fitzgerald once wrote in response to a friend seeking advice – “You’ve got to sell your heart, your strongest reactions, not the little minor things that only touch you lightly, the little experiences that you might tell at dinner”.
Sound advice I think. Yet, for me, so hard to follow.