The many and various ways I pass the time now has a new addition. Usually it involves drinking coffee whilst sitting at a computer keeping in touch with chums, or sipping wine sitting on our tiny terrace catching the sun, and wondering what else I can do to avoid any cleaning or tidying or putting away of stuff and things that aren't even MINE. And now I am going to type this blog. Provided that doesn't become a chore as well, in which case...

Thursday, 21 March 2013

The Artificial Intimacy of The Internet

I have just had a clean-out of my FB page and removed three people from it whom I have never actually met in real life.  The thing was, in the case of one of them in particular, the lady in question often updates and especially blogs in such a (to me at least) uninhibited self-revelatory manner at times it is very easy to think one actually knows her. 

In a way one does, as I have followed her blog for a couple of years, and in that time I have been offered insights into the way her mind works, her insecurities, her foibles, the emotional events of her existence, and her deepest thoughts and opinions on an awful lot of topics, FAR more material than I have discovered about the innermost workings of my nearest dearest friends, sisters and other intimates in that time. 

But now I have grown to wonder why anyone would let a complete stranger know this stuff, and not even a stranger on a train with no names, no packdrill.  It isn't even an anonymous blog and she is somewhat in the public eye.  It perplexes me.

It is an extremely artificial intimacy, especially as there is now little or no attempt to reciprocate, or thank, by acknwledging comments.  Her regular followers regard her writing " brave and honest", maybe because they are quieter and more inhibited themselves, so that's how it comes across to them.  I am not at all sure it works for me any longer, as I am often not quiet and inhibited, I have a few ideas of my own.  She also uses Twitter, which I avoid, she is on it a lot, is very busy on FB and is a professional writer, so she must be pounding her various keyboards for as many if not more hours a day than most people work and then talk to their partners or kids or parents of an evening. 

She lives and works alone, a fact that she emphasises.  I don't know if her choice of a solitary life has a bearing.  If she had a comfortable accepting outlet at home, or with one particular close friend (or maybe even a professional counsellor for a while), maybe the keen emotional need to express so much through the often quite dangerous medium of the Internet would not exist.

But I am pretty sure she doesn't talk to her Nearest and Dearest every day like she blogs as they would have attempted to change the subject at least once per conversation, the reciprocity of real relationships being what it is, but of course with blogging there is never any need to do that.  How is it possible to write SO much about one's ponderings, emotions and experiences, every day almost, without appearing unhealthily self-absorbed or fixated to at least some people? 

When I was a gobby too-clever-for-my-own good adolescent my father once took me to one side and had a quiet word with me.  He was generally a man of few words, so what he said has stuck.  He said "Beware starting too many sentences with the word I.  All the time you are talking about yourself you are preventing someone from talking about themselves, and if you make a real habit of it you will upset or bore a lot of people in your life and probably not make many friends."

So there we are.  I have decided that Internet relationships where the "interlocutor" is on transmit all the time, and these days rarely acknowledges comments left on her blog annoys me.  I am not a mere audience member.  I am a person, too.  I have not been put on this earth just to support and flatter and gush "How true!" or say I have been reduced to tears by the pathos of her writing.  Would this person stand in the middle of her village on market day with a megaphone and read out what she has written on her blog?  I sincerely doubt it.  No, I know she would not.  She'd be arrested.  She wouldn't even ring her oldest chum and read it down the phone to him or her. Because she wouldn't presume on the friendship to that extent

I have done a bit of Internet research on blogging and self-disclosure and found much of interest, especially in the article in that link.  And then darn me if I didn't spot this on Yahoo! this very morning.  Followed by this on the perils and pitfalls of blogging.

I have recently suggested the lady keep a journal instead of typing and hitting post when she is most upset and feeling vulnerable, and missing her dear departeds most keenly.  I have even mentioned bereavement counselling as a short-term possibility.  I got shot down in flames by her devoted fans,  I am now persona non grata in that little blogger community, I have since discovered, although the authoress herself has not yet reacted in type, interestingly.

I guess I will not be missed if I stop commenting, especially as anything that is said that is construed as in any way unfavourable or questioning has some followers dipping their pens in vitriol.  I will continue to read, maybe not every day, but I shan't ever comment.  If I cannot "be myself" why am I supporting her right to "be herself"?  Who decreed this type of Internet writing/reading has either to be a jolly parade full of resounding cheers or can only be a one-way street? 

Not me, for sure, I have discovered this week!


  1. You've said a lot of what I would want to say about unwise self-revelation in such a public and lasting arena as the internet. once it's out there it's hard to eliminate all trace of it. I'm particularly bemused by people who do this under their real name and to the whole world. It's the reason I don't post anywhere that won't allow me to do so pseudonymously.

    I do follow some blogs whose writers rarely or never respond to comments, mainly because they get such a lot of them. But all the bloggers concerned make a point of visiting the blog of those who comment and returning the compliment and I'm fine with that. But an almost uninterrupted monologue on one subject? No, thanks!

  2. She isn't monothematic, to be fair, though like all of us she has enthusiasms. Of course the lady in question is, has been, and will be in future very clever and often funny, wise, thoughtful and has a lot of historical and poitical nous, or I wouldn't have clicked on her blog every time I saw a new post for the past eighteen months or more. She also has a good prose style, as one hopes should befit a published novelist, but doesn't always.

    But I've seen since her Tweeting and FB has had a big bulge recently, then the very polite and appreciative thanks she used to put on many of the comments she received has gone by the wayside. And until I broke ranks on the eulogising yesterday those comments were dwindling quite a bit as a result. Today she is on 21 comments and counting! With roughly 60% baying for my blood, another 20% encouraging her but not insulting me greatly, and the last 20% suggesting there may have been some overreaction from the 60% and I may not be actually be a howling bitch of the first water, not really...

    There has been a huge amount of convulsive knee-jerking on FB as well, so I have unfriended her and two or three others I "met" through her, to defuse the situation.

    And my day has been blssfully quiet, mostly, since I did.

  3. Stumbling on this quite accidentally and nearly three years after the fact, all I can say is: Wow. Envy IS a green-eyed monster. And sour grapes are particularly tart.