I mentioned on Maggie’s blog that writing or blogging online might well be an effort to let others know we exist.
I likened it to ‘putting our head up above the parapet of obscurity’.
Maggie liked that line, which made me think more about it.
Before the advent of the Internet, it was all too easy to get lost in the crowd. Unless you were a sporting hero, an eminent politician, a popular film star or musician, perhaps a famous published writer, you could easily spend your entire life unknown other than to your family, friends, and work colleagues.
Most people lived and died without notice or mention, and any legacy they left of their ordinary lives was in some faded photos, and the memories of those who had encountered them.
Then Blogging arrived.
We no longer had to send pages of manuscripts to publishers, in the hope of getting our thoughts and ideas converted into articles or books. Class distinctions no longer applied, with usernames and graphics becoming the norm. Nobody had to know where you were from, whether or not you were well-educated, or what accent you had when you spoke. Unless you decided to tell the world, it was unclear whether you were male or female, old or young. Perhaps the only clue to your origins might be the language you were writing in. But with so many people speaking English, even that was no guarantee of where you might originate from.
Anyone who so desired could tell the world what they thought. They could have opinions that were widely shared, or be outrageously outspoken. The anonymity of your username ensured that you could do what you liked with no repercussions, other than some comment debate with those who didn’t agree with you. But even that could be skipped, as you could just refuse to approve their comments. If you wanted to publish your book, you could serialise it on your blog, cutting out the need to submit it to a company for approval. You could post photos of places you liked, or had visited, and tell anyone who was reading just what you thought of them.
An explosion of opinion arrived online. Opinions about everything from American presidents, to the quality of some blogger’s poetry. You could find yourself very popular, or perhaps reviled, depending on who was actually bothering to read your stuff. Those bloggers could be meek and needy, or rude and arrogant. Nothing mattered, because you were unknown, and anonymous.
Ironically, this very thing still made those bloggers as obscure and unknown as they would have been without the benefit of the online platforms they were using.
So some people, myself included, decided to stick our heads up above that parapet of obscurity, and actually tell everyone who we really were. Where we lived too, and how old we were. What we had done with our lives so far, and what we hoped to do with the rest. Whether we were married, single, gay or straight, depressed or happy. What we liked to eat, and what we didn’t like. We carried on with our ‘like them or not’ opinions, and cast our thoughts out online as if using small fishing nets in an huge, unfamiliar ocean.
We made some friends, and possibly some enemies too. Risking the disapproval of anyone who had access to the Internet, and potentially causing a great deal of embarrassment to those we knew and loved. And many of us laid our lives open to scrutiny, our pasts, and our presents. For all those of us who have chosen to throw off that cloak of anonymity, we should bear something in mind.
It will be ‘out there’ forever, and can never be taken back. Even if you delete your blog, every comment you made elsewhere will still exist. Your photos will be somewhere on a ‘cloud’, and as long as the Internet exists in its present form, whatever you have written about will never disappear. It doesn’t concern me, as I am closer to the end of my life than the beginning. But take heed, before you follow my example.
Once your head appears over that parapet, it cannot go back to obscurity.