There’s a sour taste floating around in the mouths of personal bloggers right now because of a recent article in the New York Times. I don’t want to add to the negative criticism of the article; I want to join the positive backlash. I want to tell you why I write about my life on the Internet.
Last week something kind of amazing happened. I put out a casual request for people who have a certain kind of personality and lifestyle to poke me and say hi, and 46 people responded over the course of two days. It sparked a bunch of conversations about language and identity, and pulled some people together in a way that none of us expected. Even more surprising were the private conversations I had with people who wanted to raise their hands, but didn’t want other people to know about it. There were a lot of these, and they completely floored me.
I write about my life on the Internet because it creates a space for these connections. What else could make a complete stranger feel safe emailing me to say, “I’m queer, and I can’t tell anyone, but I wanted to tell you“?
I’ve been writing about my life on the Internet for about nine years now. I’ve learned by trial-and-error what works and what doesn’t, and I manage my presence in a way that nourishes me. Sometimes I make mistakes and have to face negative consequences, but they’ve never come anywhere close to outweighing the benefits.
In January, I bought a car almost entirely on advice from my online social networks, which I got in response to my blog posts about how confused I was. Someone even found my dream car for me online and sent me the link. Someone else saw that I couldn’t get to the dealership and offered to drive me. Some of these people (like the guy who gave me a ride) are meatspace friends, while others (like the guy who sent me the link) are people I only know online — I met them by blogging. (And by the way, the car is still perfect.)
I write about my life on the Internet because it changes the way I connect with my own experiences. In order to write down a story, I have to sort through all of the details and focus on the ones that made it significant for me. I believe our stories shape us — the way we remember something affects who we are and how we relate to the world. Writing things down empowers me to consciously decide how I want to remember something, and to me, that’s an act of personal revolution. Then, when details get echoed back to me in someone else’s words — either through a comment or another blog post — my way of seeing things gets a little big stronger, and my voice gets a little bit more steady.
I also write about my life on the Internet because I like to spend time alone. I can spend entire days in physical solitude — writing or working or scheming or exploring — and the Internet gives me a way to stay accountable and honest without breaking the creativity spell. It’s a kind of safety net — if I stopped writing for a day or two and didn’t tell anyone where I was, people would start looking for me (I know this because it’s happened). It’s also a sanity check — I can’t escape too far off into my own little world because I’m still bouncing my thoughts off a network of real people. When I start talking crazy talk, people tell me. (And they seem to love that part of their job, too…)
I’ve worked through some very hard stuff through blogging, and I’ve made some powerful connections in the process. People have thanked me for telling stories that opened doors in their own lives that they didn’t know they were missing out on. Other bloggers have done the same for me.
I believe in telling stories, I believe we’re more powerful when we’re connected, and I believe in telling fear to f*ck off.