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26 January, 2005

I think, therefore I'm someone else

Siobhan, at Tranniefesto wrote this morning about the unfortunate necessity of writing anonymously.  As the blog name suggests, Siobhan has a specific reason for doing so, but personally I write semi-anonymously by choice.

There are several reasons, but I suppose the root of them all is that I have a very clear distinction (in my own mind, anyway) between the author of the Ministry blog, and the person experiencing offline life. Anyone who thinks they know 'me' from the blog is totally mistaken. I'm not sure whether the blog author is simply an aspect of my personality; it's more of a construct. I don't know whether I'm more eloquent in writing than in speech; without question, I'm more expansive (verbose?) here. I suppose it might seem I reveal more here than 'in real life', and this is more 'genuine', but that's inaccurate.

I'm not trying to distance myself from my own writing; I stand by almost all of it. However, the frame of mind in which I write tends not to impinge on my social interactions. Several preoccupations here stay here. If I've posted about a topic in the past, it's likely I'll mention it again if something new emerges; having done so twice, it's likely I'd do so again, seemingly reinforcing a trend which, in fact, doesn't matter to me to the extent it might appear.

I frequently report or comment on current affairs affecting Lancaster or of wider interest, but very rarely events from my own life, or friends and family. The reason I was called in to feed A&A's cats for a week in September might be of vicarious interest (it involved a broken elbow, a baby, and the necessity of transporting horses to Portugal), but it would just feel odd to write about such matters. It doesn't apply to that specific instance, but I'd tend to feel inhibited about expressing an honest opinion, perhaps critical of an acquaintance, who might then read the posting, with or without my knowledge.

One of the biggest disadvantages of the blog is that a close friend is aware of it. Maybe I'm being paranoid, but I think there's been a cooling in our friendship, which I ascribe to that person thinking she has greater insight into the real me, and doesn't particularly like what she sees. I'd argue that's an entirely false assumption, and a source of regret. I like to think there's a distinction between the Neil she knows in person and the NRT of the blog, but maybe that's not as clear as I'd hope.

I don't post photographs of people. I'm very aware that blogging is publishing, and if I'm at a party with a camera, I somehow feel it'd be a betrayal of trust to distribute private moments to the world; more specifically, to those who might recognise participants. If people thought I was taking photos for publication, they'd obviously be more guarded around me.
Helen loathes having her photo taken anyway, which I respect, so don't expect to see her here.
Similarly, I have no intention of ever posting a photo of myself. In part, that's because I wouldn't necessarily want meet some weirdo who's taken offence at one of my rants!

I only write about personal relationship issues very, very rarely, and almost always in a generic, abstract context - some things are simply private, and personal topics are rarely of interest to external observers anyway. Every couple has their own issues and fetishes; I rarely feel inclined to discuss them publicly. Careful readers may have spotted hints, but don't expect more.

It might take professional psychoanalysis to explain, but I am a compartmentalised person.
When I'm with H, I step into that life entirely. Life in Lancaster is remote, and both work and my family are rarely even topics of conversation.
Conversely, when I'm with friends in Lancaster, Helen is rarely mentioned. That's something for a different posting, but summarising wildly, a) I don't think H would get on with some friends, and b) it's sometimes a little painful to be reminded that while everyone else in the room is one of a couple, she's ~1,000 miles (~1,600 km) away from me.

And, in exactly the same way, when I'm writing the blog, I'm not the person you might meet in the street.


To some extents Neil, I agree with what you say when you seperate the author of the blog to your offline self. I mean (as Neil of Neil's World mentions) blogs tend to be of a specific nature (unless they're self-absorbed rants) and we don't all fit into just one category.

I, for example, don't always wear a dress...

Kath and I were talking about it the other night (which is what prompted my little blog-outburst) - I managed in the end to explain it a little to her by likening it to an actor playing a role. It's the same person, yet somehow different, with different verbal-mannerisms, and different ways of doing things.

I think that every blog author to some extents finds themselves 'playing' out a role online. I guess the question is how much we let that take over.

Incidently, as regards anonymity, I was thinking tonight on my way home, that if I do manage to win the Bloggie I'm up for (assuming Nickolai manages to pay his bandwidth bills) then maybe I'll give serious thought to being not anonymous at all.

Posted by Siobhan at January 26, 2005 08:44 PM
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