Laura's post at Sarsaparilla on the panel on memoir and truth at the recent Mildura Writers Festival sparked a very interesting and lively discussion on diaries, blogging and the 'selves' we portray in our diaries/blogs. I took particular interest in the question of whether diarists and bloggers project a 'preferred' reflection of their/our selves in the comments, but thought to post my ideas here as well.
I have said previously that bloggers are very like authors: we want our readers to think well of us, and we write with our audiences in mind, in a way that we have a 'blogger self'.
It was actually something Kerryn Goldsworthy said about authors and that 'author self' that got met thinking about it in relation to my ‘blogging self’. I had posted her quote previously, but I think it is useful to include the salient bit here:
“The notion of the ‘implied author’ is a useful one: it’s what might be called the writer’s best self, her wisest, her most adult, her most knowing and self-knowing self."I suspect that I blog in a way that reflects positively on myself, that would convince my readers that I have something ‘worthy’, if not ‘worthwhile’ to say. Yes, we mediate what we say and self-censor in case our loved-ones read our blogs, but it is the other readers whom we hope to attract that we project our ‘blogger self’ for.
Even what Galaxy, in one of the comments at Laura's post, calls the ‘trivial, ugly and banal bits’ in blogs I think play a role in keeping readers happy, and so are deliberate. Even some of the more extreme statements and attitudes that bloggers post are mobilised to draw readers.
If I were to blog about how wonderful being a father is, and/or how wonderful I find spending time my eldest son, aren't I presenting my ideal 'parent self' in a preferred light? I am omitting the moments of frustration, the annoyance and anger, and the 'growling at a helpless child when grumpy', fearing that my protestations at really loving fatherhood would go unheeded by readers.
Alternatively, some bloggers are honest about these things, and their readers appreciate them for it, and find it re-assuring that other parents also struggle with being short-tempered, impatient and frustrated at the lovely children whom they'd joyfully kill for. I, in turn, struggle with being honest about such things.
Because blogs are written for an audience – knowingly or otherwise – I suspect that blogs are closer to letters than diaries, though some diarists may have written with an eye to some day publishing them (Latham?) and seeking an audience. Blogs today are like what letters – i.e. the 'collected letters' and 'letters between' genres – of the previous two centuries were to readers then.
Does that make blogs less truthful? Does this make the things bloggers say about their lives and the world they bear witness to less meaningful?
I think not. Ideas such as this help to clarify what each of us takes blogging to be, and helps us to take what others say in their blogs with a pinch, or a pound, of salt. And importantly, to think critically about what is said.
And as long as we continue to hit that note that resonates with readers – and other bloggers, who will engage in conversations with us – and as long as we think that we still have something interesting to say about the world we live in, then we will have our 'blog selves'.