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Secret Online Hideouts

Some local bloggy friends and I just got home from Dooce's Seattle-area reading. It was a blast, and not just because we got to leave the kids at home. It was great to just be amongst my tribe -- women who've found community, empathy and inspiration online. As I listened to stories I read years ago in their blog form, I wondered what it must be like to stand before a room of people -- STRANGERS! -- who know nearly everything about you. People who preface their questions with, "I read this on your website sometime back and..."

My readership is microscopic next to Heather Armstrong's, but I think there are probably a handful of strangers out there who know almost everything about me too. I've always expressed myself a little better in writing, and I'm one of those people who need to write to find out how I feel or what I think. Mommyblogging has been a creative outlet, therapy and online friend-dating, all at once. I think, for a lot of us, our readers are only technically strangers, and if we ever met in person we know we'd totally hit it off.

But a big topic of conversation in my little group of blogger friends last night was blogging anonymously. It's not the strangers we're worried about, it's the people we KNOW. How awesome would it be to have a safe and secret place to vent about your mother-in-law, to freak about your sister getting engaged to that creep, to wonder aloud about parenting choices without worrying that your mom is going to call you up the second you hit 'publish' and be all, "Excuse me, you are doing WHAT?"

I haven't tried to keep my website a secret, which means everyone from my college roommates to my aunt's best friend have read it at some point. I know I've written things that made my mother wonder where she went wrong, but those things are about me. So yes, sometimes an anonymous blog would be fun. Just think of all the fantastically blogworthy moments in my life that have gone unpublished!

But as much as I'd like to share those oh-so-bloggable stories, I'm not sure I could pull off the anonymous website thing. Even if I'm not sharing everything about myself the minute I meet you, there aren't many questions I won't answer, hardly any topics I'm unwilling to discuss, and that's why my website isn't anonymous. My open bookness is practically pathological. Besides, even if I did open up shop on a top secret family-proof blog, the minute I posted an entry I'd be 1) racked with 10 kinds of guilt and 2) absolutely terrified someone would find it ANYWAY.

That said, it's true that I lucked out in the in-law department, that I have forgiving and patient parents and siblings who wearily tolerate their sister's obsession with all things internet. There's not a lot I wouldn't say to them or in front of them, even if I'm not regularly offering up my neuroses in person. (Quite possibly my family is THANKFUL I have a website, so that they DON'T have to listen to this stuff in person.) Oh, and I obviously don't have to worry about a workplace either. As the CEO of Cheung Inc., no one is going to Dooce ME.

If you have a blog, does your family know about it? Maybe your blog is just to keep everyone up-to-date on the kids, but you're dying for a space to write about that thing that happened at Thanksgiving at your cousin's house? Maybe your guilt complexes are as myriad as mine and you could never ever write about the time your father-in-law said… OH WAIT. Right. Not going there!

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