A number of discussions I've come across recently - friends' postings about the James Frey debacle, comments by my husband and a conversation with a friend - have me thinking about the related issues of honesty, privacy and oversharing.
As I said just last night, it seems that I constantly write about myself in this blog. To an extent this is a perfectly reasonable thing to do. After all, people say to "write what you know." What you know the most about is inevitably going to be your own life - what's happened to you and around you, your relationships with people you love and people who drive you crazy, what you're planning and doing, dreaming about and trying to accomplish, and what you think about it all. The terms "journal" and "journaling" acknowledge the fact that many blogs, perhaps even most of them, are essentially online diaries, unlocked for the world to see.
For some reason, we feel free to say almost anything online that we would say in a journal we keep hidden in a dresser drawer. I think this is because we know that the whole world isn't reading, and that the people who do read our words are likely to be supportive and sympathetic. Trolls aside, most of us read certain blogs because we like what those particular bloggers have to say. Soon we get to know them, and start to think of them as friends. As a result, we are available to lend support and sympathy and advice. This support system beats the heck out of confiding in a teddy bear - or in the diary in the drawer.
Still, there are problems and limitations to this brave new world. For one thing, on any given day, we might get a reader who is not our friend. Someone with a very different opinion about religion or politics or sex (to name the obvious examples) might surf by, and leave a hurtful comment. Or some employer or relative may take offense at something we said.
Another problem is that, Shelly reminds us, people aren't always honest online. People want attention or sympathy, and sometimes they'll lie to get it. Like the infamous Frey, they exaggerate, or just plain make stuff up. This makes no sense to me, frankly, but it happens. (The story of Black Rose Kate doesn't count as a lie, right?)
Listen, I'd love to tie this entry together tonight, and make sense of the relationship between online honesty and online privacy. But it's late, and I really need to wash my hair and get some sleep. We'll just have to continue this later. For now, I'll just say this. This journaling stuff is a fun and rewarding thing, at least part of the time. But we need to be aware that our words can have consequences - and not all those consequences are good ones.