Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Of real-life blogs and imaginary ruts

Babble on.

I've just finished responding to some correspondence from a fellow blogger - one for whom I have great respect - that deals with how much of one's personal life is appropriate for a blog.

Of course, there are no rules. The only limits on what should and shouldn't get posted are one's own reservations and boundaries.

I've typed a couple of really personal entries, saved them, and deleted them upon rereading in the light of another day. Somehow they always seemed...mawkish, I guess. Inappropriate. The funny thing is, I have no problem opening up about personal stuff with people face-to-face. But on a website, it just feels very "Look at me! I'm imperfect! Please approve!" and that's not me at all.

Here's the weird thing: I like reading blogs that get personal, uncomfortably personal, as long as it's done well. Like this:

I'm tired. I'm tired of people's meanness and the insoluble arguments that never seem to leave my surroundings or leave me out of them. Sox vs. Yankees. Republicans vs. Democrats. Everything. I'm tired of ugliness and everyone thinking they know how to run everyone else's lives and no one getting a break and the fact I have to work two jobs just to make enough money to live AND do what I'm good at, while Steve gets little more than the shaft for showing up at work every day.
Argh. I'm really doing some championship whining today. I apologize. I'm just allll bentouttashape today. Probably just hormonal. I'll soon be on the rag and you can just disregard the anger contained herein.

For a couple of months there, I was floating, and it was quite nice. I'd accomplished a goal. I was adjusting, growing accustomed, putting things off. Now things are crushing back in on me again. I'm turning around a corner. I hate corners. I hate change. I hate uncertainty. I hate transition.

That kind of leaves me SOL, doesn't it?

I just can't seem to write my own version of that - or rather, I can't seem to bring myself to publish it.

I know part of the reason for my reluctance is a man-sized helping self-interest garnished with a sprig of common courtesy: I have a wife, kids, extended family, friends, co-workers, and various acquaintances who didn't sign up to be fodder for my blog, and probably wouldn't appreciate seeing my [melodrama] deepest, darkest [/melodrama] thoughts and feelings about them published for all the teeming masses of web-empowered humanity to see. Who can blame them? And I decided before I even started Babbling Brooks that my web-life would only exist so long as it didn't impact negatively on my real-life. Blogging has the power to turn a guy into a modern-day Rip Van Winkle. In fact, back when Shannon and I only posted to AC's comments, I told her point-blank that I'd never start a blog because I didn't want to disappear into the basement to sit in front of the computer and post, only to walk back upstairs and find my three-year-old Boo was getting ready to move away to university.

Now look at me.

The thing is, that reluctance to impact my "real-life" only extends so far. I work in sales/service. It's entirely plausible that a client or prospective client could Google "Damian Brooks" to see what they find. Hmmmm...Babbling Brooks in the number one slot. What if they disagreed with the slightly-out-of-synch-with-the-Canadian-mainstream political angle of most of my posts? What if they complained to my bosses? What if I lost an account over pixels on a computer screen?

But I've already rung that bell, and I can't really un-ring it, can I? My worries haven't stopped me from calling the majority of the Canadian electorate a gaggle of whining ninnies, and worse. In for a penny, in for a pound, right? Well, I'm finding that's easier said than done.

Some of my reluctance surely comes from not knowing who's reading. I've chatted personally with many of the Brigade, and shared a beer and some personal stories with a few. I've even been trusted with the 'secret identities' of a couple of anonymous commentors. It all seems so cloak-and-dagger until you remember that, of all the stupid ways to lose a job or a friend, losing them over a blog would have to be one of the stupidest. And what's to stop some effing troll, or a Liberal lawyer for that matter, from using my own...musings, heh...against me? Don't mull that one over for long, 'cause the answer is nothing. It takes all kinds to make an internet, and that means you and I have to be careful, right?

Well...maybe not too careful. Maybe not quite as careful as I've been thus far.

I'm becoming increasingly convinced that personal stuff is the pinch of salt missing from most political-blog recipies. So I'm going to try to add it here. We'll see how it works.

Babble off.


At 8:55 p.m., Blogger treehugger said...

What a great post Damian. You really captured so many thoughts from my mind (how did you do that?).

I get ridiculed for my nickname regularly. My case is so similar to yours it would knock you off of your chair. While most folks that I have met in the blogosphere know my real name via email (I am not shy about offering it up in here) I am very leary about how blogging might impact on my professional life. It is a life I have worked very hard to achieve - not one handed to me on a silver spoon like some - but one where I worked several jobs through all hours of the night to pay for University; one where I have had to prove myself time and time again and move vritually from one end of this country to the other to strive toward my ever evolving definition of success.

As you very brilliantly mused, am I willing to sacrifice all of that for a personal website that amounts to nothing more than a hobby in real terms? I most certainly am not, and I don't have the same kind of family considerations that you do. Someday, I will - hopefully.

Before you add that "dash of salt", consider a less risky venture. I have only been near your circle in blodgom for two short months but have read you and many of your closest blog friends for over a year. You are one of the most respected bloggers on the conservative side (and you can count me into that equation) I have met and seen, and rightfully so, I doubt any of them would object to you reinventing yourself with a blog less tied to your surname. You could then be free to add all the "salt" and "pepper" that you want without compromising your professional life and the income that it brings your family. There are just too many perils with letting pride chart the course.

Just a few honest thoughts to help you through your dilemna.

At 9:32 p.m., Blogger Bruce Gottfred said...

If you're writing under your own name and you start worrying about what the people you know are going to think about what you say, you're not going to write anything at all. Your content will have all the impact of a wet noodle. It'll just be bland parroting of things no one could object to. I've been in that rut before and I try to keep out of it (though I know I wander in there occasionally). Most (all?) of my friends live to the left of me (though I consider myself pretty moderate) and they can deal with my wacky opinions. The biggest backlash I got from them was when I trashed organic food.

But you still have to watch watch you say. You can't make sweeping generalizations or accusations with no evidence. It's a fine balance.

As to the personal stuff, I find that easier to write about than the political topics. It's unlikely to offend anyone unless you expose someone to ridicule. And I think it adds a lot to a blog -- it's not just self-centered posturing. It lets the reader evaluate what kind of person you are.

Of course, if your idea of fun is arranging your Star Wars action figures in a new diorama, and you start writing about it, they'll find out what kind of person you are...

At 3:53 a.m., Blogger Chris Taylor said...

This is when it helps to have an authentically generic whitebread name like mine that about a million people also have. Of course I am still pretty noticeable if you google it, but at least it's not right at the top of the list.

I sympathize with the predicament, though. In general, I avoid all family details on the blog but am happy to relate non-confidential work anecdotes, since they might be useful or amusing to someone else out there in the corporate world. I can always get another job. I can't always get another family. =)

At 6:10 a.m., Blogger The Tiger said...

It's a factor, ain't it?

I may end up scrubbing my blog if I head deep into academia or start applying for government jobs that require having a security clearance -- that's part of what moving to a new URL could eventually involve.

My views are such that almost everyone will get annoyed with me on one or two issues, so I think that there's some protection there. :-)

Wasn't the old 60's feminist slogan "the personal is political"? I think that they got it right. One's personal life does shape one's politics.

At 4:55 p.m., Blogger Mike H said...


Damn fine post. You're not in a rut, you're on fire!!

At 7:51 p.m., Blogger Ghost of a flea said...

Googling my name brings up some pretty grotesque criticism of my life and work fairly high up the list. One question is how courteous one decides to be in responding to such criticism in circumstances where turning the other cheek only allows such personal attacks to go unchallenged. One option with a high traffic blog and corresponding ability to speak to Google ranking is to meet it in kind. That would be the "shove" part of "when push comes to shove" and, absent better manners in the blogosphere, I fear this sort of tit for tat is where things are headed.

At 3:57 p.m., Blogger Mike Brock said...

Well, I can certainly relate. Actually, I can more than relate, considering I've had a relationship of mine completely destroyed by the discovery of my blog and my political views, hence the post I made a while ago.

It depressed me for about two days, now I've stop giving a crap. In fact, I'm planning on stepping up the ego, bidding farewell to those who I shouldn't even consider friends in the first place, and working even harder to raise my profile in the political landscape.

If you have to hide your identitiy or your views from people, in order to evade a negative reaction or resentment, are those people actually your friends in the first place?

At 9:54 p.m., Blogger NightFallTech said...

I wonder what the effect on my would be should a prospective employer google "Damian Brooks", which, as chance would have it, happens to be my name, I can only assume they would be switched on enough to realize i'm not canadian :).


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