About four years ago (i.e., “way back in the day,” in the chronology of the interwebs), before the advent – or perhaps just the mainstream acceptance – of the term “social media,” I was a blogger. Sure, I blog now, as you can plainly see (albeit woefully infrequently, I know), but I wouldn’t call myself a “blogger” at this point any longer. A “writer,” yes. A “blogger”? Hardly.
What did being a “blogger” entail then? Well, it was a special, personal role that I embraced, and one that I relished. I defined myself by this luminous and ambiguous “blogger” status. I wielded my power to persuade, entertain, enrage, and educate mercifully. I created a community around my blog. I nurtured this community by participating and reaching out to the members of it via commenting on their blogs, including them in my blogroll and blogposts, corresponding with them in the comments, and taking an interest in the blogged and unblogged parts of their lives. You see, they were all personal bloggers as well (as opposed to professional bloggers), and the trials and tribulations they faced became intertwined in my online presence and persona. I tailored my writing style and content to this community so that they would remain engaged and invested, and so they’d encourage others to do the same. I made new friendships (both online and offline), and I revived dormant ones via blogging. Some of my closest and dearest friends originated from the days that I flourished as a blogger.
I wrote under a pseudonym, and it allowed me to write with unadulterated abandon. It was PG-13 at best, and at worst, it was…well, it was never pornography, let’s put it that way. It was both freeing and cumbersome to be so upfront and honest. I allowed every minutiae of my existence to be examined by those that wanted to relate to me, those that wanted to understand human interactions through me, those that wanted to be amused by my debacles, and those that wanted to scrutinize and judge me.
After awhile, I made the executive decision that this approach was unsustainable, and besides, it way too close for comfort. Perhaps I had not formally attached my given name to that wealth of documented failed dating escapades, for example, but did I really want to cement my reputation in the online world as the quintessential bachelorette, faltering and wobbling and second-guessing her every step in all things life and love?
In a word: no. While my former blog depicted (and might still be) who I was at the time, it certainly wasn’t the way I wanted to go down in Google-cached history. I’ve got too much brain, too much heart, and too much soul to make a voluntary and unpaid livelihood out of exploiting and poking fun at my own shortcomings. As intimately enriching and soul-searching as it might’ve been for me.
And so I began using my real name in all forms of online communication. My Flickr profile disrobed first (where I was always “Fayza,” but I strictly separated it from my existing online persona). Twitter followed suit shortly thereafter. Eventually, the protective blog wall collapsed as well. Without the veil to hide behind, I was forced to take more responsibility for my words. Not that I was an irresponsible author of online content in the past, but blogging under my real name made it clear that admitting to various singleton trysts and tribulations would be infinitely attached to both my personal and professional reputation. In essence, it was time to grow up a little, and the statements I made public for all to see on the interwebs would have to reflect that. The highly self-analytical, introspective, sacrificial lamb in me had to be gated and penned for the preservation of the Fayzablogging species. Despite the fact that there were things I wanted to say – generally still being an older version of that haphazard, uncertain, frivolous singleton – there was a better home for those thoughts and observations; namely, not my blog.
But I struggle with this realization every time I explore possible blog topics now. I wonder who I am based upon the drivel that eventually makes it to your computer screens. And then I inevitably think, “What do I even write about anymore?” If sharing the experiences most innate to me are invariably off-limits, what is there for me to say with any sort of authority or know-how or, most importantly, conviction?
I’ve had these conversations with Maggie in the past, and it helps to understand that I am not alone in the sentiment. They’ve begun like, “There’s something I want to say about my personal life, and I want to blog about it. But I don’t want to blog about it. But I do want to say it. How do you go about doing that?” I echo those sentiments and that inquiry, because I have yet to figure out how to answer that question for myself. There’s content that I want to publish – perhaps because I want your opinion, or perhaps because I want to tell you my story – but, as it seems is a no-brainer, I can’t. I just can’t. Using my real name requires a prudent exercise of restraint when it comes to what I do and do not post on my blog. It comes with the territory; my dirty laundry doesn’t need to hang on a public clothesline. But that sort of self-moderation has been incredibly difficult for me, in the end. Almost stifling.
I mean, do I publicly string up series after series of text messages like a banner of disappointment from failed suitorships, which I did with glee in the past? Not advisable. Do I mourn the details of the professional mistakes I’ve made? Not judicious. Do I selfishly expound upon what I still desire from this existence? Not relevant. Do I want to be defined by my personal life in a realm where I want to be viewed as a professional? Not wise. Do I hold back because the subjects with which I’m the most acutely familiar aren’t fair fodder for this blog’s purpose or function? Absolutely.
Okay, so what I don’t say is generally clear. But then, what do I say?
Note: Screenshots are actual posts from my former blog. The PG-rated ones, that is.