Monday, June 29, 2009

Blogging to Heal (Part 2)

As I mentioned in my post on Saturday, I plan to write more about the topic of blogging to heal. The way I see it, there are three separate components: the blog itself, writing as a form of healing, and developing a supportive community. In today's post, I plan on sharing some interesting info I've read in the book, Blogging: Digital Media and Society Series, by Jill Walker Rettberg, an associate professor at the University of Bergen.

In the section on Blogs as Self Exploration, Rettberg writes: "Vivian Serfaty characterizes weblogs as simultaneous mirrors and veils. Just as we study ourselves in a mirror, shaping our faces so our reflections please us, so we create a reflection of ourselves in a weblog. At the same time, we use our blogs to veil ourselves, not telling all but presenting selective aspects of ourselves to our readers.

"Pseudonymous blogs often play a flirtatious game of peek-a-boo, showing but not showing all. For instance, the pseudonymous blogger may tell us funny episodes, or life altering concerns in the tone of voice as if she were writing to a close friend...

"...When pseudonymous bloggers post photos of themselves that show some of their faces, but not all, or show them only from behind, they simultaneously use their blogs as mirrors and as veils--exploring themselves, hiding part of themselves, and looking through the veil to communicate with their readers."

Since I blog under my "real" name, I have no idea whether those of you who use pseudonyms agree with Serfaty's and Rettberg's hypotheses. Thus, I have the following questions:

If you use a pseudonym, why do you? What are the differences between blogging under a pseudonym and blogging under your real name? If you blog under your real name and use a photo as opposed to an avatar, do you have any privacy concerns?

P.S. Unless you leave comments this morning, I have a series of appointments today, and won't be able to moderate comments until later this afternoon. So, please don't worry about whether I received your comment, just realize it may take awhile for me to read it and respond.


KJ said...

I guess I blog a little in the middle. I use my own picture and part of my real name, but I have still tried to stay a little anonymous. I don't work about privacy issues as far as safety, I just find that sometimes I worry about offending or angering someone with the things I write. I definitely consider my blog writing to be a healing of sorts, and I love to go back and re-read old posts to see the areas of growth and change I have made. It is pretty exciting.

Gianna said...

In my opinion all autobiographical wrigting whether pseudonymous or not does the mirror/veil's ridiculous to think anyone would unveil everything about their lives.

I am only pseudonymous in some circles now...and soon I will no longer be pseudonymous at all as my name will be in published material in the next year...

it will not change how I share myself...

some things are too sacred to share, period. unless one has no boundaries at all. I find this argument rather silly.

I have always been much as I care to share in a public won't change when my name is widely known...and already hundreds in organizations I'm part of know me by my real name...nothing changed when I made that shift either.

perhaps some people "hide" behind their pseudonym, but my express desire when I started the blog was to show all the pain, joy, suffering, warts and beauty that I could do without betraying the sanctity of my deepest intimate life...everyone would do well to keep a veil on to some extent...I don't like reading stuff that is grossly exhibitionistic or a violation of ones boundaries...

sorry if I went on and on.
like this topic though, it made me think!

Toria/Deb said...

I blog as a way of sorting out the thoughts in my head. I've used the name "Toria" for years on the web (just like it), and have partially come out of the veil of privacy it affords me to say my real first name. I just feel a desire to keep some parts of me private. I'm worried about people perhaps stalking me online. That's all.

Wellness Writer said...

Dear KJ,
That's very interesting. Since I know you use part of your real name, and your real photograph, I wondered why.

But, I now understand. And it is exciting to look at our blogs and see how we've grown.

Thanks for commenting on this topic. It's always interested me, and I'm surprised I never asked these questions before.


Wellness Writer said...

Dear Gianna,
Another interesting point of view. Since we know each other offline, you have explained to me why you use a pseudonym on your blog, and your real name in some of the other groups in which you participate. I also know that you are going to be featured in a book.

Still, I appreciate your explaining this to others. And perhaps it puts things in perspective for them.

As you undoubtedly know, I believe few people write with as much honesty and candor as you do. So, I find your comment about boundaries interesting.

I agree that even if we write "our truths" as we see them and understand them, boundaries are important for self-preservation.

When I started this blog, my purpose was to discuss my life as honestly and openly as possible--within certain limitations that have evolved over time.

What I have learned is that "the truth has set me free." When I was younger I would have felt it was a weakness to reveal my "worts" so to speak--but, now I see it as a strength.

I believe that my ability (and yours) is share our stories as we do is one of the "benefits" (if one can see it that way) of "near death" experiences with medication.

Thanks for weighing in on this.


Wellness Writer said...

Dear Toria,
Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this as well. I agree that blogging is a way of "sorting out one's thoughts."

One of my favorite books is "Writing to Learn" by William Zinsser. And I think that blogging affords us a unique opportunity to learn about ourselves.

And concerns about safety are certainly issues, aren't they?


Gianna said...

just to clarify...I'm not sure what people will think when they see the word "featured" in a book.

my story will be one of very many shared in a book that talks about how psych meds are abused and how they can often lead to chronicity and in some cases, like mine, to physical disability. So just in case there is misunderstanding the book is not about me.

I'm also publishing under my own name in a book next year. I wrote a chapter for the book.

I've published other stuff but used my this is a layer of outing that feels scary but I'm tired of having a double life...

so out of the closet I come!!

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Gianna,
Thanks for the clarification, and that's great news!

When I was younger, self-disclosure was a bit "scary," but I quickly learned it was very exciting as well.

I've been reading some great books about this...I just need to remember what they are (Yikes, another senior moment.)


Jaleesa said...

I feel that all of the things I use to communicate on the Internet match how I come off in real life, even when using the Internet anonymously. I tend to split myself up into parts and pieces on the Internet, where the aspect of me that I show depends on the overall environment on the site. Not really veils and mirrors or deception, mostly just playing with light and being responsive to whatever the collective mood calls for. It's why I prefer to use networking sites or to write blogs that are themed versus using networking or blogs that require a unique brand to be included or noticed in the collective. I feel I represent myself more honestly that way because I don't have to play an angle. I can just go with the flow.

sallyo said...

I took a blogging class last year that motivated me to start my own blog, and I find it helps me deal with my husband's illness better. (If I remember where I put the class's books, I'll share the titles later. It's a senior moment thing.)
I decided to use part of my name and a distant photo of myself, mostly because I was unsure how much I wanted to expose my children and grandchildren. I am open about how proud I am of them, but I'm keeping some family matters private.
I also agree with the boundary issue. I'm willing to share what I learn about coping with a mentally ill loved one, but some things will remain off limits.

mmaaggnnaa said...

Hey, Susan -

I hope you get to feeling better soon (I saw the subsequent post about your dental emergency). It sounds like you have had a rough time with that!

So, to answer your question, I blog with a screen name because the consequences of people knowing what I post on my blog and knowing my "real life" identity could cause me to lose employment opportunities – not because I did any wrong, but because of ignorance and fear.

Also, I accuse some people of some pretty terrible stuff -- stuff I'm not 100% sure happened. If those people were identified, whether or not my accusations are accurate, it would open a can of worms I'm not willing to deal with. I’m not writing to get revenge, I’m writing to heal.

I do have one picture of when I was about 10 years old in my “about” page (that was 30+ years ago) . . . and my gravatar is only a silhouette from when I was about 14 years old. So, I don’t think people can easily identify me from either of those pictures, but it still gives my readers a clue about what I look like.

Thanks for asking such a good question!

- Marie (Coming Out of the Trees)

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Jalessa,
How interesting! I like the phrase "mostly just playing with light and being responsive to whatever the collective mood calls for," but I'm not sure what it means.

What are themed blogs and/or branded networks?

I hope you see this and will respond. Thanks for commenting on this topic. It's quite helpful for me to learn about how others perceive things.


Wellness Writer said...

Dear sallyo,
I am interested in the books you mention. I hope you can find the list, but I certainly understand about senior moments.

I think that's great that your blog helps you understand your husband's illness better.

And I certainly understand about protecting the privacy of your children and grandchildren.

By the time I began writing this blog, my son was 17, and was in community college. I never would have used my real name or photo if he'd been younger and if his friends might have teased him in any way because of my illness.

And he knows how important my blog is for my own healing, so he doesn't have a problem with it. But he also has some level of privacy because he has my husband's last name rather than mine.

Also, now that I understand why you use the photograph you do, it makes sense to me. I like the fact that it's you, but readers can't truly see your face (and I love the ocean too).

Finally, I agree that boundaries are important. I think we probably all have different definitions of them.

I feel comfortable discussing most things relating to bipolarity and depression. But, I rarely share any information about my husband and son, except in passing, and it's due to privacy issues as well as boundaries as I define them.

Again, I appreciate your point of view on this subject, sallyo.


Wellness Writer said...

Dear Marie,
Thanks about mentioning the dental stuff; gosh it's painful.

I can certainly understand why a person would want privacy in order to protect her (his) job. I know others who don't reveal their names for the same reason.

Of course, I feel it's wrong to be discriminated against at work because of bipolarity, but it's a real concern, and I think it's terribly important to be cautious.

For the last 20 years I have worked as a freelance writer (lately as a semi-retired one, but that might change soon), and so it's not an issue for me.

But, if I were working for an employer, I never would have revealed my name or true identity. There are just too many things that can go wrong.

And if someone isn't employed now, but intends to be in the future, I think it's an issue that truly needs to considered.

In terms of "accusing people of terrible things and not being sure if they're 100% true," I don't know what to say. It sounds like a huge issue, but I don't know the details, and perhaps this isn't the venue to discuss it anyway.

Finally, I'm assuming that the people you know now won't recognize the photo, but if people from your past do (and those are the ones you're writing about), again, it's an issue. But I'm sure it must be one you've thought about.

Thanks for commenting on this topic. Everyone is bringing up things I hadn't necessarily thought of, and it makes for a good discussion.


Paula Joy said...

I've tried things both ways. I find that when I have a blog under a pretend name, I am able to say things that I wouldn't say otherwise. That can be both good and bad!!

However, under my real name, I write for the purpose of feedback. I like hearing from my friends on certain issues. The problem comes when I see them out in the world and I don't know if they've read my blog or not. It's sometimes difficult as I wonder what my friends really think about what I wrote - especially if they say they read my blog but didn't leave a comment.

I do think about starting an anonymous blog, but the problem is that I would like to hear opinions my current blog friends, like you ;), and I don't want to be dishonest with who I am, having 2 identities floating around!

What I am trying to say is that I do hold back, to a degree, on my 'real' name blog.

James the Greatest said...

I had two to three usernames (or pseudonyms) for the longest time: one was my full name, used for accounts and such regarding work and school. a second was the one I used for internet communities such as MySpace, Twitter, etc. and I had a third; I reserved that one for the less socially acceptable communities and sites, such as those involving sexuality, alcohol, self-injury, and eve bipolarity. however, in recent months, I've made attempts to unite these "Personas", if you will, into a single entity -- into me. sure, I keep the work accounts separate from my more riske one. but there is a connection between my work and my social, and my social to my riske. so I suppose that ultimately, they are all connected. this is a major personal step for me.

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Paula Joy,
It's a dilemma, isn't it? Since I've always written under my "real" name, I'm not sure what I might say differently if I wrote under a pseudonym.

And although a few friends and relatives read my blog, for the most part the people I care most about in life don't read it.

But, I can see how it might be difficult to pour out your heart in your blog and wonder if your friends have read it and haven't commented, or just haven't read it.

Either way, I should think that might make me feel annoyed. But, I think you're a kinder and gentler soul than I am!


Wellness Writer said...

Dear James,
Congrats for integrating your three personas! I would certainly agree that work has to be separate.

But, I should also think I would feel anxious juggling different names in different communities.

Quite honestly, since I spend so little time online (other than writing my blog, responding to comments, and reading a few other blogs), I find that even thinking about all the social networking stuff makes me feel like going offline forever, and gardening!

But, of course, I'm much older than you are. Anyway, thanks for weighing in the this topic. I appreciate it.


Jaleesa said...

Finally getting back to you.

Themed blogs, to me, are blogs that expand on a single subject. Mental illness, spirituality, etc., etc. I started blogging with other people my age where the main focus was on graphics and site design, not really on content. You were known for the graphics you made and how good they were, and blogs were used like journals, to talk about life and comment on other people's lives...but mostly to praise other people's graphics when you returned comments. We only bonded over graphics making, basically. I can remember when I first started to blog using a pre-made layout and only fussing with the header, and it was shameful at first. I felt so embarrassed!

Themed blogs are de facto for most people who blog these days, but having a blog on a specific topic and within a specific community is a bit of a novelty for me. I'm not use to it. It relates to my point about "playing with light" and the collective mood. Where I started to blog, it was just you. You talked about whatever, you talked about you as you offered up pretty graphics for people to borrow. It was the precursor to Myspace and all that, the blogging culture I came from.

When your blog is themed around a certain subject, the focus becomes talking about your life in relation to that subject, you show the pieces of you that are related to your subject, if that makes sense. When I blog about mental illness, I show the side of me that's been there...when I blog about spirituality, I show my spiritual side.

I don't know. I think I only notice the nuances because 'blogging' has never meant the same thing to me. Using Insanejournal to blog gives me a different feel and has a different motive than using What Goes on to blog. I suppose if you only have one motive when you're blogging that you'll selectively choose the best of you, but I use blogging in so many different contexts that "choosing the best of me" makes no sense. I choose what's appropriate for the blog, if I'm making any sense.

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Jalessa,
Thanks ever so much for explaining all this. It's something I know nothing about, and you have provided great insight.

I appreciate the time you spent writing it, and the clarity with which you write.

While I'm taking a few days of from posting, next Monday I'll let my readers know about what you've written because I think it's so interesting.

Again, thanks.


Jaleesa said...

Your welcome, and glad I could help!

Wellness Writer said...

Again, thanks.