Not To Be Trusted With Knives











{February 12, 2007}   Anything You Say Can And Will Be Held Against You, By Somehow You Don’t Mind

My friend Phillip told me about this article called “Say Everything” in New York Magazine. It’s an article about how comfortable young people are with revealing information about themselves on the internet. If you want to read Phillip‘s take on it (and/or the comments on his blog from an educator cited in the article wherein I am legitamized as a “freelance scientist, educator, artist, model and social engineer*“), check it out here. But I want to talk about a slightly different aspect of the article.

Anyone who knows me, or has been reading my blog for a while know that I am a bit of an internet junkie. And just the other day (before having read this article), I was mentioning to Danielle how easy it would be to stalk me – you can probably find out where I am at any given time from my msn tagline, my facebook status, mapmyrun.com or my blog. I’m pretty willing to share a lot about my life with the world at large**. And of course, the “prevailing wisdom” of “anyone over the age of 30,”*** as mentioned in the article, is that doing so is dangerous. But, as Dani pointed out to me, we’d be easy to stalk regardless – it’s not that hard to follow someone and see where they go, what their routine is, when they are alone, etc****. Similarly, the article points out:

“Younger people, one could point out, are the only ones for whom it seems to have sunk in that the idea of a truly private life is already an illusion. Every street in New York has a surveillance camera. Each time you swipe your debit card at Duane Reade or use your MetroCard, that transaction is tracked. Your employer owns your e-mails. The NSA owns your phone calls. Your life is being lived in public whether you choose to acknowledge it or not.

So it may be time to consider the possibility that young people who behave as if privacy doesn’t exist are actually the sane people, not the insane ones.”

The idea of maintaining your privacy by not putting yourself out there:

“… might be an artifact—quaint and naïve, like a determined faith that virginity keeps ladies pure. Or at least that might be true for someone who has grown up “putting themselves out there” and found that the benefits of being transparent make the risks worth it.”

That is the part of the article that really spoke to me. That the “benefits of being transparent make the risks worth it.” As you may know, I recently got divorced****. And as you probably only know if you are one of my close friends, I kept my separation secret for a long, long time. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to end my marriage or if it could be saved. And I didn’t want to be influenced by what other people said, I wanted to make up my mind on my own. But mostly, I felt humiliated and didn’t want my family and friends to think less of me. Even when my ex moved out, I didn’t tell my parents, my sister, my closest friends. But the longer I kept the secret, the more isolated I felt from everyone I cared about. At the same time, I was reading blogs – blogs of people that I didn’t really know who put their lives out there for all the world to read. And I yearned to be even half as open as they were. I came to realize that I couldn’t truly be close to anyone unless I let them in, unless I made myself vulnerable, unless I took that risk. Eventually, when I had spent enough time deliberating and going to counselling to work through things in order to make my decision that the marriage was truly over, I told my friends and my family everything that had gone on. And that step, that openness, brought me closer to them than I ever had been before. Taking that risk, becoming transparent, despite the fear, despite my insecurities, despite having never really opened up like that before, were so unbelievably beneficial to me. Putting myself out there and saying “this is who I am, this is what I’ve been through” really helped me to connect with others, because I was letting them in, letting them know me more deeply than I had before. And my friends and family were there for me 100%. No one thought less of me, no one blamed me and every single one of them told me how much they loved me and understood me and supported me*****. I know this seems like I’m getting way off tangent from the article I am ostensibly discussing, but this is what the article got me thinking about. And it does relate – putting yourself out there, while risky, is, in my opinion, worth it. And putting yourself out there to a worldwide audience is just an extension of this. I’m often surprised by how many people out there will say something on their blog and I think I know exactly what you mean. Or how I will say something on my blog and it will resonate with others. And I’m sure there are moments where I say things that spark something in someone that I will never know about – after all, the people whose blogs I read that taught me how to be open probably have no idea that they had this profound effect on me.

Other quotations from the article along the same lines include:

“…the potential for self-documentation to deepen the intimacy of daily life.”

“This is Jakob’s [the co-founder of Vimeo and co-creater of CollegeHumor.com] vision: a place where topless photos are no big deal—but also where everyone can be known, simply by making him- or herself a bit vulnerable.”

“In this linked, logged world, you have a place to think out loud and be listened to, to meet strangers and go deeper with friends.”

Another quotation from the article that spoke to me was:

“All sorts of opportunities—romantic, professional, creative—seem to Xiyin to be directly linked to her willingness to reveal herself a little.”

Again, this is something to which I can totally relate. I have friends, including the aforementioned Phillip, that I have met through online ventures (Facebook, blogging, etc.). I even scored myself wicked cool free pens and a signed copy of the Heathen’s Guide to World Religions****** based on my blog postings. You never know what opportunities may arise. Although I have often wondered if I have no job because potential employers have Googled me and found this site… which brings me to this quotation:

“It’s a form of communication that requires a person to be constantly aware that anything you say can and will be used against you, but somehow not to mind.”

I’ve said before that if someone Googled me and didn’t hire me based on something they read on my blog, then that is a person I don’t want to work with. This is who I am and if you can’t deal with that, then perhaps it’s best we not try to collaborate. Of course, as my bank account balance rapidly approaches 0, my opinion on this may change.

And finally, one of the young people in the article says,:

“To me, or to a lot of people, it’s like, why go to a party if you’re not going to get your picture taken?”

So true. See here, here, here, here, here, here and here for more.

*that’s right, a site on the internets that is *not written by me* says that I’m a model. And that I have model friends.
**although there are a few things that I never talk about here in the blogosphere. Things that I have consciously decided to keep out of the public domain.
***of course, I take exception to the constant use of the phrase “anyone over 30” to represent “old people” in this article.. wait a sec, I’m not over 30… nevermind, it’s all good =)
****please don’t stalk me
*****dammit, that was one of the things that I never talk about on my blog!
******I should say here that I had no rational reason to think that my friends and family would not be supportive. This was all my own issues, not theirs.
*******That reminds me, I’ve been meaning to blog the story of my signed copy of the Heathen’s Guide.

I think I’m going to post a version of this on IndieBloggers.
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Courtney-O says:

For me, blogging is the opportunity to share my feelings with people who (generally) don’t know me enough to care. And if they decide to judge me for anything I write, it doesn’t matter, because I don’t know them either.

At least that’s the way it started out. I’ve developed some really good friendships, though, so that anonymity has lessened a bit. But the freedom to say anything and everything still seduces me.

And, on the plus side, being this honest and forthcoming online has enabled me to be more honest and forthcoming offline as well. I’m learning that vulnerability is not as evil as I had imagined.

Sometimes I think you and I were separated at birth, Beth.



Stacia says:

Having been recently burned by my advisor, now that I have decided which direction my life will be going, I don’t want to tell anyone. But I can’t do it alone, so I guess it’s time to put it out there (I’m still not going to blog about it). Thanks for making me realize that.



Jorge says:

I really admire you for the writing you do on your blog, Bethie.

The last few years of getting to know you better have been a really rewarding thing, and your courage in speaking the truth on here is very inspiring to many people.

In short:
You rule.

The end.



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