Thursday, January 13, 2011

Redaction and Control

I have changed quite a bit over the years. Maybe I haven't changed, but what I think about things has changed...drastically in some areas. This is something of which I am constantly aware.

Assistant Village Idiot/AVI, while posting some of his older posts from previous years, which I happened to have commented on, realized that they provided a history of my thoughts.
He writes:
I hadn’t realized that one of the functions of my "Best of” series is to trace the development of terri’s thought. Almost four years later, terri, where do you stand on these two related posts now?
Great. The internets are in my head! ;-)

I won't answer AVI's question in this post, because I would rather spend some time thinking about it and how I will reply, but I will address a topic related to the question; self-redaction.

People change. Their opinions change. Their confidence level changes.

As they change, the need to overturn previous ideas and reformulate their identity comes to the forefront. Normally, this is not a public transformation. People familiar with "the changer" may decide that they no longer have anything in common with them. They may slowly pull away, or "the changer" may naturally drift in a different direction. It usually is not an event that is documented, or perhaps even understood by the people around them, except for maybe their closest relationships.

That is not the current case for anyone who blogs, or for anyone who has any sort of public life, or public stance. Now, anything you have written, or spoken out loud is recorded somewhere, whether it's in the basement archive of the internet, or posted as a video on youtube, or distributed through Facebook profiles. The amount of readily available information on any person who has had any online presence, no matter how minuscule, is staggering.

The only comfort is that there is so much information online that only people who are actively trying to find you, and information about you, will come across the outline of your life.

So, try not to attract stalkers! ;-)

What should bloggers do when they change? I have known some who actively go back and delete previous posts, either out of embarrassment, or a desire to present their current persona as unified.

I have purposely resisted that urge. If I started going through my archives, deleting posts that I wrote and no longer agree with 100%, I would see it as a kind of cannibalism and the worst type of self-deceit. I have the luxury of feeling that way because my blog and readership are pretty small, and I don't plan on running for public office any time soon. I can afford to leave my life and thoughts up, warts and all.

On the other hand, I have severely limited the personal topics which I write about. Only when I need to vent my spleen, do I venture into that territory. I have censored myself because I realize that it is only a matter of time before my blog will be found by someone, somewhere who I know and interact with in real life.

As such, I don't want to write things that I would regret. I also am very aware that as my children grow older and more cognizant of "the blog" that at some future point they will probably read through it. I used to pore over my mother's high school year book and read all of the notes that people wrote in it. It was interesting to think of my mother as a separate person and to peer into her high school relationships in such an innocuous way.

Considering that nothing ever truly disappears on the internet, I choose much more cautiously the things which I write about my experience of motherhood and my relationships with my children. I am always aware that my kids may choose to bore themselves to death, at some point in the future, by reading what I write here.

When I first started blogging, I thought that I was going to be a "mommy blogger" writing posts about the battle of parenthood and how my kids were driving me crazy. I definitely have some of those posts, but I soon realized that I didn't want to write about my daily existence as a mom. That was my 24-7 real life.

I much more enjoyed, and do enjoy, writing about things that had/have little to do with what I spend most of my time doing, managing a family. I know that what I do is important, but I need a slice of myself to not be determined by that role.

I am more than a mom and wife, so I write about everything else that interests me.

About once a month, I have a desperate urge to wipe this blog out....to just stop blogging....to erase as much of my online existence as I can. This usually happens when I have an uptick in traffic.

When someone links to me and actually takes anything I said seriously, it startles me. I want to shrink back and withdraw and ask,"You're listening to me? Really? Are you sure you want to do that?" Because even though I am narcissistic, in the way that all regular bloggers must be in order to think that anyone cares what they have to say in the first place, I am also uncomfortable with being scrutinized. I like to be in control of who knows me and how well they know me. I like to have a sense for who's reading and why and what the likely reaction will be.

The longer I blog, the more open I leave myself to being mentally dissected by anyone who chooses to spend the time dissecting me. My safety lies in the fact that most people are not all that interested in the task. So...Yay for that!

Even though I have the urges to delete and redact and be in control of my online persona, I resist that urge because I think that it's bad for me to give in to it. Keeping the ugly parts, and the not-so-coherent parts, and the parts I would rather forget, and the earnest, innocent parts is important. It causes me, most of the time, to speak/write with some humility...because I am sure that somewhere, someone could find something I wrote and throw it right back at me. At least in keeping all of what I have written, it's possible to trace where I started and how I got there.

When we essentially erase our history and rewrite a better, more pleasing(to ourselves) version of it we lose touch with reality and present a reality that doesn't quite adhere to itself. We put forth a history which isn't true or real...at least in the sense of "history".

Unfortunately, the common impulse is to do just that. History is replete with empires and religions and movements which have, upon coming into power, tried to erase all mention of previous empires, religions, and movements.

I think of the biography I read about Henry the VIII's wives, and how when he moved on to a new wife, he would try to erase any mention of the old one. One, in particular, had been so thoroughly erased that there was only one spot in the royal house which had her initials, an overlooked artifact that had been missed in the "cleansing" of her memory.

Self-redaction is a mild form of self-destruction and denial.

I am trying to look at myself unflinchingly...though I do sometimes flinch at the sight of myself and what the changing appearance means for me. Yet....I won't completely break the mirror and pretend that I don't see myself for who I am and where I came from.

4 comments:

Sabio Lantz said...

That was a very fun romp -- thanx. Keep re-inventing, keep playing and experimenting and please keep sharing when you feel like it.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I don't have your privacy concerns, so I doubt my own experience will be that solid an example, but I don't go back and delete. My oldest boys have read along the whole way, and knew my thinking before I started blogging. I doubt anyone else will ever spend much time on the older stuff, so it's mostly for my own reference.

Also, I've become more comfortable with saying "My thinking has changed on this over the last 2 (or 20) years." And there's always the chance I was more correct then, and my development is really deterioration.

VanceH- said...

Hi Teri,
Please continue to resist the urge to stop blogging. You have been a great encouragement to me over the years. My spiritual path has been very similar to yours as we navigate away from an inerrant scripture and doctrines that stop making sense.

-- Vance

terri said...

Hey Vance!

I didn't know that you still read my blog! ;-)

Thanks for the encouragement. Most of the time I worry that I am a discouragement to people...it seems I am always deconstructing something or other that part of me really doesn't want to deconstruct.

I'm starting to wonder if there will ever be an end-point for me insight