The Unbearable Awkwardness of Blogging About Your Life
At the height of its success, my blog attracted over 70,000 readers per month: not enough to make me Internet famous, but just enough to make sure I’d never get to express a single thought, ever again, without everyone in my life knowing about it.
My mum reads my blog.
My mum’s friend Maureen reads my blog.
Maureen’s sister’s dog-groomer reads my blog.
I’m pretty sure the dog itself might’ve read the blog at some point, too, but, if he has, he’s yet to comment on it: which I’m grateful for, because Maureen has a lot to say about it — as has my uncle’s ex-wife, that girl I went to primary school with but only vaguely remember, and the Hermes delivery guy, who once texted my husband to ask if I was OK, because I hadn’t ordered anything online in a few days.
But that’s a whole other story.
After over a decade’s worth of blogging, I have reached a point where every single person in my life, no matter how tangentially connected to it, knows every single thing about me, from how many medical procedures I’ve had, to where I buy my underwear.
It’s… a lot.
It’s not that I’m not grateful, you understand. Or that I think I have anyone but myself to blame for this surreal state of affairs, which has left me with the overwhelming paranoia that everyone I pass on the streets of my village is secretly judging me for all the things I’ve said and done online.
I know it’s all on me. And I’m grateful: no, I really am. My blog has given me an income for over ten years now. It’s allowed me to work from home, and, more importantly, to work totally for myself, free of all of the client obligations and office politics I can’t stand. It’s given me holidays and days out, and a small — but slightly obscene — collection of designer handbags that I could never have afforded to buy.
It’s also given me a strange level of infamy amongst my friends and neighbours, though, which is currently making me want to just delete the entire thing and start over. Or not.
It’s not, as I said, that I’m not grateful. I am. I am grateful that there are people who want to read what I write: even when I know some of them are only doing it either from a sense of obligation (friends and family members), or from the sheer curiosity of realising that someone you know is writing about every single experience they ever have on the internet.
It’s creatively stifling, though, to have people who aren’t the intended audience of a piece of writing pouring over it, and then offering their opinion on it. That sounds really precious, I know — like I’m trying to say my writing is too good, or too exclusive, for the mere commoners whose head it just flies over, and that’s not what I’m saying at all: trust me. I mean, one of my most recent blog posts was about how I managed to get lost less than a mile from my own home — I’m not exactly recreating the works of Shakespeare here.
It’s creatively stifling to have people who aren’t the intended audience of a piece of writing pouring over it, and then offering their opinion on it.
No, all I’m trying to say is that, when you have an online presence — of any kind — it means that every singe thing you write can (And possibly will) be read by every single person you know: and every single one of them will react as if I was directed at them, and them alone, even though it wasn’t.
Real life, of course, isn’t like that. In real life, you moderate your conversation to suit the company you find yourself in. You share different things with different people. When you have a blog, though, you share everything with everyone. Which can be awkward, occasionally.
When you have a blog you share everything with everyone.
For years, my blog has been an important outlet for me, as well as a source of income. It’s been my way of working through things, understanding the world, and connecting with like-minded souls. I have loved it, and nurtured it, and sworn blind that I would never give it up, no matter what.
But, then this year, Max started nursery, and suddenly, my online refuge started to feel more like a trap. I started to realise that the parents I see at the school gates are following me on social media, or are reading my blog. Twice now, children who live in the village have asked me if I’m “the woman with the blog”. One told me she knew about it because her uncle told her there was a blogger living in the street. I do not know her uncle. (And no, I didn’t ask…)
Suddenly, my online refuge started to feel more like a trap
There have been multiple other occasions over the past couple of years when people have recognised me from my blog, while I’ve been out and about, totally unaware that I was being … “watched” is the wrong choice of words here, because it’s not like these people were actually sitting watching me – they just recognised me, and then told me about it, is all. And, for reasons I can’t quite put my finger on, it made me feel a bit weird and uncomfortable, and just exposed, really.
I have never felt ashamed of my blog. It has won awards, earned more money than I could ever have made in “traditional” employment, and I have an entire folder filled with emails from people who have read one of my more serious posts (And, OK, the Russian eyelashes one too…), and felt comforted or helped by it. In many ways, it’s no different from the newspapers and magazines I used to write for before I switched to blogging — but, in terms of people’s reactions to it, it could not be more different: and, all of a sudden, I find myself over-thinking every post I write, to the point that I’m afraid to hit the “publish” button on even the most innocuous of subjects: even this one.
Suddenly I’ve become paranoid that all of the school mums are laughing at me: that they’re seeing me on the nursery run, in my workout clothes that are definitely more “athletic” than “athleisure”, and are nudging each other, and saying, “Well, she doesn’t look like THAT on her Instagram, does she? Who does she think she is, posing like that all the time?”
I’m most likely imagining it, of course. I mean, it’s incredibly self-important of me to think these women don’t have anything better to do than make fun of my blog/Instagram behind my back, but it’s just… I just wish I hadn’t gone through that frenzied fashion blogging phase a few years back, when I’d wear ridiculous outfits and pose in random spots around the village, almost as if I thought no one who lives here would ever stumble across the resulting photos, or think, “Who’s that idiot who seems to think she’s a model even though she’s standing in a truck stop in the rain?”
I didn’t think about any of this at the time, of course. I know that’s probably hard to believe, but it’s true: I didn’t think about it because I didn’t expect to ever have a child, and I had no reason to interact with anyone in the village without one (other than the neighbours we were already friends with before we moved here). The rest of the time, though, we could have been living anywhere, really: there’s no village pub or other meeting place around here, so the social life of the village revolves almost entirely around the school, which was completely irrelevant to us before Max came along. So what if people thought I was weird for taking my “fashun” photos on country roads and random corners, I thought? So what if they came across my blog and judged me for the things they read on it? I didn’t know them, and I couldn’t really bring myself to care about the opinions of people I didn’t even know.
But now, of course, I DO know them: or they know ME, at least: and while it isn’t really making me want to re-think my entire career path, and give up my blog, it IS making me want to move somewhere very far away, where I’d maybe feel like a little bit less of a freak all the time.