Thursday, November 30, 2006

am I honest?

Prof Me is moving. Reading her post today about blogging honesty and assuming a character moved me to a little soul-searching: Why do I do this? Why do I make the effort to write on this blog when there are plenty of other writing projects to keep me busy? Besides the why, is there a question of who? Might I have taken on a persona that doesn't ring true to the real me?

I started this blog over two years ago - a fact that stuns me every time I think of it. I started because I was interested in weblogs; I was considering them as part of the research for my dissertation and I didn't think I could do that without first experimenting with the concept. The first few posts were rather stilted (since I wasn't writing for any real purpose) but I gradually slid into academic mode: the blog became a way for me to think through dissertation issues - the research, the writing, the meetings, the literature. Like PM mentions, though, the blog "quickly evolved into a more personal statement" and I was writing whatever came to mind.

Two years later, why do I keep writing? Sure, I like using the blog to work through things as I type - but I could easily write in a journal. Yes, the blog gives me a place to vent about all sorts of things, large and small - but I could talk to a wall if the issue is just venting. Okay, I have found that the physical act of making myself think coherently in this informal space guarantees that I write something every day, which is necessary for my brain - but I could keep a notebook or scribble on a scratchpad to keep those juices flowing.

When it comes down to it, I write because of the community I feel here. Selfishly, I like the feeling of friendship that comes from writing, receiving comments, reading other blogs, leaving comments; I have a group of friends - even without knowing their faces or sometimes even their names - and I want to talk to them. I like that new friends might pop up; I like that I can ask questions and get answers; I like that I can have a bad day and hear the virtual nods from everyone who's suffered the same. This blog isn't the same blog that I started two years ago but I think I'm okay with that.

The question of "honest" blogging is harder to answer. Is this me? If you met me for coffee (or tea, as the case may be), would you make the connection between the me in front of you and the me on your computer screen? I'd like to think so. I "talk" here, so I feel like this is my voice. The turns of phrase, the muttered asides, the self-deprecating humor - that's me over lunch, too.

So, why blog anonymously? If I think of this as a community and many of you as friends, why not just open it up and say who I am, where I am, what I do? You know, I have a hard time answering that. I've thought about it at times over the past two years but I don't have a clear response. There are the issues of protecting myself from possible university retribution, perhaps (I definitely wouldn't link to my blog from my faculty website, so that perhaps may be more definitive than I want to admit). However, the best answer I can give is this: I'm still figuring out who I am. Right now, phd me identifies me as clearly as my real name, at least in my mind, and it doesn't come with some of the baggage that accompanies my given name. It's like meeting someone for the first time, offering your hand and starting a conversation; at that minute, you are only what exists between you. It isn't that you're creating a new persona, it's that you get to present a fresh you, the real you. Using my real name provides info that may or may not accurately present who I am - not the name itself (I'm not descending from a royal line or anything) but the accompanying bits that are easily interpreted to form a perception - what I look like, what I do, where I live.

That's the best I can do, and it may or may not make sense.

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