Tuesday, January 17, 2012

In Which She Discusses Censorship

 (and Sex, but Only a Little Bit)

Untitled by yyellowbird via Flickr

 In a recent conversation, a friend* and I were discussing blogging. I think we were discussing diaries and blogging, etc. I mentioned that I tend not to write about some topics on my blog (probably most primarily sex) because my in-laws and parents, and even potentially my boss read it. I vaguely recollect a look of horror from the friend as she said something to the effect of I never censor myself.

I have been carrying this little moment around with me for awhile thinking of it in those spaces when your mind wanders off, and today I thought to actually address it out loud. It occurs to me that I held onto that line because I felt a little guilty for censoring myself. But as I muse over it, I think I'm prepared to whole-heartedly embrace self-censorship on my blog.

First of all, I'm one of the most open people you'll probably ever meet. I have, on more than one occasion, found myself telling virtual strangers more about myself, my relationship, my inner thoughts and workings, than my husband has probably even told me after a decade together. Admittedly, that wouldn't be much more personal than, "I prefer not to go by Nate," which, no exaggeration, took him a year to tell me and came out as I introduced him to my parents. But yeah,  I'm not great at censoring what comes out of my mouth. However, when it comes to putting my words on paper, or the web in this case, I've always been a bit more circumspect.

It boils down to two things. First, the fact that the web is a public space. My posts get cached. I may one day decide to stop blogging, but it is highly likely that what I have written will still be accessible in some way. It's important not to forget that the words you write or type have permanence. The second is that because you will have an audience, it's important to remember that your words, no matter how anonymous you may think they are now, have the potential to have an impact, whether it's on your life or someone else's. In the age of cyber bullying and cyber sex scandals, I think it's something too many people overlook.

That's not saying that the internet required me to change how I wrote. Chalk it up to my personal sense of grandeur, but even in my diary-writing days, I always wrote like I was addressing a crowd. I tried for that balance of humor in my I'm-so-depressed-that-no-boy-likes-me entries, so it wouldn't be a heavy read, and I wouldn't sound like a pathetic sad-sack. I added details that, as the person experiencing the event, I already knew just to give my reader context. I know, I know, right?

Obviously blogging was not a difficult leap for me. It will come as no surprise to you that I tell everyone the address of my blog, nonchalantly bringing it up in conversation and subtly posting it to my Facebook page hoping to gain more followers. But even if I wasn't happy to make my writing public, I would not, no, could not forget that no matter the code name I gave myself and my husband in my blog, no matter the anonymity I tried to retain even by choosing to write in a diary that I planned to later burn, the act of writing something down gives your words power that you have to be willing to own.

Someday I might have something interesting to add to the topic of sex; even then I'll be choosing my words carefully. Because they're a reflection of me even if they don't have my name attached. But let's be honest here, they'll surely have my name attached. We all know that I don't do anonymity well.
*I cannot remember who I am paraphrasing, so I apologize if it was you and more apologies if my memory of the conversation is wrong. Still, it's not really relevant to the story, so I suppose it's insubstantial to this post.


  1. What a great post, Hanna! I think a lot of people feel/think this way. (love your new profile pic, by the way)

  2. I censor myself in the context of what I think other people will want to read. I'm not sure how many blog posts I have started and put to the side either because I couldn't craft what I wanted to say perfectly or because I didn't think anyone would be interested in reading that particular topic. I'm not really sure why I blog now that I think about it. A lot of people say they blog for themselves or to keep family informed about what's going on. My lack of reason to blog must be why I post so infrequently. I love reading what other people think, but it's hard for me to share my own experiences. I guess censorship in one's blog depends on the reason for the blog. If it's purely for oneself, I guess there's no reason to censor. But if you are blogging for others to read, censorship can be an important thing I think. There is definitely a private sphere that is being lost to people expressing everything!

  3. Elizabeth, thank you! The picture is from the Mad Men New Year's Eve party we went to this year.

    Sarah Lynn, I have a few of those blog posts just hanging out in my drafts too. You are so right about it being important to know your reason for your blog. It does completely effect your choice of what you post. I suppose I'm saying that a blog can never be purely for oneself because it's being posted on the internet. As long as it's out there, it's going to have an audience. You're right that you wouldn't have to think about the audience, but I believe that you have to censor yourself enough that you're only ever posting things you wouldn't be ashamed to claim as your own words.

  4. I completely support you not talking about sex on here. Double support. Also, I did not know that it was Nathan's choice to stop going by Nate...we all thought that YOU influenced him in that direction. Well, too bad, to his siblings he will always be Nate.

  5. jennymcardle, I definitely laughed reading, "Double support." I promise to give you a very visible disclaimer should I ever write about sex so you can choose to skip that entry if you want. Nope, I may have influenced Nathan in many ways, but the name change had absolutely nothing to do with me.

  6. I think blogging is all about what you feel comfortable sharing. And you are so right, once you put it out on the web, you can't take it back and its a part of your online identity forever. For me, I also have to keep in mind that I'm also building Matt and Daulton's online identity too. I love your blog and I love seeing what you are going to say next.