Did you keep a diary? I still do, but I write in it less frequently since I started my blog two years ago. Visiting my family in NYC, I brought back a stack of diaries that I’d kept since 1978 (I was turning eleven in 5th grade.)
These pages are the secret garden of my childhood. They show me the world through younger eyes.
I started my first journal as a response to an exercise at school. We had to keep a daily journal for a month. I loved the regular writing and reflection. I kept it going on my own, showing nobody. I did it for fun, the first indicator that I would grow up to be a writer. I played with words like blocks, safely in private.
In 1978 I was reading Harriet the Spy, The Secret Garden and Laura Ingalls Wilder. I started writing a novel but never finished it. I saw the King and I on Broadway and the movie of Grease. On TV my favorite show was Charlie’s Angels and Roots moved me deeply. I couldn’t understand the cruelty of slavery. I asked, “What happens when you die?” I gave my 1979 journal the name Janet after reading The Diary of Anne Frank – Anne’s diary was called Kitty. I mentioned the meanness of kids at school, the embarrassment of our sex ed. class and the thrill of my first boyfriend and kiss.
There is something special about writing only for yourself. You can be more honest. Perhaps that’s the wrong word. I’m honest in my blog, but I’m very selective about what I share. I fuss over grammar and style. My audience is always there. My rule of thumb is to assume that the last person I’d want to read my blog will find it online. My blog is as much a product of what I omit as what I include.
Omission is the dark matter of cyberspace. Do you remember the concept of dark matter from Astronomy? It makes up the bulk of the universe, but it is invisible. It has mass but no luminosity. We detect dark matter only by the gravitational force that it exerts on galaxies. Dark matter is the missing mass in our universe. My secrets are mine.
The best and the worst thing about blogging is its public nature. I love being able to share my thoughts and to get feedback. The community that has assembled around my blog is very special. I just don’t want my words to hurt someone or myself unintentionally. I’m a private blogger – is that an oxymoron?
I have been thinking about privacy issues in cyberspace lately. My 11-year-old daughter opened a Facebook account using her real name without my permission. She hid her face in the profile shot, and the pages were only accessible to her “friends.” Still, I was not comfortable with her real name being visible. Cyberspace has predators who target children.
Youthful indiscretions can get a child in trouble or even hurt her future employment prospects. My daughter’s lack of self-awareness in a public arena had already been revealed: she posted photos of a sleepover party at 2:45 am. It didn’t occur to her that her parents would see the time stamp. Think of all the dumb things you did as a teenager; would you want your mistakes to haunt you later?
Our compromise was that my daughter had to cancel her Facebook account and open a new one with a dummy name. As her “friend” my husband can view her pages. In monitoring our children and setting rules, we are protecting our daughter from herself. The issue of parental guidance is the same as in past generations, but the universe has expanded. My daughter keeps a handwritten journal too that we don’t check. There is room for personal exploration and raw honesty in private. My daughter wants to be a writer too.
Parody of Facebook on BBC’s The Wall
Blog Watch: I created this column to share the highlights of the blogs I read regularly. The visibility of blogs might pose a challenge to privacy, but it brings us together in a good way too. This week I want to draw your attention to David McMahon@authorblog. I listed David under “expat blogs” in my sidebar since he grew up in India and now resides in Australia. David is a journalist and an author, but he blogs about cyberspace and travel more than about writing books. He has a fun sense of humor and takes stunning photos. Check out his “Posts of Note” which is like my “Blog Watch.” Thank you, David, for expanding my horizon.