The Thing About Writing on the Internet

I write a lot of things that end up on the Internet. I also write a bunch of things that would never ever end up on the Internet. I carefully consider what types of things I want to share with you beautiful people, and what things need to be kept to myself or shared with a few close friends. I choose my content wisely.

The stuff I do post on the Internet sometimes looks personal, or like I’m sharing the deepest parts of my heart for the whole world to see. While I do agree that my goal is to make my writing transparent and genuine, I never ever share the deepest, darkest (or brightest) parts of my heart with a bunch of strangers on the Internet. I simply can’t do it. It would be foolish. Stranger Danger, and all that.

The stuff I end up sharing comes from conversations I’ve had with friends in “real life”. It comes from observations I’ve made at work or in my day to day life. It’s never the stuff I’m wrestling with personally, at the deepest level. It’s never about the relationships in my life (unless I ask permission first). Maybe sometimes little bits of that show up here and there, but it’s never enough to piece together the puzzle that is my heart or my brain.

This is the funny thing about writing on the Internet: when you start sharing little bits of your personal experiences, people assume that they know a lot about you. Some of you assume that we’d hit it off or we’d have a lot in common. Some people assume that they understand my heart. Other people assume I’d like to date them. The reality of these assumptions is you’re probably wrong (especially about the dating thing). You might be right about a few things, but I’m not so simple and straightforward that a bunch of writing on the Internet explains my every idiosyncrasy and quirk (there are too many quirks to ever explain). Even if we sat down and talked every day for three months, we would still not know each other inside and out. That takes time. Also, I talk in funny voices and it takes a bit of getting used to.

I do have friends I met on the Internet. I do share things with them. These people have ended up being kindred spirits in my life. Some of the people that “get it” the best are ones I’ve met on the Internet. But those friendships (like many “real life” friendships) started naturally and genuinely. Jokes were swapped. We chatted. We discovered that we had lots in common. We kept talking. Never have I had a real life friendship start by someone walking up to me and saying, “Hey, I think we have a lot in common. Let’s Skype and get to know each other.” That would be creepy. Like, turbo creepy.

Please be aware of something, dear Internets: even if you have read every bit of every piece of writing I’ve ever put on the Internet, you still wouldn’t know me like my friends and family know me. You still wouldn’t know the deepest, darkest (or biggest and brightest) parts of me. Those parts are reserved for the people who know me well and who love me even better. 
I love sharing things that I write. I love when people connect with my writing. I love when I get messages telling me when you’ve had an “aha!” moment because of something I wrote about. I think that’s a pretty amazing thing.

My favourite Internet interactions are those that say something like “Hey, I read your article. I really connected with it. I shared it with my close friends because it was a way to communicate how I feel with them.” Those are the messages I rejoice in. Someone has read a piece, then did something that will hopefully affect their “real life”.

If you read and connect? Awesome. If you think we’d get along? Cool. The bottom line is this: I’m not part of your real life, but I’m betting there are lots of incredible people who are. Read and consume content you find online, but don’t keep it relegated to the Internet. Talk about it. Bring it up with your real life friends. Don’t let what happens on the Internet stay on the Internet. This blog isn’t Vegas.

Talk about it, talk about it, talk about it, talk about iiiiiit.

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9 thoughts on “The Thing About Writing on the Internet

  1. So you saying you’re not sharing your worst(or your best for that matter) but just sharing. FWIW i think you have a point about the misconceptions that people get by using only a little bit of data to make broad assumptions, However i will say that people will have a very good idea of who you are by seeing what you choose to share, and maybe even a better idea by what you choose not to. ” by their works, you shall know them”

    • I’m saying I have boundaries and think carefully about what I reveal. Sure, you might have a good IDEA of who I am, but you’re still piecing together the entirety of who I am based on a handful of snapshots. And “my works” aren’t just on the Internet – in fact, I would argue that they are primarily OFF the Internet. They are less what I say and more what I actually DO. They’re intricately tied to all the idiosyncrasies of my personality that can only be truly known in the context of two-way interaction. I think it’s great that people feel that they “know” me in some sense based on what I write. That means I’m being honest, and my writing is connecting. That’s the goal. But that sense of “knowing” someone you’ve never interacted with falls short of real relational intimacy, a beautiful thing that happens when you observe the things about me that I didn’t intend to share.. The people who are in my life get to share in these parts of my life because the relationship goes both ways. Make sense?

      • Makes sense. I think I like this comment even better than your post, you expressed yourself beautifully. Not so much on my newest blog, but on my past ones, people who took the time to read them would have gotten to know me better than all but my very closest friends because I express myself better and clearer in writing than I ever can in speech; so I put myself out there for anyone willing to take the time to read it. Thank you for sharing what you do share and for the thought you put into it.

  2. Nuh uh! I totally know everything about you! :P

    Most people have a habit of feeling like they “connect” with someone they’ve never met and never will. I never quite understood my friends’ insistence that they were in love with celebrities. Surely it takes a lot more to fall in love with someone than just their looks and what they say in interviews (I say, having never experienced ‘love’).

    I tend to admire people in the public eye. And I guess wish I could be friends with what my view of them as a person is, but it’s always good to reflect on those feelings and realise what it really takes to “know” someone, rather than only having an impression of them.

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