Today, I was paid a visit by The Overshare Fairy: a very close, otherwise anonymous friend of mine whose opinion I respect deeply and cherish beyond measure. The Fairy is not the most technologically-adept person in the world (part of the reason why we’re kindred spirits– long live cassette tapes!). That said, this Fairy occasionally stumbles into the blogosphere and catches up on my life by reading through posts at random.
Unfortunately, after a long period of not reading a solitary word of my online writing, my Overshare Fairy happened upon the post which chronicled the Wave Pool Incident of 1993. Yes. Of all the well-written, insightful, and thought-provoking posts to possibly stumble upon, my Fairy landed on the single most embarrassing and potentially incriminating one in the history of both my blogs. Ain’t that some luck?
My Fairy, being a kindred spirit with some legitimate concerns (and some other, overblown ones) about the Dark Underbelly of the Internet, felt compelled to say something about this post to me. So we ended up having an awkward and painful conversation today, in which the differences between ‘being honest’ in my writing and ‘setting reasonable boundaries’ were gently discussed. Although (believe it or not), I actually do have clear lines established re: what I will/will not write about on the internet, I realized with a heavy heart that my Fairy’s qualms about The Post With The Wave Pool Incident were altogether valid. In other words, even though I didn’t lie about The Incident in my post– it actually happened and it was honestly reported– the internet still would have survived (nay, thrived) without me necessarily bringing it up in the first place.
I’ve had an aching soul and a scattered brain ever since our conversation. My Overshare Fairy didn’t get angry or make accusations when we talked, so my typical knee-jerk reactions (e.g. crying Censorship!, Muzzling!, or Don’t Tell Me How To Write My Own Blog!!!!) were totally out of place and completely without merit. I couldn’t even argue that my Fairy was wrong or misguided about the issues, because I get it. Fully. Completely. The Wave Pool Incident was uncalled for. (In my defense, though, it was pretty funny at the time, and I can also (easily) rattle off at least 10 posts/photos from the other blogs that could put The Wave Pool post to shame. Alas, my Fairy doesn’t make it around the internet very much so doesn’t have that same understanding of relativity.)
The issue isn’t necessarily about me posting The Wave Pool Incident on the internet. Rather, my Overshare Fairy’s main concerns focused on the potentially negative consequences that my words could have if they were ever taken out of context or used against me (or my dear husband!) I certainly wouldn’t want The Wave Pool Incident to come back and haunt me on the eve of my Pulitzer Prize win, and I also shudder to think about one of Marty’s respectful, conservative clients stumbling upon that particular post when searching for information about his artwork. [dramatic pause for an extended shudder]
I’ll admit that it’s taken me the whole day to separate out my Overshare Fairy’s words about that one, specific post from a global feeling of failing/disappointing/shaming the people I care about the most. (I tried to be mature and not take it personally, but that lasted for about one second. Then the sloppy tears started falling and I started wailing incoherently about how silly and/or stupid I was to ever (over)share anything on the internet, possibly to the peril of my/Marty’s reputation. Poor Marty had a hot mess to console after that… all. afternoon.) Thankfully, I’ve recovered, and I’ve come to accept that being humorous and sarcastic in my posts doesn’t have to involve sharing something really, hilariously personal. Also: I can still write in my own voice and honour my personal experiences without crossing that line between sharing and oversharing.
To remedy the situation and to prevent Marty’s good name from being dragged into the mud by my more flamboyant posts, I’ve gone ahead and edited any previous posts that specifically referenced him on his behalf. (He can thank my Overshare Fairy for that.) I’ve also done the unthinkable and completely erased the parts about The Wave Pool Incident. (It will now be like the Area 51 or Bermuda Triangle of my blog… the place where certain things go to disappear.) I feel OK about this, despite my initial reservations and reluctance to drastically edit my writing after the fact. It also must be said that I’m really grateful to my Overshare Fairy for having the guts to tell me something s/he knew would get me all defensive and ugly. Only a true friend would prize honesty over saving (my) face (from salty streaks of tears). It all worked out in the end.
How do you deal with the issues of honesty and integrity on your own blog? Have any of you deleted entire posts after they’ve been published? Does censorship have a place on your blog? Who censors you?
Good God, Dana–obviously I’m not the one to address this! I’m out about my sexual orientation, my mental illness, my father’s Mafia connection. Clearly, I can only say, I have a very definite strategy in mind. I plan to write a memoir. But this is tough.
And now I’m DYING to read the post you deleted. It’s killing my Dana!
Hugs from Haiti,
I’m open about a lot of things on this here blog as well. I just found out (the hard way) that ‘humorous’ does not always equal ‘tasteful’! (Better to learn that now when my blog is still fledgling, though, rather than while I’m being considered for a Pulitzer!) 🙂
I’m with Kathy in that I am probably the LAST person to talk about censorship after sharing news of Public Pooping and Blister Waddle with the world. I have, however, deleted whole posts (LOTS of them), which explains the giant gaps in my earlier blogging days. When more people started reading my blog (up from 2 to FIVE!) I realized that specific references to people in my family or Inner Circle of Crazy could be hurtful or embarrassing. I felt mad for the first little bit because I wanted to write what I write and be left alone about it, but I get it now. Sharing a story in my online “diary” is different than sharing it with a ton of people!
I guess that’s what it comes down to– it’s one thing to be very open about yourself online, but as soon as other people are involved in the stories, they’re not really entirely yours to tell anymore. It took somebody else pointing it out to me, but I don’t want any of my cheap laughs to be damaging to Marty’s reputation. At all. And even though he’s not an explicit part of every single post I write on my blog, people are starting to clue in that we’re together, so whatever I write online now reflects on him a little bit as well. Le sigh. Growing up is hard to do! 😦
I actually didn’t find that particular story distasteful – we all did silly things as teenagers and that “when I was an awkward teenager” style to your blog always makes me smile – it’s not like you did it yesterday…
That being said, I ended up deleting my whole blog when I started doing a lot of media at work – I knew if a journalist googled me, one of my top 10 pages to come up was my blog and it was so personal that someone could use it against me. Ah the public sphere. Hang in there – love reading your adventures!
Thanks, Terra. I don’t mind being silly most of the time in my writing, but I can see how the general public wouldn’t be on a ‘need-to-know’ basis for the Wave Pool story. 🙂 I’m still sad that you don’t have your crafting blog anymore, but I understand why you took it down. If I Google myself, I STILL get reminded that I placed 99th out of 103 in a stupid track and field race in 2001… thanks for keeping it up for posterity, internet!
I write my blog like I want, but I have no reason to self censor. I do know my family reads it and while that does maybe make me reign in the swearing, it’s only by drips and drabs. I’m pretty honest and open about my life, it’s easier that way. especially as I age, I can only remember so much…
Haha– gradual memory loss is definitely one way to keep it real. 🙂 As you can see from my own blog, I’m pretty upfront about the goings on in my life. (Lying to a priest, anyone?) I’ve realized that I need to keep things ‘above the belt’ for professional reasons, though. So no more Wave Pool stories, at least not in such sordid, painful details.
I’m not sure why you shouldn’t be able to open up about yourself as much as you choose, but of course sharing personal details about anyone else then becomes their reasonable concern when laid out to the vast cyber-world.
I’ll bet Marty loves how you share yourself through your writing, just as you love how he shares himself through his painting.
Having said that, I have no idea what the controversial story contained, but thanks for tweeking my interest here. 🙂
Yeah, Dean– Marty is very supportive of my writing and never ceases to be amazed by my candidness. 🙂
After talking to my friend yesterday, I just had a bit of a light bulb moment and realized that even the posts about ME AND ONLY ME can technically carry implications beyond myself. We are often categorized and defined by others ‘by proxy’, so I want to establish the best baseline against which the general public can measure me and the people I care about. It’s like gunning to be a politician– you’d best be making sure that your past and any/all documentation about you is squeaky clean!
All of that said, the sarcastic and awkward ‘me’ isn’t going anywhere. I’ll still be here, yammering away like an idiot! 🙂
Now I’m dying of curiousity.
How about a PG summary of what the Wavepool Incident was, with the details blacked out ?
What Wavepool Incident? I have no idea what you’re talking about. 🙂
Quite interesting in itself how many responses this personal/self-censorship issue has generated. I think most of us recognize that it is our relationship and struggles with ourselves and our consciences that is what gives us the greatest meaning and purpose to our lives.
I now remember the story that we are now asked to forget and what strikes me most is how it was about something that took place when you were, what, twelve years old ? How or why anyone would give this any negative significance eighteen years later is beyond me. To the contrary, if anything, I consider it a wonderful opportunity for garnering wisdom through hindsight, one to be relished not repressively buried in dark recesses of ‘bad memories’. And I supect you felt that way also when you first wrote it.
We all know that we each have ‘baggage’ of many varieties and sizes, from clutch-purses to Samsonite indestructibles and pretending otherwise is just plain foolish. Accepting them as part of our life experience that made us what we are today is only realistic, and inevitably most healthy.
What can matter a whole lot is when something perhaps better more forgotten, resurfaces in a very relevant manifestation affecting our here and now.
No better example is the issue I am facing this month, struggling to renew my causeway artists license, owing to an administrative act of reprisal for shining a light on the current unethical and possibly criminal actions of an individual found guilty of major criminal fraud in the Calgary Winter Olympics 23 years ago. No better example of shooting the messenger for not liking the message could there be.
As the old truism goes, if we don’t learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it.
Hahaha, I feel so lucky to have read that story when it came out! It was GOLD. I completely understand your decision to delete it though. At least YOU wrote that post, and not someone else from your high school!!! (I unfortunately feature in an ex’s “book”, and wish I could delete that at will!)
Yeah, ouch. I hope I never feature in any ex’s book– that’s gotta SUCK! (Presuming that your ex has more than just glowing and flattering things to say about you– which, if s/he’s an ex, must be the case. Ack!)
Any of my ex stories would come from my teens and very early 20s– I met Marty when I was 22. By default, any/all things that could be reported about me in an ex’s book would be awkward and uncomfortable. Now I’m nervous one of my exes will morph into a literary darling! 🙂
There isn’t anything really bad in there, it’s just a LITTLE bit too much personal information… and if he has asked for my permission, I might feel differently! It seems like only a handful of people will read it though, so I don’t think I have too much to worry about.
Oooh… now I totally want to know what book it is. Give me dirt! 😉
When I first started reading this post I was outraged – who is this person telling you that you are sharing too much?! Then I realized where you were going with this: Marty and his (and your!) future reputations.
Although I think stories like these are what makes us human and what makes us interesting as individuals, I then thought about my blog and how much I censor myself. There is a LOT that I don’t share on my blog, but that’s because I’m super private. In fact, it’s kind of weird that I even HAVE a blog given that fact.
Still – it’s what allowed me to meet you guys, so overall there are more good things than bad. (I’m also so glad I got to read the story because it is HILARIOUS.)
As I told my Fairy, if ANYBODY else had made comments like that on ANY OTHER post of mine, they would have been dead to me forever. However, my Fairy and I go way back and I can understand where s/he’s coming from with the comments, especially about that particular overshare. It’s nice to have somebody looking out for me (and Marty!)– kind of like a Fairy Godmother. 😉
NO WAY! My friend actually read it, and he didn’t think it was so bad. I guess I’m just uncomfortable about being “out there”, in any way that I haven’t chosen myself.
Makes sense. I was just kiddin’! 🙂
Sounds like I’m your most conservative commentaire…while I don’t picket for censorship, I am pretty reputation sensitive, which sounds privileged and ridiculous and makes me want to barf a little. If my name is my brand and I’m looking for work in a rather conservative field in a conservative town, I have to be willing to answer and I’m not willing to answer for much – because any form of confrontation makes me fold like a yogi.
All that said, I love your blog and wouldn’t want it any other way (not that it’s about me), but I wouldn’t get angry at anyone feeling the need to tone it down.
Hahaha. I understand that academic thought process and reflexiveness COMPLETELY! 🙂
I think I can answer to pretty much anything on my blog, especially now that the Wave Pool Incident has been erased. But I’m also in a totally different field/employment situation than you are, so that counts for something.
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This is such a good post, Dana! It is a CONSTANT struggle for me, My current memoir would probably do much better as fiction, but I just feel like I’m not ready to give up the invisible stamp that says “this is all true.” (Or as true as anyone’s memory can be.)
I agree with an earlier comment that once other people are involved, that’s when you need to be the most careful (as you clearly are). I often wonder how some of my favorite memoir writers, like Augusten Burroughs and David Sedaris, do it. They talk about REALLY personal stuff, and their families (in a very poor light sometimes!), but that’s exactly what makes them so good and so relatable. I know I’ll never write anything that I truly feel will jeopordize my relationships, but, I know I’m going to have to take some chances, and not everyone will be happy with my choices.
And of course I’m dying to read the wave pool story now…darnit. LOL
Thanks, Jules! I would never have the courage (or gall) to write as candidly as Sedaris does. I’m a chronic people pleaser, and even the thought that my writing could jeopardize any of my relationships would slay me. It can be frustrating at times, but so far, my respect for family and friends has always outweighed whatever urges I’ve had to write super personal things for the public to read. (In retrospect, I’m not sure how the Wave Pool story even made it past my filters, but I guess it was a good reality check to be called out for it.)
PS: So I don’t leave you completely in the dark, the Wavepool Incident of 1993 was initially included in one of those blog award posts where you have to list 5 things about you– 4 false and 1 true. I was a GIGANTIC DORK in 1993 (12 years old and uber-awkward), so I included a little tidbit about my adventures at the wave pool as my 1 truth. I knew that it was so outlandish and horrifying a story that nobody would guess it as my truth. I was right, but it was oh-so-wrong to post it in the first place. Think puberty and swimsuits. I will say no more. 🙂