Afraid of blogging?
I guess my new blog day is turning into Fridays. I’ve actually been avoiding blogging a little over the past few weeks. It’s not that I don’t have anything say (all my friends and family can tell you I always have a lot to say). And it’s definitely not because I don’t want to write – I love to play with words. It’s that I’ve become increasingly aware of the impact of those words written on the internet and how they can affect other people.
When I started blogging a few years ago I figured no one would read what I had to say besides my mother and best friends. I wrote how I felt and how I would have talked to them in person had we been in the same room. I didn’t really think of other people I didn’t know reading my posts. I started doing “the project” and slowly gained followers, but most of the topics were fun and people enjoyed my silliness. I found out during good deed and poverty months that my opinions can really hurt people and that I should make sure I watch how I phrase things and what I choose to write about. However, I kept going: in the name of art, truth, and being true to myself.
Recently, though, I’ve been aware of many bloggers writing sometimes seemingly harmless things and other people taking offence. There was a vegan blogger who wrote about how she had to stop being vegan because her body needed her to. That blogger got death threats from vegan activists, and ultimately she shut down her blog for the safety of her family. She was just saying her opinion about her own journey and talking about the food she eats.
I just read a different blogger’s post about being depressed and angry at the person who wrote 21 Habits of Happy People. She argues that it’s not that easy and those “happy people” are essentially being bullies. (It’s a very interesting argument and worth a read). She had so many responses from “happy people” telling her she is wrong that she wrote a follow-up post, and a subsequent 21 Tips to Keep Your Shit Together When You’re Depressed.
In many of these instances people are just writing how they feel, from the vegan blogger, to the depressed woman, to the happy people. Yet, they are hurting other people. I’m so very aware right now that what I write might be upsetting someone else, even if I’m just writing my own story, that it almost stops me from writing anything. I’m so stuck between the need to share, the idea that more shades brings a more complete picture, and not wanting to indirectly hurt someone. It’s almost making me rethink blogging as a whole.
I’m even more aware of the power of words and images on the internet by the stream of young people committing suicide after being cyber-bullied. In these instances the people doing the bullying were intentionally trying to hurt the other person, unlike what I was talking about previously. These sad cases (which disturb me to the core, considering my experience with being bullied) are an extreme, but they do highlight a major problem with the way we communicate on the internet. In our age of putting everything online, we are forgetting that those words, images and videos are accessible everywhere and sometimes spread like wildfire, and can be very hurtful.
As a journalist, though, I also think about where we draw the line. Should happy people stop saying the reasons they are happy? Should vegan bloggers not be able to say that they think their body wants a bit of animal? Should depressed people not be able to say their side of the story too? Being able to publish how we feel is an amazing right we have, but it’s also a responsibility. Now that day-to-day life is posted online, there needs to be an internet code of conduct written. Don’t cyber bully, don’t be mean to someone, don’t discount their opinion straight away because it’s not your own. But, yes, let’s have open discussions about topics like veganism, depression, bullying. Because that is both the beauty and the curse of blogging. But let’s also not forget that what we say can directly affect other people, sometimes hurt them.
As I write this, I am still struggling with whether I can keep putting myself out here on the blogosphere. I don’t want to be a bully, directly or indirectly. But I also want to share my story with the world. How do I reconcile this in myself to continue to blog? I’m not sure.