Blogging is an interesting experience, in many ways. Many people are very open about themselves online, but even when that’s the case, how well can you know other bloggers based on their blog?
Blogging and other forms of online interaction are very conducive to compartmentalizing one’s life. You can select certain compartments to blog about and leave others out. It’s easy to do that without others online having any idea those other compartments even exist.
It doesn’t have even have to be a conscious decision to hide something; it just may not even cross your mind to say anything about the collection of 300 shoes sitting in your closet on your blog about video games. Even people who are radically open on their blogs may well have areas like this that they don’t talk about because they just never thought about mentioning them.
It may also be a conscious decision that certain compartments don’t fit with your focus on the blog. Maybe you choose to keep the blog about video games, and have an Instagram account that’s devoted to shoes. While I show some travel pictures and tell some travel stories, I don’t spend much time talking about my life pre-illness or in between episodes of illness, because my blog is focused on mental health rather than my past life.
There may also be topics we deliberately avoid talking about for various reasons. I try to keep talk of in real life people to a minimum, whether they were in my life in the past or in the present. Part of that is that my blog is very easy to find, but mostly it’s that I just prefer not to go there. I remember at one point someone commented that my travel photos seemed lonely because they never showed me travelling with anyone. That’s very deliberate, though; the only time I’ll post photos that include other people on my blog is if they were total strangers. I almost never mention specific people from the past that I’m no longer friends with, and that’s also very deliberate.
Another thing that can muddy the waters is timeline. If you’ve been blogging for a few years, there may be older posts hanging around about things that are no longer relevant, but people reading in the present could come across that content and interpret it as being valid in the present.
Another factor is that the message that others receive from our writing isn’t always what we thought we were putting into it. I suspect that most of us have had the experience of getting comments on posts that clearly indicated that the received message and the message intended to be sent were not the same thing. It doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a flaw in the writing or on the reader’s side, but we all bring our own particular lens to what we write and read, and that lens may be very different from another person’s.
I think that, because it’s easier to compartmentalize online than IRL, it makes it harder for others we interact with online to recognize that those other compartments even exist. IRL, it’s easier for various aspects of a person’s identity to inadvertently bleed over into interactions, but that’s much easier to avoid online.
All in all, I think it’s quite possible to get to know parts of a person well online, and to get a sense of who they are and what their personality is like, but what we know about them is limited to what they’ve chosen to put out there, which in itself will always be limited, whether that choice is unintentional, conscious, or strategic. As a result, I think it can be easy to overestimate how well you know the big picture of someone because of the side(s) you’ve seen in online interactions.
What are your thoughts on how well you can know other bloggers?