Some people love the anonymity of their onscreen alter ego. Online mild mannered Clark Kent can become a megalomaniacal omnipotent superhero who thinks he can save the world. Little Susan whose profound shyness disturbs the formation of offline relationships can be bright, smart, witty and gay (in the old sense of the word - witty and gay trips off the tongue better than witty and happy, doesn't it?). Using some of the Internet dating sites she can even meet the man of her dreams (thus proving to all concerned that she's not gay in the new sense of the word after all.)
Celebrity blogger, Catherine Sanderson, in her tell-all memoir Petite Anglaise, writes this:
My online persona was wittier and sexier than I could ever hope to be. Petite anglaise's words were scripted and edited, her every move choreographed, whereas in real life I often stumbled over my words, and my humour was as hit and miss as the next person's. My readers couldn't see whether my socks matched, or whether my highlights needed touching up, and they seemed to assume I was elegant and poised, as though some of the glamour they associated with Paris had rubbed off on me too. I wasn't about to set anyone straight - I enjoyed projecting this new, improved version of myself; this person I longed to be. Being popular as petite anglaise online took some of the sting out of feeling so lonely and hollow, so taken for granted at home.In some ways keeping it real is difficult. Even in real life we tend to compartmentalise the different facets of ourselves to suit the different interactions we have with different groups of people. You are less likely to demonstrate your pathological fear of ...well anything really - spiders; flying; public speaking; being left on the shelf; poor grammar or men who lick their knives to your superiors at work than you are to discuss these same phobias with your best girlfriend. You will probably not debrief in detail about little Johnny's success in learning his 7 times tables at your husband's business dinner - or maybe you will, but most of your dinner companions will wish you didn't. Sadly, I have been known to have been interrupted midstream through an argument with my beloved by a knock on the door only to paste a huge smile onto my face and to spend the evening pretending that nothing but peaceful loving thoughts of him had ever crossed my mind. Only the very astute would notice that anything was amiss too - we are both highly expert in hiding our true feelings in situations such as those.
When you go online, all of a sudden you must make a conscious choice about how you wish to be perceived. You cannot choose your audience on your blog. Everyone is potentially part of every conversation and you will invariably need to make a decision about which of the real yous you wish to project. Will you be the witty, sexy petite anglaise or the perfect homeschool mum, or the superwoman who has it all? Will you be superslick, or will you allow just a few flaws so that your readers think you're real? Will you tell about every argument you have with your in-laws or will you keep that to yourself? Read enough blogs and you'll recognise all of them...well online you will anyhow. I wonder if you'd recognise them in the flesh?
That's the rub isn't it, because the Internet is never entirely anonymous. One day, out of the blue your two identities will collide, and if there is nothing common to the two of you then as petite anglaise so beautifully puts it, you are liable to meet with an "I preferred the book to the movie" scenario. Somebody who seemed so interesting online can be so disappointing in real life.
I wonder what you think about me and the life you think I lead? I wonder what part of me I portray to you? Am I strong, confident and outgoing or shy and retiring? Am I a leader or a follower? What about Jemimah? Do you think your children would get along with her? Would you like my husband? I try to tell it like it is. I try to be honest. A Peaceful Day is not a tell it all warts and all type blog, but I hope you know that there are flaws in me, my daughter, my husband (well, not so many in him!) and my life. I hope you know that I am happy - most of the time. I hope I demonstrate my Christian walk, both my struggles and the times when all is going well. I hope you know that I love my life right now. That's what I try to tell you anyhow.
I have had the great honour of meeting a few of my virtual friends 'irl'. A few were friends before blogging. Ooh ah! Not close friends mind you, but they are now. Our real life friendships have developed because of our online presence. Jeana Marie is a case in point. Did you know that even though I saw Jeana every week at church, I didn't even know that she was artistic until I read her blog. That is incredible to me - creativity is what makes Jeana the person she is. I love knowing that side of her. I love knowing the real stuff too - the stuff she tells me about as we watch our kids playing together in the playground. The two Jeana Maries are not the same, but they compliment each other to make a truly wonderful whole.
I have been privileged this week to host Sarah and her beautiful family for a few days here in our Peaceful Home. Despite having met Sarah a couple of times before, I must admit to a few deep in the tummy swirls, twirls and other ballet type actions, as I awaited her arrival. Would she like the talking, talking, living Jeanne as much as the cyberspace me? I felt like I was venturing out on a blind date. Would I disappoint her? Sarah is young and gorgeous and vibrant and bubbly and optimistic. Would she and her lovely hubby be bored cooped up in the country with a couple of old fuddy duddies? I felt shy. I worried about what I should wear, about what we would eat, about whether our children would get on. I worried that she wouldn't like our home, or our garden, or our lifestyle. I'll admit it, I was scared of what she would think of me.
As soon as they arrived I realised that my anxiety was beginning to lift. Jemimah rushed out to the car anxious to show her two young guests to their room. There was no fear there, I noticed. The three were soon making the rounds of the cubby, the trampoline and the climbing trees in the garden before deciding eventually on the pool. The noise level increased exponentially. It was delighful to see. Sarah and her husband made their way into the house, and we kissed awkwardly under the mistletoe.
"I have so much I want to talk with you about," said Sarah. "I'm so excited to be here." Her beautiful eyes were burning brightly. I could see that she was being honest, and her enthusiasm was contageous. I felt nervous no longer. We had so much in common - our homeschooling philosophy, our Christian hopes for our families, even our upbringings in Geelong. You know, or maybe you don't, that I am a listener, not a talker. Not this past few days though. I have rarely talked so much about such a diverse range of subjects as I did with Sarah. It was great.
In retrospect my shyness was groundless. I have already had wonderful times meeting Mrs Adept, Jen and Louise (who desn't have a blog, but who is still kind enough to read and comment on mine). I have always come away feeling uplifted - more sure of our decision to homeschool our daughter, more aware of my successes so far and more determined to deal once again with the areas that we can improve.
I didn't dare ask Sarah what she thought of us, what she thought of our home, my family, my life. Reading later in our Visitors' Book I was delighted to read that she had found it 'truly marvellous' staying with us, and I felt content.
We had felt the same way about them.