When I started this blog a few years back, I did it with the old-fashioned notion of using this as something of a web log, a diary of sorts. That was the purpose of the blogs that I made my university creative writing students open ten years ago and that is still how I like to think of — and use — blogs. I wrote my feelings and experiences out for others to read online, as a way of building community (you are not alone!) while also keeping my writing skills fresh and reading about other people going through similar stuff in their lives. Blogging and reading other expat blogs from immigrants to Germany helped me get a better understanding of what I was going through when I first arrived.
You can see some of this on my previous blog, Futile Diatribes, links from which I frequently sent to friends and family; after a couple of major life upheavals — a landlord threatening to kill me, leaving my husband — I killed my Facebook account and moved over here to write pseudonymously for several reasons, most namely privacy. I wanted to a) keep this separate from my professional writing life and b) keep my kid’s life private. Things have changed a lot in the online world over the last decade, most notably Google and the ability for the whole world to easily discover details about you online that you didn’t want the whole world to know about. I’m aging myself here, but I do remember a time when the only way to find a piece of writing I had done was by already having the link handy. Now, when people type in my name, they can see a poem I wrote when I was 17 and never wanted to see the light of day.
Even though nearly everyone I know knows of this blog, they have discovered this by my choice, not by their stalking; Google still has not yet put 2+2 together. My kid still does not appear on any search results, thankfully. Because I want to keep it that way, if you don’t already know my name, I won’t tell you here.
But I digress.
One of the other shifts that’s taken place in the last few years thanks to Google is that many of us have become much less personal online; we aren’t ourselves, people with hopes and dreams and flaws and who make mistakes. Rare are the blogs today that are used as diaries; unfortunately, these have been replaced by marketing nonsense. We have all become a personal brand, some better curated than others.
Don’t get me wrong — some bloggers do maintain a relatable, interesting voice. And some can even do this while shilling a product I might actually be interested in buying. But there’s been a shift. Anyone who can put a sentence together is a #blogger … people who sometimes visit other cities are now #travelblogger … people who put clothes on in the morning and take pictures of themselves laughing as they take exaggerated steps in high heels only meant for sitting down in are #fashionblogger … people who get gadgets shipped to them to play with are now paid as #techblogger . Call me old-fashioned but this plethora of blogs has me less interested in the blog. Although I do earn some of my living as a #blogger for corporate clients, there is zero fun left in that. I know I can earn $30,000 to sit front row at a fashion show if I just build up my follower base but who fucking wants to be a walking advertisement?
Still, I went to a personal branding seminar a few weeks back. As a journalist, I am expected to have a blog. Blogs are all the rage in Germany (ten years later, when they seem to be nearly buried in the States). I should have a razzle-dazzle website with clips and links and a portfolio and information about how to easily find me. That guy who threatened to kill me — a convicted sociopath — can find me just as easily as any potential client if I do everything I am supposed to do online. I am supposed to register my name and all of these details on literally 11 different “social” websites but never reveal too much about myself on any of them. Only paint a positive picture of my life. Only post well-curated images on Instagram. Only tweet about my career successes. This is different in Germany, where people reveal far less online than in the US but it still applies: we aren’t supposed to be ourselves virtually anymore and I wonder what is this doing to our personalities when we hide so much. Do we become more isolated? Are we denying that bad things exist in our lives? Where is the social in this one-sided filled only with praise media?
I wanted to reject that notion. However.
Being pseudonymous both here and on Twitter became a strange sort of experiment. The filter came off. I’ve openly spoken about having burnout and an unrequited crush, about the mysoginistic German legal system that doesn’t protect abused women and being asked to leave a job when I got pregnant. And all of these things are topics I’d openly talk about with people I meet in person; I’m not ashamed. But in Germany, they are verboten topics. On pseudonymous Twitter, I have bitched about clients who are totally clueless. About colleagues who talk to my tits instead of my face and mentioned that I increase my client fees when I feel like I’m being sexually harassed. But would I do that if it were done in my own name? Death knell. My agent has warned me several times about being too political on my real name Twitter feed.
Under a pseudonym, however, the besserwisser in me comes out tenfold. I start fights telling people that they were wrong when they were just sending off silly tweets. I’ve also revealed too much about my current situation, which is stressful to put it mildly. I’ve watched other people have complete meltdowns on Twitter (currently witnessing a famous writer go through one and it is not pretty to see) and decided that while this nonsense is going on, I have to kill the pseudonymous Twitter. I don’t want to take my bad moods out on others and I don’t want to use Twitter as therapy. And so the Twitter account is dying as soon as Twitter puts my deactivation request through. As is this blog. I’ll keep it up for a few more weeks but as of 2016, it’ll be coming down. It — as with most blogging nowadays — has run its course.
It’s been nice. It’s been real. Thanks for listening.