Imagine a day without using the Internet. Your computer can’t connect you to Facebook, you have no e-mails to answer, no tweets to read, no songs to download and you definitely can’t get any Wi-Fi on your fancy new cell phone. You’d feel like a part of you was missing, right? The answer is probably yes. These days, our lives are so inextricably linked to our Internet identities that suddenly cutting that part out of your life would be like suddenly removing your sense of humor. But what does it mean that we have so many ways to express ourselves as people via the Internet? And how does that affect our (what I’m going to call) “real” lives?
To be fair, it seems that on Facebook at least an individual’s representation of themselves is pretty similar to the way in which they want people to think of them in real life: we “un-tag” pictures, choose interests that will show up on our pages and write on people’s walls, all while keeping in mind that everyone we know is going to be able to look at whatever we put out there. But what about blogging? There seems to be a stigma that is tied to blogging that causes most people to feel ashamed of their blog.
At the beginning of the summer, my little sister mentioned something to me about a website called Tumblr on which people form blogs that focus on things they’re interested in, which sometimes means a specific topic, but can also just be assorted personal interests. Like Twitter, once you’ve joined and signed in, the homepage of the website becomes your personal dashboard and shows you all the updates of the people you’ve chosen to follow. You can post anything you want: video clips, quotations from a favorite movie or book, songs, pictures, gifs, opinions, et cetera. There are Tumblr pages for almost everything you could imagine. Some are geared toward fans of a show or movie and feature posts almost exclusively relating to that topic. Others, like a blog called Dead Presidents (deadpresidents.tumblr.com) feature historical information and opinion, professional portfolios or journalistic work. Even some celebrities like Aziz Ansari, John Mayer and Diana Agron (Quinn Fabray on Glee) use Tumblr either for their own personal amusement or to promote projects. Tumblr also allows you to create your own theme for your webpage, organize your posts in a variety of different ways and create a queue for your posts so that if you want to post several things they can be spaced out rather than one after the other. Sounds pretty cool, right?
But the majority of people I know who use Tumblr don’t tell their friends about it.
I used Tumblr’s “Ask Box” feature to ask a popular Tumblr blogger, Oh-Potter-You-Rotter, why she had gotten into Tumblr. “I wanted to make a blog and my (Internet) friend suggested that I start with Tumblr, so I did,” she said. “I loved mostly the freedom to mess with the coding and I spent forever fixing it before I showed anyone.”
Starting with what is referred to as a “personal” Tumblr and then transitioning to one focused on her interest in Harry Potter, Oh-Potter-You-Rotter has built a large following of fans with similar interests. She said when she started the blog she “loved almost everything about it.” At the same time, however, in a post from August titled “It’s true — don’t tell your real life friends about Tumblr,” she expressed embarrassment over her friends finding out about her blog and seeing something she had posted a few days earlier.
This sentiment seems common among people who run personal blogs. A few weeks after I started using Tumblr, I confessed to one of my friends that I was, in fact, blogging and discovered she had been using Tumblr for almost a year. Of the people I know who have blogs, there are very few who are willing to advertise them to people they know in an attempt to gain readership outside of perhaps a link hidden at the bottom of their info page on Facebook. The point is, on the Internet we are free to create whatever image of ourselves we choose. We can hide behind usernames and preserve our anonymity in order to talk about things that we’re truly passionate about. But why should we? If anything, we should feel more comfortable sharing our passions and opinions with our friends than with strangers on the Internet.