Am I Getting Too Personal? - 07.31.00

I've often told myself that I won't censor anything on my site, other than taking names of other people out of things that I write. I figure that unless I've asked someone if I use their name (as in my New Mexico writeup, I shouldn't use first names. They didn't ask to have their lives broadcast on the web, and just because I interact with someone, it doesn't give me that right.

In terms of using profane language on my site, I use it when I feel that it's appropriate. Although I probably swear more than I should in real life, when I'm writing I feel very few times that I need to use it as an emphasis. If you look around, I'm sure you can find R-rated words, but it's not really that big of a deal either way. I figure that the people reading my site are adults for the most part, and it wouldn't bother then anyway.

The second part of censoring comes from who I perceive my readership to be. When I first started out about a year ago, the majority of the readership was friends and people that I already knew from the web. While it hasn't grown a lot in the past 12 months, I have gotten e-mails from random other people (some of which I've gotten into some great conversations with) that have told me they read my site. On a couple rare occassions I've even gotten e-mails from others who have even said they'd read every single piece in my 'whatever' section. While at first it was kind of strange to hear, I mainly found it interesting to know that they probably knew more about me than some people that know me in real life. It's strange knowing that I've laid so much out there on display for anyone to read, but the main reason I do it is because I hope that just every once in awhile someone can identify with something I write. After all, we're all humans and it's comforting to know that someone somewhere has gone through the same things.

Anyway, my original point of this essay was to talk about things I've felt like I could write versus things I've written. While I have never tried to censor myself, there have been times that I've held back completely, simply because I thought that something I write could hurt someone out there if they happened to run across it. I've read journal entries on the web that hold nothing back and I really don't want to be someone who cuts down anyone with my writing.

What got me started thinking about this all was the fact that I'd been writing along in peace for the last year with this website until the last month or so. I'd never gotten a comment from anyone I knew about something they'd read that hit personally until recently, when the floodgates seemed to virtually open.

The first time this happened was about a month ago when an ex-girlfriend contacted me completely out of the blue to tell me she'd read something I'd written and it just got her thinking. I hadn't heard from her literally for years, but she'd found something on my site that compelled her enough to hand write me an actual letter and tell me about her life. It was unexpected and interesting, and looking back upon the piece I'd written, it got me thinking about how my writing had changed over the years to something less vitriol (if you don't believe me, read some of the first pieces in this section).

The second case where I thought that I may have gotten too personal on my site was when I heard from 5 different people over the course of one week enquiring as to whether I was OK or not. I'd made a few dispariging remarks in my 'come to my senses' section, and people I hadn't spoken to for awhile recognized that I wasn't exactly doing very well. I hate to use the term (mainly because it's cheesy), but it was really the first instance of me truly wearing my heart on my website.

The final thing that got me thinking about whether my writing has been getting too personal lately was comments I got from another ex of mine about yet another entry I'd written. They didn't exactly accuse me of being purposely mean, but they said that it had hurt them to read the particular piece. I knew exactly the one in question and although it was a bit of a difficult conversation, I felt like I made a decent point. I hadn't meant to be mean in the piece, I was only trying to illustrate how absurd the situation we'd been in was and how we'd both made some silly mistakes. Like the above times, at first it made me wonder whether I was letting too many things out on my site, but after I'd thought about it a little, the conversations that it had provoked were worth it.

Now that I've gotten completely off-course, I'll finish by saying that this section (and the website in general) will probably always be going through sort of a state of flux. While I may get a little more personal on occassion, my intentions will always be to provoke thought and discussion rather than arguments. Sure, arguments make for better hate-mail and probably more traffic, but I wouldn't know what to do with it anyway.