I had a packed day yesterday and didn’t get home till after midnight so B didn’t get done. But today’s thoughts all came together for a post I’ve been wanting to write and magically it fit the letter of the day for April A to Z Challenge.
People often ask me what it is like to be me. ‘Blogger’ is both a description of what I do for a living as well as who I am. Last month, one of my clients asked me to bring myself into the stories that I had been writing for them. It was the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me, personally or professionally. What I wrote for them allowed me to dip into my own deep well of personal sentiment and express it openly. I’ve spoken often about the many wonderful things that blogging has brought to my life. But like every other profession, passion and lifestyle choice, it has its share of things that I have to force myself to not focus on, or I’d just stop.
1. People form non-existent relationships with you:
The sharing I’ve done has brought up sharing from readers and other bloggers. Over 11 years, I’ve collected hundreds of emails, chats, comments and texts. It is personal, yes. But sometimes people tend to forget that you are not their best friend, not their personal mentor, not their spouse/partner, not their parent.
Many years ago, one young man decided that the poetry I that wrote, was about him. His girlfriend contacted me (I was anonymous back then and an email address is all readers had to go by) angrily demanding to know why I was chasing her boyfriend. The man in question, continued to stalk me months after that, under different identities and finally wanted me to attend his wedding. That episode gets laughs now but at that time it was extremely unpleasant.
There was another man who had been following my blog for several years but had never said a word. When we finally chatted, it transpired that he had studied with my ex. He got upset because he didn’t like the guy or the fact that I had been in a relationship with him. Our conversations became tinged with judgement, sniping and condescension, after that. It was not easy for me to articulate the fact that he had no claims over me, let alone who I dated.
2. People are disrespectful:
In the early days of this field, I was involved in several conversations on the ‘ethics’ of being compensated for blogging. I remember a time when bloggers like me were barraged with sudden demands from PR people (usually rude and dismissive). Simultaneously we were also subjected to condescension and ridicule by popular media and journalists. I know now that the second had to do with professional insecurity as traditional media feared the loss of its absolute control over people’s minds.
The first tends to continue, now in the form of usually very young social media professionals. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been summoned to a press conference or brand event and ordered to write or tweet about it. One such person even told me that he was looking for people who ‘did not have anything much to do with their time so they would be able to tweet every hour on the hour’. Someone I had known for years ran into me somewhere and said, “Oh, you’ve got some grand ideas now, haven’t you? Wanting to get paid so much and all!”
And then there are others who don’t think that what you do is a valid profession. I am still besieged by messages and calls from friends who open conversations with “Have you gotten a job yet?” Last year someone badgered me to join him at a pub. When I told him I was busy with a deliverable, he said I could bring it to the pub and he’d tell me what to write, over a beer. That was our last conversation. It seems like the fitting end, but really, it’s not nice having to cut people out of your life because they refuse to take you seriously.
3. People see your blog as a free outlet for their personal agendas:
There are two types of people who do this. The first is the kind mentioned on top. Some of them believe that if there is money involved, they own your thinking and your blog. It has taken many years, several conversations and much negotiation to establish that a personal blog is not an advertising platform, it’s a conversation starter for brands.
The second kind is friends, family and even random acquaintances. When people know you have a moderately popular blog, they sometimes believe that they need to tell you what to write. Strangers and familiars impose their ideas on you and tell you you’re a bad person if you don’t write as they say. These include their personal dramas, causes that they believe in and their opinions of films, TV shows, food, travel and the like (never mind the fact that your blog is not based on any of these).
4. People don’t know how to deal with being written about:
Right from the start, my policy has been to be very careful when I write about other people. Given that I write freely about my life, my emotions and my relationships, other people feature frequently. ,I take care to not mention locations, employment, age etc. Sometimes I twist facts very slightly and make an uncle into an aunt, a friend into a colleague, morning into evening – that kind of thing. If I’m going to mention them often or in a very important way, I usually let them know that I’m going to write about them (how important is my discretion). And if they feature often, I give them running nicknames on my blog (my ex was Mr.Everyday).
I have never broken a confidence online. Yet, I find that people are simultaneously flattered and paranoid about what I do. Men I date ask if I’m going to write about them immediately, which makes me laugh and say, “Yes, my life is not ALL about you.” But when I do write something, even if it reasonably complimentary (as well as respectful of their privacy), they tend to get upset.
One friend accused me of sounding ‘weird and gross’. This was regarding a post where the only mention of him, was where I quoted him verbatim. It was all of two sentences, one where I introduced him as a friend and the second, his exact words. I know he is uncomfortable with what he said, which is why he tried to make it sound like my fault. That happens more often that you might think.
I’ve rarely ranted about an individual on my blog and when I have, I have kept their identities secret. The instances where names have been mentioned, have been cases of specific wrongdoing such as someone copying my content or a brand behaving badly. Yet, people tend to worry and fluctuate in how they feel. It makes every single relationship in my life tricky.
5. People mistake you for your blog:
Yes, this is a personal blog and yes, it’s all true (except for where I say it’s fiction). But it’s not ALL of me. Let me reiterate some of the things people have said to me:
“You sound quite cheerful. Not at all depressed.”
“I thought you were this strong, powerful feminist. But you’re not.”
“You are supposed to be all sorted out and wise. How can you be confused?”
“Why did your engagement end? Did you lie when you blogged about your relationship?”
“How can you make spelling mistakes/garble speech? Aren’t you supposed to be this hotshot blogger?”
“You look nothing like your blog.” *disappointed frown* (from when I didn’t have pictures of myself on the blog)
“Your blog is much cooler than you are.”
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Follow the April 2015 AtoZ HERE.