living online

by Violet Blue on May 25, 2008

psychadelic panda
Image of Vivian De Milo by Psychedelic*Panda, whose Flickr account is sadly censored to non-members but whose photographer profile lives here.

Being a woman who documents her life here is a source of power. Don’t ever let anyone make you think otherwise.

I’m finding that some of my closest female friends as of late are a handful tough, brave bloggers. And I’m also discovering that since I opened up comments here, there has grown a community of extremely diverse, articulate, keenly observant, and eloquently critical commenters. I keep looking over the comments on the Twitter-stalker post, and having such poignant responses and feelings — and realizations about new points — that I still haven’t decided where to jump into the conversation. And that excites me to no end.

If you’ve read a gossip blog in the past week you’ve likely run across a link to today’s overhyped, sunday New York Times Magazine piece written by former Gawker Media blogger Emily Gould. One of my female blogger friends sent it to me with an apology at the length, and asked me what I thought. It is a ten-page, nearly 8,000 word piece (which prompted me to remark snarkily over brunch with another of my close girl-blogger friends, “What happened to the days when Gould could get to the point in four sentences?”). In it, Gould tells us all the personal details of her life before, during and after blogging at Gawker. It’s a highly dramatized retelling of Gould’s transition from lifeblogger to big-league media blogger, landing her a prime spot on Gawker (where she was critical, cruel, or not, at her discretion), an on-air TV confrontation with Jimmy Kimmel who attacks her for Gawker Stalker celebrity sightings and she defended blogging’s role in reporting on public figures, and had an irresponsible affair with a Gawker officemate/fellow blogger.

Throughout, Gould structures the description of her relationship to blogging using terms of addiction, describes her personality breakdowns around facing criticism, explains the many ways in which she was unprepared to make responsible decisions around blogging on nearly every level, and imbues her past blogging decisions with an overwhelming sense of regret. Blogging becomes its own blame game, and accountability clearly wounds Gould deeply. Dramatically, she describes “losing the will to blog” and compares herself repeatedly to a personality who is widely perceived as a shallow, unkind, web celeb wanna-be (a woman who is seriously unwelcome at certain local tech parties for being a rude asshole).

In all honesty, I think Nick Denton summed up the piece’s belabored cautionary tale about “women who overshare” well in this post about it, saying, “This article might have been a reflection of the cost of compulsive indiscretion; I suspect, however, that it will merely broadcast the humiliation of Josh Stein, Leon Neyfakh and other former boyfriends to a larger audience and at greater length. Don’t feel too sorry for Stein, however. He already wrote his own piece on “the dangers of blogger love” in Page Six Magazine. Gould and Stein — the web equivalent of the vicious couple of Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? — have created a small-scale publishing industry out of mutual abuse. The cover story in the Times Magazine is its biggest hit yet.”

My deep concern is that it’ll foster attitudes that “men blog; women overshare”. Know what I mean?

But the reason I’m blogging about this, like so many other people are this week, is that I wanted to share with you my raw thoughts and reactions to it — the email conversation I had with my friend about the piece. The exchange is after the jump. I think you’ll like it, even if you don’t agree.

from violet/blue
date Thu, May 22, 2008 at 6:30 PM
subject Re: I know it’s long as hell

it’s funny to read the Gould piece for a lot of reasons. especially since one piece of drama today was trying to get me to take down blog posts, and defamation accusations. today, I have now stood up and told a federal judge that I am a journalist who believes in her first amendment rights and refuses to remove a blog post, any blog posts without a fight. I fucking won that one, but it was a hell of a fight. I would’ve walked and fought to keep my posts all the way to hell and back.

and after reading Gould’s piece, I still would. I thought she was my hero when she made Kimmel look like the crazy one. it’s too bad she internalized so much and stopped believing in herself — but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t healthy for her to continually question herself. it is. but that’s hard, and it’s hard to know the difference. it really takes love and support from someone you believe in to choose this path. I think it’s more precarious for journalists — bloggers — than it ever has been in a way. we’re more inclined to take it all in, and destroy ourselves. and then, of course, disavow our pasts as a means of escape.

sound familiar? it does because it is. born-agains, fundamentalist mormons — they all find serious comfort in the black and white of the safety of religion. it’s so much easier when you don’t have to question your own morality, your own ethics, your own choices. I’m gonna be around for a long time in this space because I survived on the streets: by fists, by stealing, by sleeping in abandoned cars, by begging for food. most importantly, I survived by always questioning myself and making it my security blanket. but I’m different, I’m not like regular people with regular feelings. I knew to make rules about blogging before I started, you know?

I also knew that to be in this business, you gotta be so tough they gotta kill you to get to you.

that piece made me want to ask if you’d read this incredibly depressing post and the even more depressing comments.

love,
me

from [redacted]
date Fri, May 23, 2008 at 2:47 PM
subject Re: I know it’s long as hell

(…)

I have to confess, the section in that piece where she took down the post really — forgive me if this sounds harsh — disappointed me. Something I love about you is how upfront you’ve always been that if someone’s with you, they’re in your blog — and I know you’re always respectful about boundaries and needs of others. Though I live far less online than you do, I share your stance, and just wouldn’t be able to be with someone who refused to participate in my public life. The fact that she gave in to her boyfriends demands to take down such innocent remarks made me really sad, and I couldn’t figure out why.

That is, until I read your email, where you said,

“it’s too bad she internalized so much and stopped believing in herself
– but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t healthy for her to continually
question herself. it is. but that’s hard, and it’s hard to know the
difference. it really takes love and support from someone you believe in
to choose this path”

That’s really it, isn’t it? You really clarified it for me. For every fame whore blogger — and there are those out there, we both know them — there are so many whose blogs and writing are quiet demonstrations of confidence. By being “out there” the way you are, fiercely without apologies, I’m hopeful that the generation of women after you, me, and Emily, won’t ever fall victim to that self-doubt, and will tell any guy who gets shitty with her for “oversharing” to go fuck themselves.

Violet Blue

The London Times named Violet Blue "One of the 40 bloggers who really count" and Self Magazine named TinyNibbles one of the “Best Sex Resources for Women.” Blue is an autodidact and pundit on sex and technology, hacking and security, porn for women, privacy and bleeding-edge tech culture. She is a journalist for ZDNet, CBS News, CNET; she's an educator, speaker, crisis counselor, volunteer NGO trainer, and the author and editor of over 40 award-winning books.

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{ 4 comments }

1 Kaija May 30, 2008 at 7:19 pm

Yeah, sounds like the modern/tech version of “women gossip, men have conversations.” Honestly, people who blog too much/in too much detail about their personal lives simply bore everyone to sleep. The Gould/Stein dueling pieces are just a little sad…like listening to a passing acquaintance recite their list of grievances against an ex. But I too worry that women get treated more harshly in this situation. Narcissism is still a big part of male privilege.

2 bookyloo May 26, 2008 at 12:42 am

I couldn’t make myself read that whole article, I skimmed it. I’ve never heard of any of the people involved. I’ve only read Gawker very occasionally. I could not possibly care less about the relationship problems of highly paid twentysomething manhattanites. Being only a casual blogosphere observer I’ve been often mystified by the little intricacies of the Very Important Firestorms that crop up once a week. I see that the New York Times Magazine has published an 8000 (!!!)-word article about a privileged young person agonizing over the difficulties of having a high profile, high paying profession, and I fire up my Tiny Violin. I’d feel the same if it was a famous lawyer, or politician, or TV star, or whatever.

WHY WHY WHY am I supposed to care about this? When 4,000-odd American military personnel have been sent to the slaughter in the last few years, many of them because they had no other job prospects? When many people are losing their homes to foreclosure and can’t afford gas or health insurance? These kids and their Blog Agony is at the rock-bottom of my list of things I worry about right now.

oh and I don’t think the “oversharing” is gendered. It happens aaaallll over the internet, and the difference between oversharing and blogging is this: An “over-sharer” is someone who writes a blog that you follow like you rubberneck at a bad car crash, hoping for flames and fireworks and chairs thrown Jerry Springer style. A good blogger is someone you follow because their writing is good and you enjoy their opinions and perspectives. That line, I guess, is different for every reader; and not unlike pornography you know it when you see it.

3 libby May 25, 2008 at 6:44 pm

after reading your post and gould’s article (and after almost getting fired for blogging a couple of times, back in the porn days), my original ‘to blog or not to blog’ convictions are reinforced. it’s important for anyone writing anything, anywhere on the internet, to make sure the content is going to be worthwhile, or worth the time and trouble – especially for the writer. i think the ‘is this truly worthwhile’ thing is a good litmus test when delving into sensitive topics in any online capacity.

there are good reasons why some thing are still private. sharing too much, in any context, can be annoying, mean and obnoxious.

but i really like the title of this post. it helps add value to the blogging medium, and hopefully helps to encourage people to not publish crappy or foolish content.

as articles like this make big-audience impacts, it will be interesting to see how blogging changes over the decades. i’m hoping the medium will keep improving, since worthwhile blogs are really, really hard to find.

4 Postmodern Sexgeek May 25, 2008 at 2:15 pm

“men blog; women overshare”.

Yeah, I’ve seen that double standard and have censored myself because of it. Meh. It irritates me to realize that as it does to realize that I have had similar thoughts about othr women. Needless to say it gives me much food for thought.

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