The beauty of anonymity

Some days, becoming ‘known’ has it’s benefits. Yesterday was one of those days – coming home to find an advance copy of William Gibson’s next book on the doormat is probably one of the nicer ways man (and Penguin) have ever invented to end what was a fairly shitty day.

But the rare golden moments aside, was it better when Bright Meadow, and Cas, slipped by under the radar with just a handful of readers? Not that I exactly have oodles upon oodles now, but I have more than my fair share.

Along with my treasured readers, it turns out that I have “influence”. I’m not sure how you measure influence but, according to people who should know what they’re talking about, I have it. There’s this trust, apparently, that’s built up between blogger and reader/commenter, which means if I recommend (or conversely trash) something, it’s not totally inconceivable to think you might let my opinions sway your own.

I’d never thought of it like that before. I’m just here, shooting the moon, saying the things I want to say… Never figured I could really turn y’all into my minions just through the words I said. Or that I’d be schmooozed by people oh so nicely so I might be more inclined to say nice things about them/their products.

So where’s the down side?

Free stuff = always cool. Free stuff I enjoy = even better.

But there’s this accompanying nagging feeling that I should then blog about the free product, and I do so hate to be forced to write on certain topics. Then you have the expectations of the readers bearing down on you. This feeling in the back of your mind of “oh crap, I haven’t posted anything in near a week…” Heaven forfend I should miss two Sunday Roast’s in a row – there’d be a riot!

Or the times when I want to write about something that’s happened but I can’t, because now pretty much everyone and their pet cactus reads my blog. I can’t vent about work because people at work have the URL. I can’t blog about crushes overly much because, yup, you guessed it – invariably they’ve somehow finagled the URL out of me or have stalked me to Facebook. There are family things I can’t mention because… You get the picture. I don’t force any one of these people to read Bright Meadow and 99% of the time I love that they read it, comment and participate because for better or worse it’s a huge part of my life, but there’s that 1% of the time I just want to let of steam and I can’t.

I thought about starting an anonymous blog but I realised I like having readers too much. To be not known now after I’m starting to take baby steps toward getting there… Shudder time. I can bury some of my rants and frustrations in the fiction I occasionally spew out, but people are starting to work out THAT code too.

For sure, no one is forcing me to put these words on the Internet. I could trap them up inside a journal or in a text file on my hard-drive, but it’s true a problem shared is a problem made smaller. And not just problems. Some truly fantastic things happen in my life that make me laugh out loud for the sheer absurdity of them – yet I can’t write them and share them with you, dear blog readers, because they involve other blog readers who I would never want to hurt in any way with my words.

I could just write and post regardless, I suppose, telling myself I don’t care what you all think, that if you don’t want to read it you can leave, but that’s not me. I try never to intentionally hurt people. If there’s an argument, I tend to just step away. It’s a curse, but I’m the one with the “nice personality”. I’d far rather sit on some story than post it and cause pain. The more people I get to know though, the more stories there are that I have to sit on.

And let’s not forget the truly odd feeling you get the first time you walk into a bar full of strangers, only to be hailed by cries of “Cas!” and “we’ve all be reading your blog – it’s great!” As I said, odd, and not just because I haven’t been called Cas to my face since Ti and I last spent a summer on the beach. The mild confusion over names aside (which get more hilarious when all parties concerned are well lubricated on alcohol, trust me) it’s the sheer stalker-heaven that is blogging which has hit me in the last week or so. “I’ve been following your progress on Twitter” and “recognised you from your hairstyle on Facebook” are two comments that are brought forcibly to mind. Along with “yes, we’re all going to be reading your blog…” said to me more than once by people I’ve grown to love and respect.

All things designed to make one shy country lass want to hide under her duvet and never blog again.



OK, I lied. I love it. I was always the quiet one at school, the one no one remembered. To know that my words in some small way stick in people’s brains? That’s just the best feeling in the world.

But sometimes I think it would be nice to go back to how it was before Bright Meadow took up so much of my life. To when I could rant about the Cute Canadian and not have to worry if he was reading. Or when I could tell verbatim what happened down the pub. When Neko turned to me the other week and said “You’re going to blog about this, aren’t you?” I realised quite how far into my life it’s all gone (and how blessed I am to have people around me who understand) and then I realised that, actually no, I couldn’t blog about it for assorted reasons. And that sucked.

For about ten seconds till she poured me another glass of wine and the vampire stories started up again.

I guess what I’m trying to say is this: this blog isn’t all of me. I would that it were, but the closer it gets to a real reflection of my life, there more I’m going to not be able to say. Some things just aren’t bloggable for whatever reason. Which is sad when I’ve set out to write but life, but then that’s the way it’s supposed to be. If you knew everything about me from my blog, we’d have nothing to talk about when we met up. Just think how boring the conversation would be then.

Just forgive me if I go a bit into hermit mode on occasion, please. I’m just having a personal moment of stage fright ๐Ÿ˜‰

15 thoughts on “The beauty of anonymity

  1. =) How could the new WG be bad? I can’t wait until I get a copy myself.

    I’ve been experiencing the same feelings and happenings in my life for the past year, with not being able to blog but wanting to.

    I hope you keep going and writing good stuff. Cause it is good stuff.

  2. You should start a tech podcast and see what happens then. In any case, I’ve never really had that problem. I’ve never really been a ‘personal’ blogger and I blog for an audience that isn’t around, i.e. across Channels and oceans (although that’s changing).

    Still, I suppose you should blog about all the things you want to, or at least feel you can. The distinction between ‘going on the internet’ to ‘that blog’ one writes on, and living the digital lifestyle is fading evermore. Cas/CLK will have to blend further I believe. At least if both identities are to continue making sense. Anyway, that’s my quick 7 a.m. view on online interaction and the march of interactive technology. LOL@myself now.

  3. I’m just re-reading the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and that gave me an idea… Although it may be a bit silly. ‘Watson’ always writes about cases a while later, after the personal/confidentiality issues have become less sensitive (if I’m phrasing that right). Maybe just write the stories you’re sitting on but posting them later? I can’t say that I know how it feels, because no-one really reads my weblog (possibly because it’s in Dutch?!), but it was just an idea that sprang to mind…

  4. Dainel – oh, the new Gibson can never be bad! But thank you for the vote of confidence and welcome to Bright Meadow and the comments ๐Ÿ™‚

    Nils – I think I can safely say that I won’t be doing a tech podcast any time soon. Even the BrightCast has died a death (I need to resurrect it when I get my imagination back). That’s a pretty coherent view you’ve got there of online interaction and the march of interactive technology – I’d give anything to make that much sense at any time of the day, let alone at 7am!

    Renee – I’d never likened myself to Watson before… Great idea ๐Ÿ˜€ And as for getting readers, regardless of language, just keep writing. They will come eventually.

  5. @Renee: maybe no one reads your blog because you don’t link to it? I could at least give it a try รขโ‚ฌโ€œ I know a bit of Dutch you see ๐Ÿ˜‰

    @Cas: is that a new comment form รขโ‚ฌโ€œ horizontal? Or maybe I’m only now noticing. Who knows.

  6. (breifly worries she has some how caused Cas to clam up)

    The Watson idea is a good one- write your ‘not now’ stories down in your journal andwhen times have moved on, blog ’em.

    Perhaps not as catharticand immediate as doing it current, but you still get to write about it.

    And don’t worry about the vampire stories- I’d make it clearif I was speaking with you and DIDN’T want it blogged about ๐Ÿ™‚ Anything elseI figure is fair game ….

    (oh Gods, what am I letting myself in for?)

  7. Nils – horizontal comment form?! WTF! Clearly thinking so clearly at 7am has affected your vision later in the day… ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Neko – no, you haven’t caused me to clam up ๐Ÿ™‚ To be fair I can only think of one person who has ever directly said “don’t blog about me/this”. Everyone else relies on (and hopes for!) my natural discretion to kick in!

  8. I think that was me wasn’t it? I can certainly remember asking you not to blog something – though I can’t remember exactly what it was now so maybe the ‘Watson’ theory has merit as it’s importance to me has clearly faded with time. I do remember you being surprised that I asked though.

  9. Ah! Just remembered what it was, and I still don’t want you blogging about it – not because it’s personal, but because it’s mine! ๐Ÿ˜€

  10. Renee: I’m trying to make an effort to rediscover my mother tongue (having forgotten most of it when I started attending an English school), so having a Dutch “blog” (urgh) to read would be great. Give us a link! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Cas: Yes, and no.

    The no first: I’m afraid I have to disagree about the bit on influence. Say what you like about the book, it won’t affect whether I buy it or not. Sorry!

    As to the rest of it though, I know where you’re coming from. In particular, gaining recognition from people you don’t know for something you’ve put effort into is just… unbelievable. In my case it’s not for my website (obviously!), but rather for a bit of software a wrote and released a few months ago.

    I never really expected anything to come of it, but the response has been fantastic. I get a couple of e-mails a week from people saying thank you, or offering to translate it into another language, or wanting to help in some other way. It’s mind-blowing.

    The biggest kick was when I found out that the programme has its own entry in Wikipedia. Okay, so it’s only a couple of lines, but to think that somebody liked what I’d done enough to go to the effort of putting it on there (and other people to edit it) is phenomenal. Plus, being able to search Wikipedia for your own name and score a hit does wonders for the ego! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Five thousand or downloads to date. Five thousand people using a bit of software I wrote in a weekend. Unbelievable.

    (Okay, so it hasn’t scored me any free stuff yet, but there’s still time I guess! Somebody did ask me why I don’t publish an Amazon Wishlist…)

    So I can sit here all smug and proud of myself, but unfortunately, I can never tell anybody about it. Why? Because I’m embarrassed. I mean, I wrote a computer programme in my spare time! That is, as I noted at the time, pretty much the geekiest thing that it’s possible for a human being to do. And while my real-life friends know me to be a bit of a geek (I have, after all, studied quite a lot of maths), I don’t want them to know the full scale of it.

    Which brings me to how I know about the second part of what you’re saying. Since I know that people I know read my poor little website (indeed, if the comments are anything to go by, the *only* people who read it are those I’ve met in real life!) I feel quite hamstrung by what I can say. Not only can I not mention certain topics (such as home-made computer programmes), but I also can’t say certain things that I’d like to say because I know there’s a chance that people are reading who can’t know, and…. urgh.

    So in the end I either have to be really cryptic, or else be really bland and talk about nothing of consequence. And since I can’t really be bothered to do that, we end up with nothing posted at all, which is more or less where the site sits at the moment.

    Anyway, once again I’m threatening a comment that’s longer than the original post, so I’ll stop. But notably it’s also longer than anything I’ve posted on my own site in months, largely because I know that it’s highly unlikely that anyone I know in real life will be reading this. Which is quite telling, really.

    Last thing now: Google for an essay called “The Ecstasy of Influence”. It’s mainly an anti-copyright/pro Creative Commons piece, but there are a few things in there that might strike a chord.

  11. Moose – actually, it wasn’t you, and now I’m scratching my head over what it was I couldn’t blog!

    Tristan – good to see you back in the comments.
    Re the influence – I’m not just talking about books here. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that you’ve read a few of my Roasts? That usually entails you clicking on a link and as I’ve chosen the links that go into the Roast, in my own little way I’m influencing where you go on the web. If I have a bad experience with some customer service, or conversely a good experience, what I say is going to sit in the back of your mind… Whether you want to or not, subconsciously everything you hear in day-to-day life and read on the web influences you.

    Plus, I just influenced you to post a great comment.

    You’re mine baby, whether you like it or not ๐Ÿ˜‰

    In return though, you’ve prompted me to scour Wikipedia (unsuccessfully ๐Ÿ™ ) and to look up another essay to read. Thank you ๐Ÿ˜€

  12. Back? Have I been away?

    Re. the influence… the original version of that paragraph was longer and contained the caveat that “although you might influence me to write silly stories about guys named Colin” (whatever happened to him, by the way? Have I killed that project off, or what?), what you think of the book is unlikely to affect me. I mean, I might listen to what a friend thinks about a book or a film or whatever, but frankly I don’t know you that well!

    Also, with regard to the Roasts, I have to confess that those are the posts I generally skip. TLDR. Sorry!

    [It also occurs to me that I’m probably completely the wrong person to be taking as an example here. This one of only two “personal” “blogs” (shudder) that I read with any regularity, and that’s only because we have a real-life connection, however vague and in the dim and distant past. If I didn’t know you from Eve, I’m 100% sure I wouldn’t be here at all. I guess I’m just not a very “online” kind of guy. Hey, maybe I’m not so geeky after all. Woo!]

    Re. Wikipedia: I’ve done more than enough trumpet-blowing already, so I’m not going to link to it, but trust me that it’s there. If you really want to do some detective work though, clicking on my name above and looking at about the fourth post down would be a good start…

  13. 1) you haven’t been in the comments much lately that I can recall. That equates to ‘away’ (or my brain is on the fritz…)

    2) Colin and the Bright Cast are currently on sabbatical whilst I ponder their future. If you want to write more however, be my guest! (That goes for everyone else reading this ๐Ÿ™‚ )

    3) Well you’re missing out by not reading the Roasts. So there ๐Ÿ˜›

    4) I suppose I should be honoured, being one of two. Oh, I do so like to be special ๐Ÿ˜€

    5) OK, now I’ve found it and I still have no idea what it’s for! That equals VERY geeky in my book, sorry.

  14. Cas, I loved this post. As a personal blogger too, I can relate (though you certainly have more readers than I). It’s really a moment of truth. I’ve been thinking, myself, on this topic just recently because I’ve been going through a lot of life changes and the blog was invariably involved. You know what makes me raise an eyebrow sometimes? Being introduced to people and having the “she’s the writer of ___” come tandem with my name. You’re right, though–sometimes, you love it. So I admit it, it actually feels kind of cool. Gotta take the bad with the good, right?

    I find it comes down to differing degrees of attachment.

  15. Esther – thank you ๐Ÿ™‚ And yeah, on the whole it is kind of cool. Being introduced as “this is Cas, she writes Bright Meadow…” and then to have people go “we loved it” = one of the best feelings.

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