Note: I apologize in advance for the length. Glow has reintroduced a former feature, wherein a number of questions relating to babyloss, grief, blogging and such are individually answered by the contributors and the community. The below are my responses.
1 | How would you describe your presence on the internet? Does your online voice differ from your real life voice? If so, how? And why?
My presence? Less than it used to be. I don’t participate actively in the communities I used to frequent. I do post regularly in some places, and continue to blog, but it’s definitely a difference from when I was trying before or pregnant.
I think there is some difference in online voice. In some ways, I’m bolder – saying things I would be unlikely to say in person (in both good and bad ways – I tend to be quieter and more observant in real life than active). I also have the ability to edit online – both in terms of typing out a rant and deleting or toning down and in correcting.
I think it makes me more thoughtful overall. I’ve learned you need to choose words carefully to convey your meanings. Without inflection, tone, expression and gestures – which play an absurdly large role in my regular speech, as I tend to forget words and grasp for them while speaking – all you have is the black and white before you, which will necessarily be colored in by the reader and informed by their own understanding and experience. To make yourself understood as you wish to be, you must be as precise as possible. For me, that often means typing more, trying to clarify and leave little room for interpretation.
2 | Why did you begin blogging, or reading blogs? Was this before or after your experience of babyloss?
I began well before babyloss, specifically for ttc. Actually I started 2 blogs at the same time. One to be informal and general and one for ttc. I shut the original down after my first miscarriage. By that time, the ttc was the public one, given how much time I spent in baby-related forums and the grief of that miscarriage was so overwhelming that much of my life was spilling out into the ttc blog.
Mostly I wanted a place to talk about the big thing in my life that was happening that I couldn't talk about as openly elsewhere – the trying and the emotions that come with that. And it morphed into more than that. I’d been reading blogs about midwifery, homebirth, unmedicated birth, etc for awhile before then. I tend to stick with interesting and humorous blogs now, and some grief blogs.
3 | Do you write anonymously? Does anonymity - or would anonymity - change your expression of grief?
I write ‘semi-anonymously’ – my blog is public and linked to my screen name from the boards I used to frequent. There was never a question about who I was, if that makes sense. I have tried to use nicknames where possible, but I don’t think it would be terribly difficult to track back to me. I freely used my son’s name after our loss (I would probably not have before, but I needed to see it written and to write it).
Greater anonymity would change the way I write. As it is, knowing it can be tracked to me has eliminated too much detail about certain things from my blog – I do not wish to be confronted with an angry coworker over a vent, if you see what I mean.
Likewise, there are familial issues and other relationship issues I have not talked about on the blog precisely because someone might be reading and because the medium doesn’t allow for an exchange. I think it could be potentially damaging because I don’t know that I would be understood. While venting and exploring via writing would likely be quite helpful for me personally, I do not think it would serve a greater purpose. If I want to address the issues, it’s better done via dialogue, not monologue that could only serve to fuel defensiveness and divisiveness and airing of grievances in an unhelpful format.
I also think that knowing that people know who I am – even if it’s just as an internet presence – changes my expressions of grief. I feel a greater urge to keep the excesses to myself when possible or to let them out in what I perceive to be a safer or better understood forum. I know that people wish me well and happy and peaceful and I am loathe to disturb the notion that I am working towards achieving that. I also hate the idea of my blog being nothing but whinging and depression. I did that for awhile during the ectopic pregnancy dragging on and its aftermath and it didn’t make me feel better in the end.
4 | Do you have a responsibility in how you express yourself on the internet? To whom, and why?
Yes, I think so. I’m not always sure where that line is. Ultimately, the forum makes a difference. I have a greater responsibility to myself in my blog than to my readers, whether that means expressing something true to me that may be unpopular or taking a break for awhile or keeping something to myself. Because the blog is my space and my format. At the same time, it’s sort of like inviting people to my house. It may be my space, but I do have responsibility towards them (the readers) as well; a responsibility to answer questions, to be gracious to them, to allow for differences of opinion, to be forthright and not deliberately misleading, to acknowledge that it’s not solely a one-way enterprise. The simple fact is that by opening up the space, there naturally incurs some level of responsibility to the people who enter it. I think if one doesn’t want that, then perhaps a non-public blog or journal is the better choice, because then you only have responsibility to yourself.
In a different, and more interactive environment, like message boards, there is a greater equality, in my opinion. In those cases, I think I have a responsibility to be clear and precise when possible, to be thoughtful, to be polite and to show respect so long as it is earned. It’s like walking into a public or shared space. There should be due paid to that, and common politeness is necessary. I do feel that honesty is necessary, and I don’t offer a lot of insincerity. If I think someone needs to hear something that is unpleasant, I generally try to say it, but I try to do it kindly and while understanding that differing perspectives don’t mean anyone is necessarily wrong.
Which is not to say I’m always super sweet and kind – I get into snark, and I have little tolerance for what I perceive as stupidity or indulgent or deliberate obtuseness. And if someone crosses my line, I let go of the common politeness. You only get that until you prove that you do not deserve such consideration from me. I do try not to take out my own bad mood on other people.
I try to respect other blogs as being a guest in someone else’s space. I’m far more inclined to click away than I am to challenge someone on their blog-space.
And of course, I think everyone owes each other, in any format, at least a minimal effort towards good grammar, sentence structure and spelling. Acronyms are fine, as are incomplete sentences and the occasional misspelling/typo/excessive comma usage (what?). I obviously use them or do them all the time. In a message board or blog, where things are informal, you can carry a conversational tone and structure, but come on. It’s still a written format, and as such needs to be readable.
5 | Do authenticity and honesty matter to you, both as a reader and a writer? Or does unconditional support matter more? How do you think readers perceive your truth?
Mostly, authenticity and honesty matter more. Of course there are times I want unconditional support, or offer it, but largely, I prefer honesty. I often find insincerity off-putting. I don’t need babydust thrown at me (and btw, that ALWAYS makes me picture someone flinging semen around and ew), I don’t care for magnitude of posts over quality. I appreciate thoughts and prayers and hugs when I believe them sincere (and offer the same sincerely and only when I can be sincere about it), but I don’t want to hear that a chart looks great because you like me. I want to hear an honest opinion. I don’t think you can have a genuine relationship without that.
I think oftentimes, the internet becomes a strange place where people equate friendship and caring with sycophantic and meaningless displays of trite phrases. I think a balance between honesty and kindness is the truest way to developing real relationships with people.
As a reader, I find it authenticity and honesty vital. I think it’s easy to get invested in someone and to begin genuinely caring about their welfare, on the belief that these are real people experiencing real issues. If that is betrayed by deliberate dishonesty, I feel angry and violated. I enjoy fiction a great deal, but only when I choose knowingly to read it.
6 | Have you ever been in the crosshairs of a troll? How did you deal with it, and what did you learn from it?
Back in the day I let it upset me a lot. I think that I generally try to be a good person and to behave appropriately online. Given that, I didn’t understand the attacks, and reacted precisely as they wanted me to do.
Now, I’m inclined to laugh it off or ignore it. People are not going to universally like me, and I can accept that. I am bothered when I don’t understand the source or when I feel an attack is come from being misunderstood. But I do have a hard time when I feel like I am at fault for something, because I want to try and fix it.
Fortunately, I have no issues with the blog, probably because comments are moderated. I don’t believe I’ve ever received really hurtful or inappropriate comments. There have been one or two that ruffled my feathers, but that’s not a big deal.
7 | How do you feel before going online - either to write on your own blog, or to absorb the writing of others? How do you feel when you shut down the computer and walk away?
It really depends on the mood. Sometimes, trepidatious – will I get out what I need to, will I make myself understood, will I offend someone? Sometimes angry or sad and needing a place to pour it out. When I read others, it’s almost always healing. If it’s not, I stop. I need the light and warmth from others, so that always makes me feel better.
8 | Do family/friends know you write/commune online? If so, have they told you how they feel about it? How do you respond to their opinions?
Yes they know. Whatever works. Some friends and family members have access to my blog. I pulled that down as soon as my parents joined Facebook, because my father and mother do NOT need details on the frequency of my sex life or anything like that. Mostly the reviews are positive.
The problem that has arisen is when someone interprets what they’ve read to be personal and to apply to them. In some cases, it may be accurate, and in others, they are reading things in. That creates drama and hurt feelings and I think it’s nearly impossible to be honest and to avoid that entirely. I have made a real effort not to do that, but it’s impossible, if one uses a blog as a means to vent or as a form of thought-organization, to say it’s entirely untrue. Latent things can come out, you know? It may be unconscious, but that doesn’t mean it’s likewise unfelt. But really, it can’t be proven and that makes the ensuing conversation defensive on both sides and unprofitable in general.
So I don’t give the blog address out anymore. I don’t preclude a relationship happening with someone via a community or even the blog, but I no longer do the reverse order thing.
9 | Have you ever met any other loss bloggers in real-life? How did it feel to share food and air and space, and how did it make you feel about your own storytelling and healing? If you haven't experienced this, would you want to, or not? Why?
No, I haven’t had the pleasure. I have had the pleasure of exchanging emails with several babylost mamas, and it has been enormously up-lifting and inspiring. I hope to continue that and form deeper bonds with some of these people, because we can connect on a level not many others understand.
If it were possible, I would love to meet others in person.
10 | How did you/will you know it's time to read fewer grief blogs, and write less of grief? How did you/will you redirect your energy, creativity, and persona online -- did you/will you go offline? Disappear and start again? Or transition in your current space, hoping to find a new voice? If you've done this, how did it feel?
It comes as it comes. My blog ceased being about trying to conceive when I lost the first pregnancy we conceived. It’s still the central topic, but grief is not to be ignored. I will write what I feel needs to be written (needs to be siphoned from my soul or needs to be heard, either way). I do not write as much about grief as I did before, because I do not carry grief the way I did before. I read what fills me, so I don’t read it if I’m not getting something from it. I think it’s a good thing, but I also think it is a little limiting, as I don’t always feel as open to sharing my bad times as I did when that was the norm for me. I guess I don’t trust people to understand the circular, spiral nature of grief and don’t want the out-of-normal to make people concerned or uncomfortable.
I have disappeared from some places, for a variety of reasons. Being a different person has changed what some places are to me, and what I can contribute to those places. I am not wholly comfortable in a room of pregnant women; I feel both wiser and more accepting and like a complete alien, bringing in a reminder of doom and gloom with me.
In some ways I do feel as if I have another online persona – even a newish nickname. I think she is more compassionate and more likely to listen than previous incarnations of me. More compelled to reach out to people and try to draw them out. Whether that will translate to a new persona, I don’t know. I considered it, but I can’t leave out the parts of my story that describe me, because it’s who I am. So I don’t know that there is a point in it.
So long as my blog feels like a safe space, I will continue here and it will continue to transform with me.