I’ve been thinking a lot lately about declaring one’s points of view in life. Everything from big things like religion, political stance, sexual orientation, etc., to small things like favorite authors, music tastes, and birthdays. Identifiers, basically, is what I’m talking about, and what we choose to call ourselves – and whether or not we choose to do so publicly.
I think there’s a fine line of choice in declaration. We can announce our labels because Facebook asks us to and that’s just what’s expected. Or we can announce our labels because we feel that it’s a way to be most honest about our authentic self. We can keep quiet because we’re ashamed or holding secrets, or we can choose not to declare because we simply don’t feel it’s anyone else’s business – don’t feel the need to justify our choices.
An example: I try really hard to stay out of politics in the digital sphere, even though I have strong opinions and a deep investment in current issues, for many different reasons. Those reasons vary from a weariness of pointless arguments that change no one’s mind to an awareness that I’m trying to build an author platform and that isolating potential readers isn’t wise.
So for these reasons and many, many more (it is always more complex than it sounds), I have kept silent. If someone asks me about my beliefs or anything like that, I answer them honestly if I feel comfortable doing so; I tell them it’s none of their business if it’s not. I don’t lie. I’ve never lied about such things, because I would find it personally injurious. On a deep, self-love level, I need to remain accepting of who I am.
Yet… I don’t declare. And so I wonder when not declaring becomes the same as keeping a secret. Especially in today’s world, where everyone is public about not just every opinion they have but every thought they have, one has to make a conscious effort not to reveal their stances. At times, to me, that effort begins to feel like secret-keeping. At times I feel the urge to tweet or blog about personal things. What if someone fills in their own blanks and gets them wrong? I hate the idea of being misinterpreted due to a need for privacy, but I also hate the idea of throwing away privacy for the sake of appearances.
Where’s the line?
I suspect the line is different for every person – and possibly different for each of us depending on our stage in life, mood, circumstances, etc. It’s not as if I haven’t blogged about personal things before. Blogging is inherently personal, to me, so it’s inevitable that I share some things. I blogged about my dad’s alcoholism and death because that was a “secret” that felt personally damaging to keep quiet about; speaking openly about shame subjects is a form of rejection – a way to refuse to buy in to what society tries to sell us. Not to mention that my only nonfiction writing (my poetry memoir Hope and Other Myths) is about this, so I’ve always been aware that this part of my life can’t remain private.
Other issues, like my battles with depression, my sweet husband, my hard-earned ‘life lessons,’ etc. have all come up organically, when I feel driven to talk about them – whether to share my experiences, hear advice or support, or whatever. Yet, somehow, there are large pieces of myself not represented online. And you know what? For now, I like it that way.
In a time when the very details of our meals, outfits, and moods are snapped and shared for friends, family, and strangers alike, I still value my right not to share. Not because I’m ashamed of my beliefs, stances, or decisions (I’m not), but because I believe there’s inherent value in allowing ourselves privacy. Just as sharing something can make it feel more real, keeping something personal can make it feel more authentic.
I love my blog, I love the internet, and I truly do love our modern culture of public life, but I don’t want to become the sum of my represented parts. So the line, for me, is constantly shifting near and far, but I appreciate the fact that there is a line, and I hope to keep it around.
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