Sunday, 3 March 2019

Out in the open

It's the era of openness, of transparency, of people telling it like it is, of all those little personal quirks and oddities being broadcast to the world. People coming out as gay, as anorexic, as self-harming, as having mental health issues.

All those things people used to keep to themselves out of embarrassment, shame, fear of being abnormal, fear of being misunderstood, all those things a tangle of inhibitions stopped us revealing, are now being voiced more freely.

You can't open a newspaper or turn on the TV without someone being astonishingly frank about some psychological weirdness they've been struggling with for years, and all the ways in which it's drastically affected their life.

I think it's a very healthy trend. There were many things I kept quiet about as a child because I was afraid of other people's reactions. But now I try to be as open as I can and less in thrall to those unnecessary inhibitions.

On the whole I'm happy to discuss my numerous neuroses - my anxieties, my fears, my lack of confidence, my doubts about my intelligence, my social shyness, my inarticulacy, my odd sleep patterns, my peculiar dreams. There are only one or two things I'm silent about, so as not to embarrass other people.

It's an unusual trait in my family. My mum was always obsessively secretive, confining herself to small talk and steering away from anything too personal or revealing. My brother in law and sister are much the same. Happily my niece is a lot more open, probably because she's 36 and part of a generally more communicative generation.

As a kid I was taught that men should "keep a stiff upper lip", not show anyone we were upset or afraid or couldn't cope. We were supposed to bottle up our emotions and put on "a brave front". Thank goodness that absurd attitude is gradually fading away.

27 comments:

helen devries said...

As a child faced with my mother's continual denigration I soon learned not to leave any chinks in the armour and to reveal nothing.

Mike Goad said...

I'm a bit reticent to be totally open, especially online. It's mostly just my nature, but it is probably somewhat naturally developed self-defense from being "picked on" -- now termed bullied -- as a child.

In today's social media world, openness and transparency is somewhat expected, I guess. Unfortunately, too much of a "good thing" can sometimes leave one open to be targeted by bullies and other ill-meaning denizens, especially for women and children as well as some people of certain "groups." One lady I know stopped her personal blog because of anti-Semitic attacks by internet trolls. I still see her posting and commenting, very rarely, on Facebook.

Posting anonymously might be one defense, I suppose. Years ago, I opted to be open about who I am, but because of that, there are things -- mostly family related -- I'm reluctant to address that I might otherwise discuss if I were anonymous.

Because of something I shared on Facebook, I was blacklisted from employment as a contractor for two years.

nick said...

Helen: That's very understandable in the circumstances. But are there not some close friends you can be more open with?

nick said...

Mike: You're right that admitting things on social media can be risky, but up to now, in 12 years' blogging, I've never had any problems. I think women are picked on more than men - I know several women who gave up blogging or started a private blog for that reason.

There are indeed individuals and groups who like to abuse and persecute other people such as Jews or just mouthy feminists. Luckily I don't seem to fit the target categories.

Losing your job because of Facebook posts is another risk. I was always careful to keep my Facebook page concealed from my bosses and work colleagues so nothing detrimental would catch their attention.

Wisewebwoman said...

I've kept my online presence pretty anonymous. I've been attacked on Twitter for my personal views on abuse of others and seen tremendous harm by "doxing" which is despicable.

Many are frustrated in the blogging world due to their open identities and thus censor themselves and hesitate even to supportively comment on other blogs. I hear from them privately.

It's a complex business and so many are understandably fearful of losing jobs like your commenter above or even, in cases I know, having their children threatened.

XO
WWW



helen devries said...

Nick, I'll talk politics all day long but that's it.

nick said...

www: It's very tricky. I know several women who have been hounded relentlessly because of their unorthodox or unwavering views on patriarchy, gender etc. It's appalling that so many women have to comment under aliases for fear of using their real names. I really admire those women who won't budge an inch however much shit is thrown at them.

Doxing is especially despicable, as you say.

nick said...

Helen: Fair enough. Once bitten, twice shy, as they say.

Bijoux said...

I agree that it's healthy in some respects, but I also think that some would be better off getting professional help rather than worry about acceptance by strangers.

nick said...

Bijoux: You might be right there. Then again, if someone reveals she's depressed or anxious or self-harming or whatever, the listener might give her some useful advice - or encourage her to see a therapist or get specialist help.

Mike Goad said...

A clarification on being blacklisted. It was just one company that wouldn't hire me as a contractor. It was the only one where I had any interest in working as it was where I retired from and was most knowledgeable of. The ban was lifted after a superintendent told the site VP they needed me for an upcoming contract. That's when I found out why they hadn't been able to bring me back even though they had tried several times.

One needs to be sensitive to the self risk of what you post online.

Last week, I posted a drawing of a frustrated cartoon character at a computer and captioned it "Facebook is SO annoying and illogical sometimes!" I later received an email that a former student of mine commented on it, saying something like, "Well at least Facebook is free." When I clicked on the link to take me to Facebook, his comment was nowhere to be found.

My former student now works a couple of states away from here as some kind of facilities engineer -- whatever that is -- at Facebook. I suspect he had second thoughts about making any sort of comment about Facebook, who employs him, on Facebook. He's actually a pretty smart fella

Joanne Noragon said...

The social current of help and growth seems to be "speak your truth" and enjoy the support. In truth, speaking one's truth is dangerous beyond measure.

tammy j said...

I struggle any more to just stay in the loop. I have no idea what 'doxer' means so I will look it up. and my biggest fear is putting my foot in it because I often don't know about what's being discussed. I tend to have no secrets. or if I do they must be very boring ones! am fighting pneumonia right now. it is taking all my energy. I never thought of myself as boring. but it dawns on me. I AM.

nick said...

Mike: You were lucky the ban was lifted after the superintendent intervened. There is certainly a risk in posting anything on Facebook and you need to think carefully about what you're putting out there. As I say, I never mentioned my Facebook page to my bosses or other employees, so I never got into any trouble.

nick said...

Joanne: I guess speaking your truth can be either dangerous or helpful, depending on what you're saying and who you're saying it to. As the saying goes, if in doubt, leave it out!

Tammy: Doxing means publishing private or identifying information about someone, thus exposing them to widespread abuse and threats - a really malicious act. I must say I've never found you boring, I always enjoy your comments! I hope you shake off the pneumonia asap.

CheerfulMonk said...

What I like about blogging is one can always put trolls in the spam folder. I've only done that twice. The first time I was just ignoring the slams until a couple of commenters told me they were feeling uncomfortable. The second time was just a few months ago when the comment sounded hostile so I spammed it and wrote to the commenter to say I wished them well but we had different values and interactive styles so it was best for us to move on.

I want my blog to feel friendly, and I get to decide.

nick said...

Jean: The only troll I've ever had on my blog is a certain woman we're both familiar with. Other than that, I've never had any serious trouble with anyone. If someone dislikes what they're reading, they simply go elsewhere and that's that. I have plenty of disagreements with my commenters but it's all very amicable.

Joared said...

Many matters were not talked about openly as I was growing up. I think it’s healthier now to be more open, but sometimes there’s more revealed than I want to know. On the other hand, seldom anything surprises me after all these years. All topics are of interest for discussion as long as it’s civil. I like the blog format for writing and interacting with people. Haven’t wanted to spend time on other social media sites.

nick said...

Joared: Indeed, too little information is now liable to become Too Much Information! But in general I don't think there's such a thing as too much information. Everything's interesting and thought-provoking, even if it's a bit gruesome or scary or weird.

Rummuser said...

I have never shied away from revealing what would be considered secrets about me or my family as perhaps you already know. While this was accepted by my late mother it was not by my late father because most of the secrets were about the latter!

I personally have little to hide as my life has been an open book. At least, I would like to think so. May be, after I am dead and gone, my son would come out with some stuff that I know nothing about now!

nick said...

Ramana: I wonder what Jenny would come up with if I were dead and gone? All sorts of embarrassing misdemeanours, I'm sure. Like that day when I inadvertently - goodness, is that the time....

Linda Sand said...

While I wrote a blog during our travel years you all make me glad I never participated in social media. I do participate on one on-line forum but that group is pretty supportive of one another. And, of course, I read and comment on other people's blogs. But, no Twitter; no Facebook; no Instagram; etc.

nick said...

Linda: Social media can be a lot of fun, but it can also be a nightmare if people start harassing you. Luckily that has only happened to me once. I've never been on Twitter or Instagram, only Facebook, which I find amusing, informative and thought-provoking.

kylie said...

I thought you were going to reveal something

nick said...

Kylie: 'Fraid not. But I've revealed a hell of a lot about myself over the past 12 years, as you know. There's not much more to reveal.

Secret Agent Woman said...

I'm mixed on this. I'm very open on my blog but don't use my name or town. You'd only have to spend a minute on my blog to recognize me if you knew me, but I don't want to be searchable.

As for openness about psychological issues, I think it is mostly a good thing but I also think there's something to be said about not spewing every last little mental quirk. I would keep that to conversations with friends.

nick said...

Agent: I deduced your town some time ago from photos and things you said! But my lips are sealed....

I've revealed quite a lot about myself but there are some things potentially too awkward or embarrassing to talk about publicly. And I never reveal things other people have told me confidentially.