Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Privacy Thing

It took me almost a month but I'm finally explaining why Randomities moved, and why I've changed my whole web presence. Thanks for your patience guys! :)

Beforehand, I should assure you that no, there's no stalker. My shadowy picture is result of an option I've made in regard of my privacy. Ever since I've turned my life towards the writing career I've considered how much should be shared about my personal life on the internet and elsewhere.

It's not an easy thing to find balance. Take Neil Gaiman as example, he has a blog, he's on twitter, he has a girlfriend who has a blog and is also on twitter, his assistant too and even his bird-watching friend.

There was a time, not long ago, when he shared insights about his daughter, his son, his dog and cats, his girlfriend, and even the rudeness of a cab driver, or the moment he was going to sleep -- from the bed of a hotel room or his own.

Once I did follow all this activity, being a real drooler over his writing, but soon I felt overwhelmed -- talk about stalking, eh?

Now I follow him on twitter and only occasionally check out his blog. Last time I popped in there I glimpsed over another post about his dog (boring) and news about the events he was attending (boring, but only because I can't be there, bleh).

As far as I know he has limited his personal exposure on the web. I concluded this by the diminished number of tweets and change in content. Now he shares other people's stuff as well. Actually, to be fair, he has been sharing mainly other people's stuff lately, which are interesting and informative.

Although I've never reached Gaiman's extreme I was already feeling over exposed. Having a conservative profession I thought I should split my web persona from my professional one, to spare me future problems and allow me the freedom to write whatever the muse inspires me to.

So I ask you, how do you feel about your own exposure on the web and elsewhere?

Do you think the lack of a clear picture of a writer could be an impediment to her work reaching the readers?


  1. I took the opposite route - started with an avatar but recently switched to a real picture.
    Like you, I worry about privacy BUT I basically only post flash on my blog. I'm mindful that each tweet is public domain and act accordingly there as well.

  2. It is a constant balancing act. We want to be "real" and authentic online but we also have to be mindful it is a public place. It is tricky when you write fiction because of the many ways it can be interpreted by others, especially those we work with.

  3. For myself, I don't worry about it too much. I did recently set up a Facebook page for my business, and I have a separate business website on which I don't write about personal things. But it wouldn't be hard for someone visiting that site or the FB page to find the rest of me.

    Amusingly, the one thing I try to keep totally separate from other things is my LiveJournal account. I have a lot of anime friends there, and really don't want them to know how much older I am than some of them. That's partly vanity, but I also know they wouldn't talk to me the same way if they knew. But even then, if they really wanted to search, they could connect my user name there with my user name on Twitter, and eventually find everything else.

  4. --Laura: I started with a real picture, but the job thing made me go back. I too take care of what is said on twitter. I direct my friends to DMs or emails when what is discussed reaches a certain degree of critique or if it's too personal.

    --Anne: Agreed! I'm trying to find a new balance, hence all these changes. :)

    It worries me specifically your comment about how people make connections between what we write and what they think we are. Usually these connections are misleading.

    --Phyl: You are in a great position dear. You have liberty to show yourself for who you are without concern with what other people might think or say. I'll miss being there, heh.

  5. "Interesting blog.

    I think we all struggle with that balance. How much should we share of ourselves? Should we publish those nice pictures of our vasectomies? And is it really necessary to reveal the pin codes to our credit cards?

    Philosophical questions if I ever heard of them.

  6. Peter: Hahhahah!

    As impossible as it sounds, I wouldn't doubt if there were people posting pictures of their vasectomies out there. I wouldn't be so sure about writers, but the image is funny by itself, heh.

    Now seriously, I've found a new balance for myself and I hope it'll work better. I agree that this is something to hold in mind throughout our careers. And life?

    Glad you liked the blog. :)

  7. On the question of whether there's any difficulty of a writer reaching the readers if they don't know anything about him or her, my own opinion is that it should make no difference at all to the reader.

    It's the work itself that is important. Some knowledge of the author *might* reveal something extra about the story or piece of writing, but I think we make way too much linkage between the two. We've got a very nosy culture. After all, we know very little about the ancient Greek playwrights, or the writers of the Ramayana or Kalevala etc. But people have been touched and moved and inspired by those writings for centuries.

    So I don't think it's necessary at all, really, for a reader to know a thing about the author. Even if it's interesting to know. That's a separate thing, I think.

  8. At some stage ambiguity of the author is difficult. Once you have a book to promote you require interviews, touring, book signings, etc., and that requires giving up the ghost. Before that stage you need to build things such that people will care you're going to be at such-and-such a location, but for that and all the lower writing levels you can get by om ambiguity. I think it helps to leave yourself a cipher for some part of writing, so people can see what they want and relax more.

  9. I tend towards the overly cautious end and try not to share too much about my myself personally on the internet. I don't post my full name and I'm general about where I am located (living in a large city helps) and what I do for work. I lurk more than I post, but this is more due to my quiet nature than being cautious.

    I sometimes worry that I don't share enough of myself and that it may make me inaccessible to those who could be internet buddies/readers.

    As for the picture, I guess it's nice to know what someone looks like, but you should do what makes you comfortable. For me, I posted a real pic of myself but you can hardly tell what I look like! This tells you I'm a real person but you can't photo stalk me. Yeah, I'm paranoid! *drops her 2 cents into the bin*

  10. This is a tricky one Mari, it’s a constant balancing act… I have a pen name but a real picture of myself as my avatar. But my hair is covering half of my face… I have a blog and I’m on twitter- but I use both of them as a helpful instrument for my career… (especially the Twitter, I kind of love blogging :) ) I try not to blog about my personal life, of course there are the occasional posts that slips but besides that I write about writing which is the theme of my blog.
    Too much exposure can overwhelm people, I know it overwhelms me. And at the end of the day I would like to be remembered by my stories, not because I just changed my hair color or my dog went potty somewhere he wasn’t supposed to… :)

  11. --Phyl: You make a very good point there. I agree that authors and even celebrities' personal lives shouldn't influence in people's appreciation for their work. Our society is indeed too nosy. (loved the expression!)

    However, it is as it is. Maybe John is right, and some day I'll have to leave the cave. Let's hope it'll be for a good reason, heh.

  12. I suspect it may be because I tend towards caution generally that I limit the amount and type of personal information that I put out on the 'net. I blog and Twitter under my pen name, which I don't see as an inconvenience as it all helps to establish the brand without causing my personal life and family to be overexposed. Likewise, my avatar is such that there is a suggestion of my appearance without being a totally truthful photographic likeness; I suspect when (if?) I am ever published I may have to become photo-realistic, for now I'm quite happy being a (slightly mysterious) cartoon version of my real self.

  13. You raised a good question, Mari!

    I'm pretty secretive about my personal blog, Life's a stage, because I don't want too many people who know me in real life to read it (sadly because of a stalker and stupid people).
    But I love that I can still be myself and post about whatever I want as I've created a pretty good pen name which the people around me couldn't guess.

    I'm more careful about the photos I post though, all of the reachable ones being unclear.
    I have photos on FB, but only share with friends, and none of the real life friends are accepted there, just to be on the safe side :)

  14. Thank you everyone for the great comments. I was snatched from the computer while responding to Phyl. Life is getting in the way of my blog! heh

    I'll try to catch up now. :)

    --John: I realize that. My hopes are that the physical presence will not lead to too many pictures. At least not in the beginning, heh. I know I'll have to readapt when the time comes. ;)

  15. --Lena: Thanks for sharing! I might be on an overly cautious phase, but I think you do good too. Even if you don't have a conservative day job, it's kind of dangerous to share too much personal information on the web.

    Many people were concerned about me being stalked and we all know that one doesn't have to be a celebrity to get this kind of attention, right?

    From what I've seen, I don't think you share too little information. You interact well with people, so we have a sense of "reality" coming from you. I don't feel like I'm talking to someone who just want to get exposure, if you know what I mean. :)

    On a side note, did you see that there's a zombie contest here at Randomities? Since you inspired the zombie dragon thing, I thought you might like to give it a try. ;)

    --Lua: I agree. I'd rather be remembered by my stories than my personal appearance or even personality. Although, I think nowadays it's inevitable to mix things up a little. As John mentioned, we live in a very nosy society. Consequently, how much the reader feels connected with the writer (or not) may change her decision on buying -- or not buying -- a book.

  16. --Sam: I'd never suspect that you had a pen name too! I think you do a great job with keeping your privacy in your interaction on the net. You share some likes and dislikes, but nothing deep, so to speak, heh.

    Now, please quit the "if" thing, eh? Nothing else to add on that. ;P

    --Estrella: I must say I love your pen name! :)

    I'm sorry for the stalker thing; this must be an awful experience.

    It's an interesting approach the one you've got on FB. I'm going towards it, in a way, but this is one of the boxes from the moving that I haven't opened yet. I've just peered into it, heh.

  17. I've had this in my browser for days, now I finally have a moment to comment!

    This is a big issue, and something that I have had to wrestle with over the last 18 months. I went from a shy, post-natally depressed writer with a terror of sharing my words, to a regular blogger and Twitter fan, but I made several key decisions early on.

    The first was that I will never post any pictures or information about my son and my husband online. On the rare occasisons I've mentioned my husband in a post I've always run it past him first to see if he is happy with it.

    Secondly, I decided that there are some things that are hard to share, but are good to share despite that. One example is my battle with anxiety and post-natal depression. Not only is writing about these things healing, they also have the chance of helping someone else.

    Thirdly, I don't try to make one social media network more private than another. Facebook is a good example of this - the same privacy ringfencing that I've already mentioned applies there as much as on my blog or Twitter. I think any attempt to keep one space for just friends or family is futile - and the recent Facebook privacy hoo-hah has shown this clearly.

    I am quite open, but I don't give every detail of my life, far from it. Whether I will regret my decisions is yet to be seen.

  18. Emma: Thank you so much for your fantastic comment! It was most certainly worth waiting for it. :)

    I don't think you'll regret your decision. It seems pretty balanced and coherent, also guaranteeing your and your family's privacy.

    I'm aiming for that kind of balance, although I'm in a sort of extreme now. Let's see what will happen... :)

    About facebook, I do agree that once you have the same name/picture on fb as you have on other social networking websites, it's silly trying to separate things. However, for those who chose to write under a pen name it can be useful to have a sort of personal account on fb. Well, as long as they're able to resist the urge to share their own stuff on their personal account (written under the pen name) and they don't have mutual friends.


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