Blogging personas

Litlove’s fascinating post on Borges and on her relationship to her blogging alter ego has got me thinking about my own relationship to Dorothy, how I am and am not her. When I first started blogging, I thought in terms of a persona; I thought that I was creating one, and that that persona was not me, and that I was happy to be creating a persona because it would give me more freedom, freedom to write in ways that the “real-world me” might not, and therefore freedom to explore parts of me that I don’t normally express. This is partly why I chose to take on a pseudonym, so that my online self could be substantially different from my regular self, if I wanted it to.

But that hasn’t happened really — I feel instead like Dorothy is really me, just with a different name. She’s not a separate person, a mask, or a persona; she’s me, but she’s not quite the “me” I think of as my real-world self. The writer of this blog doesn’t feel like a fictional creation at all, although, in a sense, she is a fictional creation, because our selves are all fictional creations of sorts. Writing this blog has made me more aware of how fictional the various versions of myself are, since it is so easy to shape my online self by giving out certain bits of information and not others, and this makes me realize that I’m always communicating different versions of “myself” to the people I meet, online or in-person, and I’m even communicating a version of myself to myself. The mental image I have of Dorothy is incomplete — I see one version and you see another — and this is also true for image I have of the “real-world me.” My image of myself matches no one else’s image, and who is to say whose image is the more accurate one?

Anyway, Dorothy is calmer than I am, than the version of “me” I’m familiar with. She’s much less busy than I am, and more certain, less nervous, and more chatty. She’s nicer and more open. She’s not as critical and she’s much more optimistic. She’s a little less self-conscious and more willing to try new things. She’s more of a group person, more willing to participate. She likes people more. She’s just as serious, but occasionally more willing to be silly. She’s more willing to talk about herself (or she wouldn’t blog of course!), and less concerned with what people think of her.

All that sounds quite nice, doesn’t it? It makes me want to be Dorothy … and perhaps the interesting thing about blogging is that it might help me become a little more like her. Perhaps after our online selves have been in existence for a while, we begin to merge with them.

20 Comments

Filed under Blogging, Writing

20 responses to “Blogging personas

  1. Cam

    Thanks for sharing your non-Dorothy persona’s view of Dorothy! I find that my experience is very similar. My online persona is me, yet not me. The yin to my yang, perhaps. More a complement than an opposite.

    I feel that there are some bloggers who know me quite well, maybe better than several people I know in real life (co-workers, or neighbors who are acquantenances, for example; not family or friends). I think it is easier to take risks, to be more open and (for me) more extraverted than my IRL mostly introverted persona is comfortable with.

    Sure, there are drawbacks to knowing people only through their online personas. I would always maintain that anyone who is completely involved in an on-line life, eschewing real-life friendships, would have a serious problem (and I do know people like this!). I think that, as human beings, we are meant to be in relationship with others and we can’t fully do that on-line. Nor could one do so, for example, as pen pals, or with someone who you only see for a few hours every few years: you know them, but only in a limited way. But, the me/not me persona is still a valid way at looking at a writing persona. Cam is me and I am Cam; but the two only overlap; they are not one.

    I’m curious: were you concerned when you first met someone you knew only through blogging? Was there any doubt about whether there would be expectations that you be more Dorothy-like? Or, did you seem just as they might have imagined? I think it would make me very nervous, not sure who I was supposed to be. Afraid of being exposed as a fraud for just being myself (yet Cam is myself too). But not as much of a fraud as I might feel in certain social or quasi-social situations (I’m thinking of certain type of business dinners — eee gads!) where I had to force myself to be more outgoing, interested in things that bore me, etc.

    Interesting post.

  2. Very interesting, Dorothy, how your online persona has become less of a persona for you and more of a version of you. I also like how you (the actual you) feels about Dorothy.

    I’m coming from a slightly different place in that I never chose anonymity – maybe I should have, because it sounds like fun – but even so, there is a split between the writing Charlotte and the actual one. One is living and interacting, and the other is writing about that.

  3. I am not sure if I have ever read a more interesting blog posting, including those of my own, which I tend to think of as nearly almost always…. severely interesting and of award-winning quality!
    The whole anonymity thing, dual-persona. Presenting aspects of ourselves that we CHOOSE to present. Being honest and real, [sure] but not necessarliy transparent. Using an alias. Not revealing the address of our blogpage to people we KNOW, on a daily basis even. These [the above] are all things that I do, as a blogger.
    Which is the MORE real me?
    The guy I work alongside all day, he sees aspects of me that will never be seen in blogland.
    But in blogland, there are sides of me that he will never see, working alongside me, day by day.
    In my opinion [and admittedly, this may not be the case for other people out there] I think that the deeper reality of who I am, and what makes me tick, comes out in blogland.
    In bloggitry, I feel freer to be who I really am, in [not all, for sure] but many ways. And these “ways” are not to be discounted, or thought false. They are profoundly significant.
    Really interesting blog “Dorothy”.
    – “Cipriano”

  4. Perhaps creating a different persona is something that we all unconsciously do anyway. I don’t go out of my way to create a different blog personality, but when I think about it it is different. I recently met a fellow blogger for the first time, someone I had ‘known’ online for a while. We didn’t have that much to say to one another in person, and thinking about it after the event I realised that our ‘blogging personalities’ were quite far removed from our real ones.

  5. Jung says we all have a mask that we present to the world, and I have to agree. I think we have several masks, depending on situation and audience, but they are all aspects of ourselves. Some are more truthful than others. Some are more thoughtful than others. Some are more deceptive than others.

    Great post! We will all be thinking about our blog personalities now.

  6. It reminds me of a personality test I took for a course in college. We each took it ourselves, and then we were to choose 3 other people to take it for us: two very close friends and a casual acquaintance. I was amazed even how differently my two very close friends answered some of the questions. However, my nd roommate’s (and, really, closest friend) answers were the ones that most resembled my own. And, of course, no one in the class ever came to an agreement on the question: who knows you better: others or you?

    I have to say, though, that having met you both online and off, although I greatly enjoy reading your blog, I’d much rather get together with you in person. You have so many cool thoughts going on in your head, so much to talk about, and this medium is just so limiting.

  7. I love the way you have taken this, Dorothy! I too, think I like Litlove better than me – she’s a kind of perfected version!

  8. Cam

    So, here’s another thought Dorothy: how do you think your blog would change — if at all — if you began blogging as yourself? Would you be more cautious? More select in what you wrote about? Or have the two personas merged so much that the on-line persona is really a writing voice, not so much a different persona meant to mask the real-life Dorothy?

    I’m not sure how much my blog would change, but for professional reasons I don’t want my name associated with my blog, even though it is completely unrelated to my career work, and there is nothing (so far) that would likely get me dooced (Although I am writing this at work, but it’s Saturday and I’m only here to catch up on the cr@p on my desk….and obviously procrastinating in that task!)

  9. Dorothy, what interesting questions you bring up. I’ve never tried to be anonymous but I do find that I feel freer to be me online and I am reluctant to tell people I know about my blog. I am, like you, much more outgoing online. I am more comfortable jumping into conversations, making comments, etc. I find I am more willing to take risks. I am more willing to reveal my ignorance and more comfortable politely disagreeing with someone or questioning a point of view. I also like to think that I have a humorous and silly side but in real life it doesn’t come out all that often. Online I think, well, if people don’t like what I say or think I make stupid jokes then they don’t have to come to my blog. But in real life it’s hard to have a similar approach especially with coworkers you have to see everyday. Neither my online person or my real life person is entirely the whole me I think of myself as. This makes me suddenly a little sad though because wouldn’t it be nice if we could be the true selves we think we are all the time in all places instead of the fragments? And what is it that keeps us from doing it?

  10. Very thought-provoking post, Dorothy. Funny, isn’t it, how a blogging persona develops a voice and habits, little creative tics? When I blog I’m far more self-assured and, like you say, calmer – more in touch with something critical about my opinions. I also feel more attached to others, part of a community.

    And, despite the fact that I know your real name (through bookmooch), I feel very much as though you are ‘Dorothy’. Is that strange? If someone shouted ‘Dorothy’ in the street, would you turn round? :-)

  11. Cam, I was nervous before meeting Emily, the one person I’ve met first online, and the first time I met her was at a book group meeting! So there was the question of whether my verbal comments about books would be different from my blog ones. But the truth is, I was just as much focused on figuring out what she was like and how her real-life self fits her blog persona that I didn’t think about myself that much. If I used my own name, I would be more careful (you’d never hear me talking about work, for example, even though I don’t do it much as it is), but other than that, I think it would stay the same. So the online persona is very much a writing voice rather than a mask, although it’s one writing voice among at least a couple others I have.

    Charlotte, I think I’d feel a separation between my two selves even if I used my own name — it’s like Dorothy is a nickname or something. And since certain types of people use that nickname and they know a certain version of me, “Dorothy” comes to stand for one version of myself, like the nickname my family calls me but nobody else does.

    Thank you Cipriano! I think one of the pleasures of blogging is feeling the freedom you describe — I’m not limited online by what people think about me based on my looks, and I’m not as limited by my actions in the past.

    Stephen, I think you’re right, and I think creating that persona, or whatever it is, is inevitable. I know I also have a “teacher persona” that’s different from my blogging one, and my at-home one, etc.

    Jenclair, you’re right, I think the image of multiple masks is a good one.

    Thank you Emily! That would be an interesting experiment — to have other people take that sort of test about me. Like the Hobgoblin, for example. That could be the source of some conflict :)

    Litlove, part of the fun of blogging is the fantasy-version of ourselves we can create, isn’t it?

    Thank you Dio.

    Stefanie, yes, it would be wonderful to feel more integrated, to take the best aspects of all my “selves” and combine them. Perhaps that happens more as people become more mature? I’m not sure.

    Victoria, thanks! I probably would turn around if someone called “Dorothy” in the street, and I find my eye catching on the name when I see it in print. Dorothy is beginning to become me!

  12. I may be the most naive blogger of all, but it never occurred to me your name might actually be something other than Dorothy W. You make her seem so substantial and human, I’m not surprised you’d react to hearing her name called out. Of course, there’s no point in creating online personae that are any less perfect than our flesh versions, but it might be intriguing to talk to someone who had tried.

    Glad to see you’ve come to WordPress, Dorothy. Comments will be easier to track and you were so very easy to blogroll.

  13. Dorothy, what an interesting piece, and all the responses too. My blog name is not my own, but not because I’m trying to be anonymous, just because I felt at the start that I was not blogging professionally and therefore my real name didn’t make sense to use. As things have developed, however, my blog name has become part of what I do and I probably (like you) would turn my head if someone used it on the street, if for no reason than to see who really has that name!

    Very thought provoking. Thanks.

  14. Another great post! I never thought of creating a persona upon starting my blogs! I suspect I would enjoy your non-Dorothy persona just as much as Dorothy.

  15. It’s funny Dorothy–even though I know your real name, I think I still think of you as being Dorothy. I wonder sometimes if I asked someone who reads my blog somewhat regularly to describe me, how close they would be to the real thing. I feel like I am pretty much myself when I blog, maybe more chatty and less pessimistic than I am in real life. I probably leave out things more than I change things about myself–I am selective in what I share. It might be kind of fun creating a blog that was a totally made up person with a made up life, but then maybe that’s simply called writing fiction…I do admit that I don’t tell anyone I work with that I blog–not sure why but maybe I do feel like I reveal more than I want to this way, and I’m afraid of embarrassing myself or something!

  16. David, I’ve caught myself with other bloggers thinking that their name was real and then realizing it might not be. So I don’t think you’re naive! I’m liking wordpress quite a lot, very glad I made the change.

    Equiano, thanks! I love your blogname, by the way; Olaudah Equiano is a fascinating author (is he who you named yourself after?)

    Heather, thanks, you are very kind!

  17. Danielle — I think I’d be the same way, wanting to keep calling someone by the name I’m used to. Emily, whom I’ve met in person, calls me Dorothy, and I have absolutely no problem with it. I’d love to have someone describe what they think of my blogself, to see how close the description is to me, just like you say. But then it’s fun to hear what people think about my “real-life” self (as long as it’s positive of course) — it’s all feedback about my “self” however I define it.

  18. I am divided on the notion of being more “myself” in the blog. Would people really want to read more information about my (crappy) personal life? Would massage clients find it unprofessional if I wrote about them (even if I changed their names)? Would my company fire me if I wrote unflattering things about my (ineffectual) spa manager? Would my teammates be mad if I vented about them or my perceptions of the team or a specific race? (Actually, that’s already come up.)

    How much information we reveal about our personal life is one of those “push-pull” frictions. A friend who is a writer asked me, in all honesty, why I blogged. She just didn’t understand why I’d put myself out there, for all to see.

    However, not all. I have been presenting myself as a more level-headed, more emotionally well-adjusted person than I could ever hope to be in real life. Also, I have decided to be mostly anonymous, but it really isn’t that hard to find out my name. I’m just an ambivalent exhibitionist, it would seem. I have been tempted to start a completely anonymous blog, in order to completely bare myself.

    Anyway, Dorothy, I do hope we meet at some point this season. Just look for the tall gal in the Comedy Central kit, riding a blue Specialized Tarmac.

  19. Fendergal, I’m sure we will meet this season; I’ll be looking out for you. I like your phrase “ambivalent exhibitionist” — that works pretty well for me too, I think.

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