No such thing as anonymity

The other day I visited a blog that I’d been to once or twice in the past, and somehow I ended up reading through months of archives. I probably spent a couple hours, just reading and hitting the ‘next’ link (yeah, I know—probably not the best use of my day off). While I was reading, mrtl (the blogger) posted a new entry, and here’s part of what it said:

“If, as indicated by my stats, it looks like someone has taken the time to read every post in my blog, shouldn’t he or she post something? Is it wrong for me to even address this? It freaks me out that someone’s taken the time to read the whole thing and not say a word. Who are you and what do you think?

I have to admit, I was a little freaked out too. She had to be talking about me. My palms even started to sweat! It was a weird reaction, but I really felt a little like I’d been caught somewhere I shouldn’t have been. I did end up commenting, and then we emailed a few times . . . until we both felt better, I think. But that odd feeling kind of stuck with me the rest of the day, and I’ve been trying to figure out why.

I think part of it is because I see/use this medium as one-way communication, like reading a newspaper column or watching someone on a TV talk show. The columnist and the celebrity don’t know that I personally am reading or watching—I’m just an anonymous reader/viewer along with everyone else. Because the internet also feels anonymous, on some level I tend to equate bloggers with celebrities. It’s easy to forget that they’re real people just like me, and they’re interested in who’s reading their work.

It’s also easy to forget that there’s someone watching, no matter where you go online. I was just so startled by the fact that someone noticed me and spoke up about it. Kind of like those people at live comedy shows who try and sneak out to pee. The comedian mentions it, and suddenly the spotlight’s on and everyone’s watching. I definitely felt like I was the one frozen in that spotlight, even though mrtl was the only person who could “see” me.

Lessons learned from this experience: 1.) You’re not as anonymous online as you think you are; 2.) Commenting on others’ sites every now and then isn’t such a bad thing; and 3.) Pee before the show starts.


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