Before we begin, let me set the context. My post below is about personal blogs, where bloggers tell their personal stories. This is not about people who write fiction, or put up photographs, or pontificate on the upcoming election, or tell us how to become more popular bloggers.
I love precise language and I’m not apologetic about it. I choose my words carefully most of the time. Sloppiness of any sort is bothersome to me.
I’ve been engaged in several discussions since I started blogging about what people do and do not choose to share online. It’s fascinating to me.
Deceptions are everywhere, and there are all different kinds here. I’m not immune; I engage in my own deception on my blog. However, a few recent examples of deceptions I witnessed really bothered me, and I’ve been trying to figure out why. I write to work through it. Of course, motivation and context is always key…a crime is judged differently if you didn’t intend to commit it.
The comments I saw and engaged in used a bunch of different terms interchangeably, and that particularly bothered me because it made it very difficult for me to get my point across.
So, here is my attempt to break down the different kinds of lies we engage in.
We are Anonymous: (of a person) not identified by name; of unknown name.
Synonyms: unnamed, of unknown name, nameless, incognito, unidentified, unknown, unsourced, secret
Many people do not use their names on their blogs. This makes a lot of sense when you don’t want to be found. There are things that remain unknown about me and I’m explicit about the fact that I don’t share them – the city and country in which I live, and the job I have, for example.
This seems pretty straightforward and widely accepted. It’s just common sense if you are trying to be anonymous.
We Obfuscate: render obscure, unclear, or unintelligible
synonyms: obscure, confuse, make unclear, blur, muddle, complicate, overcomplicate, muddy, cloud, befog
This is a little different. Generally, we don’t make our obfuscations explicit. For example, I will skirt around some details that I think could also lead to my real identity being discovered. For example, I sometimes use “British” or “American” English spellings and terminology so people don’t draw one clear conclusion as to where I’m from. But I don’t tell you I’m doing that.
Well, okay, I guess I just did, y’all.
For me, my only motive is to avoid any reader finding out who I am in real life. If it doesn’t risk that, I’m full frontal about it. Pun intended.
Of course, if a friend came across my blog, they would instantly know it was me. So I’m taking that risk, because I’m so open about everything else.
But others need more obfuscation, to further reduce the risk of being found out – from someone reading their blog and making the connection between their blog persona and who they are in real life. It’s all about how much risk you are comfortable with. Makes perfect sense to me.
Most common is adjusting locations and history and timelines and such. For example, you live in Australia but say you live in Britain. You publish stories out of order. Mix past and present, and don’t make reference to the actual dates something happened. You might have studied economics but say history. That kind of thing.
But you probably don’t call attention to these things. You don’t say – hey, I’m lying to you about where I live. Depending on the kind of blog you write, it’s probably not critical to your stories anyway.
We tell lies of omission: someone or something that has been left out or excluded
synonyms: exclusion, leaving out, exception
This is the deliberate exclusion of information. Also known as a “continuing misrepresentation”, a lie by omission occurs when an important fact is left out in order to foster a misconception. I’m fascinated about the choices people make about what to exclude, and why they do.
Perhaps it’s your age, or marital status, or what you look like, or information about your family situation, or anything that you think would change a readers perception of you.
Perhaps you don’t think it’s critical to your story. I knew of one blogger who was very wise but quite young and they avoided saying their age because they felt it would impact their readers perception. Another writes a combination of fiction and non-fiction, and their non-fiction avoids discussing vast swaths of their real life.
Perhaps you want to have an alter ego online (it certainly happens in online dating). You can be whoever you want to be here, and avoid mentioning those pesky details that get in the way. Would your readers be shocked or surprised to learn the true real life facts about you, that you fail to mention here? Does the impression you leave of who you are different from your blog persona?
If you were online dating instead, would you be considered a catfish? Would you be like the traveller (you can read about him on my “Lovers” page) who seemed young and sexy but as it turned out, was some old fat man behind a computer? Or the man who turned out to be married with three children?
Ahem. Okay, this isn’t meant to be about my failed past dates. Moving right along…
We are cryptic: having a meaning that is mysterious or obscure
Synonyms: enigmatic, mysterious, confusing, mystifying, perplexing, puzzling, obscure, abstruse, arcane, oracular, Delphic, ambiguous, elliptical, oblique
I’ve gotten stuck on this one. My early descriptions of cryptic were, well…cryptic.
Certainly, mystery can be a good thing. But if you are otherwise a “realistic” blogger, what is the purpose of being cryptic? It’s different from being anonymous, or obfuscating, or telling a lie of omission. This is about deliberately being mysterious.
There are people on Facebook who post cryptic comments like “oh no, my world is getting darker”. There’s a term for it which currently escapes me, but it’s not seen in a good light. It’s seemingly meant to elicit comments of concern from friends and family. It makes me feel manipulated.
And just in case you think I’m a total heartless bitch, I’m not talking about genuine pleas for help from people who are in desperate need and don’t know how to ask. I had a brother commit suicide. Those situations are the exceptions.
I don’t doubt that the person is going through something, but I question the method. If you don’t want to say what it is you are going through, then why post about it? If you want support, then why not just say you want support? You can be anonymous, obfuscate, and use lies of omission. Isn’t that enough?
Perhaps it’s just me.
What do YOU think?