Liars, liars, everywhere | Some definitions for the blogosphere

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?

0 thoughts on “Liars, liars, everywhere | Some definitions for the blogosphere

  1. Vague booking? Comment whoring?

    I think the Catfish scenario is the most common one in all online forums, not just here. Sadly, there is no way to know sometimes until it is too late.

    • Lol those are great terms. Does that bother you too?

      Yes, and although I see a lot of “comment whoring”… I definitely also see a lot of catfishing. I guess the difference is with online dating, in theory, eventually you get found out. Here, you can create a total false impression that can last for as long as you want.

      • Absolutely I hate those. The few times I have to get something out of my system and need to be cryptic for whatever reason, I do at least apologize in advance. And invite mocking too. I try to come clean eventually too.

        I was very private about all my details when I started on here, but now I allow enough overlap between here, my personal Facebook, etc that I try to show I am “me”. Of course, personality online vs. off is something that can’t be measured…so you just hope that if someone IRL finds your blog they aren’t surprised by what you said.

        I think online dating may be worse though.. Here some people just want to be popular. dating means you hope to have some sort of relationship even if it’s just a hookup. Yeah, you’ll get found out, but the investment is more because of the greater return that is expected.

        (sorry, blathering on today…)

        • You never need to apologise for the blather – it’s one of my favourite things 🙂

          Given some of what I’ve written, I don’t want full overlap. But a few select friends now know about my blog. Perhaps down the road I’d make some of it private and then start to share more widely.

    • Vague booking, yes, that’s the phrase I’ve heard used for those cryptic posts. I’ve never heard of comment whoring, but I remember back in days of Myspace we used to call those people who have an insane number of friends, Friend Whores.

        • One of my female friends on FB just posted this:

          “When the Lord closes a door, he always opens a window. I need prayers today. Thanks”

          Now what the heck am I supposed to say to that? I refuse to ask her what’s wrong, or what exactly she wants us to pray for. If she wants us to know what’s wrong then she should just come out and say it, instead of posting this vague crap.

          • RIGHT!! That’s exactly the stuff that I can’t stand.

            Now, if she had added “I can’t say yet what’s happening, but I will shortly”…for me, it would be different.

  2. I think people sometimes like the feeling of having details about their misery coaxed out of them, because it proves that someone cares. Mystery provokes questions. And I think you’re right to identify it as a form of manipulation, at least in the example you cite.

    Of course, mystery can also create suspense in good writing. Even if the writing is realistic, it can be useful in maintaining keen interest before the writer eventually gets to the point. It’s the neglecting to get to the point that’s problematic.

    • Thank you! Yes I agree with you about the proof that people care.

      And absolutely agree about mystery – I don’t mean cliffhanger endings and that kind of thing…that’s just good storytelling. Good clarification!

  3. I lie in all those ways, as I have to. By reasons of cover for my lifestyle, or protecting others, or shielding myself from repercussions. My stories are warped. I blog to talk freely, as I WANT to talk, and I WANT a place that I can do so. There is much I want to say, but can’t, in real life, and increasingly, here.

    Good post Ann. On the money!

      • There is a line I feel I can’t cross on the internet, strange but true. It’s a personal choice, and apparently difficult to grasp. But it’s part of protecting myself from harm. It’s likely me being over cautious in an environment where I’ve shared too much already…

        • I’m going to be a bit pedantic here…but why cryptic in addition to all the other methods? Why do those not protect you enough? I’m sincerely trying to understand. Can you give me example of where being cryptic is needed?

          • I use multiple methods, because one isn’t enough. My job has taught me a very important thing: redundancy. It’s wasteful to many, but to a tech guy, and we consider all angles, it’s a life saver. I want to talk, which is why I’m her personally, but there is a limit.

            I jig and amble, and I lisp. I nickname god’s creatures, and I make my wanteness my ignorance. (Cryptic enough?)

    • Mr. Gardener- same here. I want to talk freely. I suppose if I met certain followers or readers I would have more time to describe the reasons I write in a certain way…

  4. I do some of these things. I mostly write about past events, but not necessarily in order. While I use my real first name and picture, I do not use my last name on my blog. I do this more so my ex-husband doesn’t google search and come up with my blog. I’m careful what I say about him just in case. All of the men that I write about have pseudonyms to protect the guilty…but for many of them, it is their middle name. (Oh, wait, did I just give out a secret? lol.) I am very blunt and if I can’t tell a story honestly, I don’t feel like I can tell it well. So, it may not be super clear where/when these things happen but I’ve heard from those actually involved, that my detail is right on. Many of my email followers are people that I know in real life, so I try to tell stories that I can be “true to life” with, without being a jerk about it! 🙂 Sometimes I just don’t care and most of the time, I end up poking fun at myself more than anyone else!

      • Most of them! Some of them are just fun names like Catman and Crazytits McGuilislutty. The middle names or names that describe them in some way seem to be the only way that I can keep people straight. I don’t want to be writing a story and be all, wait, what did I call Dustin last time?

  5. Interesting topic. For the record, I am really who I say I am, and the little photo I use is a picture of me. I sometimes exaggerate for dramatic effect, but most of the stuff I post is meant to be entertaining nonsense, so I don’t feel too bad about it.

    That said, I’ve thought a lot about how visible I am here. I do not promote my blog on Facebook, so it does feel a little more “safe” than FB, though anyone with some basic google skills could look up my name and the city I live in and find it pretty easily.

    That keeps me honest, in a weird way. I stand behind the things I have written, but I don’t feel the need to promote my true story.

    That said — who would lie about staying in to watch Dateline? I’m trying to be as honest as I can — though I do obfuscate some feelings with humor — because I imagine that there are other people out there who relate. And I want to reach them and hear from them.

    Ok, sorry for the screed. 🙂

    • Thanks for the great comment! These ideas were roaming around in my brain for a while and they finally all coalesced (well, I hope!)

      Everyone blogs for different reasons, I know. For me, my blog is my diary and it helps keep me honest. Similar to what you mention above.

      I was active on Twitter but eventually got nervous that some friends who are all over Twitter would find me. So the account sits there unused, mostly. I too, couldn’t use Facebook.

  6. Honestly, I think it depends on your blog. Maybe you write for multiple reasons- to tell stories you’ve thought, to understand your life and thoughts, to write to an invisible audience who will never judge you. So maybe you give certain information, maybe you omit some… Especially for a lot of us who blog about sex or alternative lifestyles, we blog whatever we feel comfortable with allowing strangers to read, and also what we think will not give us away.

    I think I’m confused. What is it that bothered you? That another blogger, whose lines you were able to understand and read ‘between’, tried to use cryptic or omissive writing? (This is just my curiosity, btw not an attempt to be curt. 🙂 )

    It’s interesting that you brought this up though, as I was just thinking about who can read my blog and if anyone will know it’s me, by the style of writing and the photos. I think only very close friends would know it was me.

    • I’m not bothered generally by any of this, other than I find it interesting. Sure, if someone appears to be telling their real truth and then I find out it’s very different than that, it bothers me. Like catfish in online dating. But again, it really depends why.

      The case of being cryptic that bothered me recently was someone who posted something that precisely led readers to believe one thing, when the truth was far different. Not that there wasn’t a cause for concern and empathy in real life, but it was of a very different nature. In my opinion, with even just a few different words, they could have had a much more accurate reflection of their issue, still received the outpouring of concern, and maintained the confidentiality they desired.

      But I’m not the blog police and people can write what they damn well please. This person is a friend, and so I was concerned, then felt manipulated. But I told them how I felt and we moved on… and it’s not a big deal but it certainly got me thinking. Hence this post.

  7. I’m mostly open about who I am. I keep many specific details private, I don’t reveal exactly where I live (I just say Southern California) or where I work (just that I’m a shipper in a warehouse) nor do I reveal my exact age (I’m closer to 40 than I am to 30), birthdate, where I went to High School, etc. People who know me in real life know that stuff, but there are crazy folks out there, so I figure it makes sense to be a little careful. But J.R. (John Richard) LeMar is my real name, I don’t hide that, my gravatar is my picture, I’ve got links to my FB, G+, and Twitter profiles, which are all public (Instagram is friends-only, but that’s for the privacy of the other people I’ve posted pics of on it), so all of the views I express online are my true thoughts, and I stand behind them. Friends and family can see my blog, it should be the first hit you see if you google my name.

    I can see the benefits of using an alias, like you do, like I said when you did you recent “venting” blog. There are times when there are things I may feel like writing about, whether it’s work or family issues or just stuff I’m feeling down about, but then I hold back and censor myself because of who could see it. So there’s pros and cons to each approach.

    • Great comment John!! Definitely pros and cons to each approach. Although I’m quite open in real life (and funnily enough…Johnny Id wrote that I’m the same in real life as I am on my blog), there are two reasons I remain anonymous: 1) I have secrets that I’m loathe for some family members to know, and 2) given my job I don’t want everyone in my life knowing about my, um, promiscuity.

      But what I write is bluntly honest.

  8. I had a blog about my sexual experiences (sex for sex, not for love), blog that I closed some months ago and with a few posts I had ten thousands visits.
    But a day I frustrated bad business of delinquents and corrupt cops (I know, it sounds weird but sadly is truth) so I had to modify and close accounts of personal data, for that reason my “about me” is ambiguous and my avatar is abstract. I don’t lie but I can’t say all the truth. I started to publish a bunch of photos, stories and thoughts and to my surprise there is a few people with patience to see them o_O
    About people that says things in a cryptic way is, I believe, because the shame of be bullied (because infidelity, bad sexual life, fall in poverty, go to no place professionally, etcetera) and the idea is that if someone has to ask then that person cannot understand the issue, but other that can guess correctly then is the one that can help you. The other option could be pride, I remember some girls that didn’t say nothing to me, and others to their friends or boyfriends, they didn’t say anything for years waiting that the other noticed what was wrong. Silence as a weapon of stubborn pride I guess (and I’m guilty, too).
    Said that, I don’t expect truth, but fun, entertainment, or the skill to produce something interesting. We in some grades lie to ourselves without notice it anyway.

  9. I think this is a fascinating topic, one that covers so much of the online world. What you say and how you say it online is so very interesting, since it’s more about how you want to be seen — not actually who you really are. For me, I hide behind a pen name to write erotica because I want to keep my real life private. But others who write about their own lives, as you mentioned, can use many different tools to build a character of themselves online. You did a great job of describing those various tools from the toolbox. I think the most powerful is omission. Our families and friends (real-life friends, not online ones) witness much more of us. But we can choose which parts of our own lives to tell online and leave out huge amounts of stuff that we’re not proud of, or for whatever reason we don’t want to include with the character that we show on our blog or Facebook or wherever. Great post!

    • Thanks Gus! I’m glad you liked it…it took me a while to get it straight in my head, so I’m pleased it came across the right way.

      I agree that the most powerful is omission. Sometimes the omissions make sense to me, and other times I feel they are truly and deeply misleading. If someone tells me their stuff is a combination of truth and lies, that’s one thing, but most people aren’t that open about it.

      I have yet to see a rationale for being cryptic (without later clarification) that I understand.

  10. When I first started blogging, I didn’t want to reveal my age — I felt that younger people wouldn’t want to read my blog because they would consider me ancient. I also intended to only write stories about my past, and I didn’t tell my family I was blogging at first (I was afraid some of my recollections would hurt their feelings).

    However, I quickly figured out that I had to be able to write what I needed to write — past, present, good, bad, funny, sad — so I let my family know my intentions and they were really supportive. I decided to be honest in my writing and not to be cryptic or try to hide who I am. I don’t worry about people I know finding my blog — if they have a problem with the truth I am writing, then that is their problem — not mine.

    That being said, there are some things I won’t write about (at least on my blog) because it could be hurtful to people I care about or it could be damaging to my career. For example, I think my husband might be gay — this is something I won’t talk about on my blog, because his parents may read the post and they are incredibly homophobic — and I don’t want to hurt either party with my speculations. I also won’t blog about certain things that happen at work — because some of my coworkers read my blog and I don’t want to cause drama or say something unflattering about my boss that might get back to her.

    So, I guess I do lie by omission on certain subjects — at least for now (and at least on my blog — I probably would write about both subjects if I was guest posting somewhere and felt pretty comfortable people I knew wouldn’t see the post).

    • That’s amazing that you can be so completely open and honest on your blog. I guess as long as you don’t feel too restricted in what you are able to write, then it’s all good!

      Having said that, I certainly understand why you wouldn’t put those things on your blog, given your situation.

  11. So I think this is one of my favorite posts by you. ::Sigh:: probably because of my Catfish situation…but it does bring up my own personal thoughts of blogging though. Sometimes I feel as though I shouldn’t be as revealing as I am…and other times I don’t give a shit if people know who is behind Jblondie. Hmmm more to ponder on these thoughts you’ve put into my head 🙂

    • I’m glad to hear you liked it; not everyone did 🙂

      It’s a challenge for sure and there are some days that I think “who cares” if everyone knows. But then I remember that I do some pretty promiscuous things and not sure I want those known in the boardrooml

  12. I am also all of those things, too.
    My blog is my diary of things I want to remember and how I want to remember them. I guess I am lying to myself on my blog just as much as I am lying to any of my readers. Other times things happen in my life and I just want to vent; have people to commiserate with. Then I write about those things, too. You know?

    • I think it’s rare to find a blogger that doesn’t want to find community / commiseration here…so I think that’s pretty normal. Especially for people who feel they are on the fringes…when you expand your horizons to the world, essentially, you will find that community.

      Do you feel like not being totally honest with yourself hinders you in any way? I mean, what we write is always at the end of the day from our own perspective, so I don’t think it’s unusual.

      • I write what I feel and I think my lies to myself on my blog are mostly lies of omission (aka denial). There were a couple of posts at the beginning where I intentionally left something out because I didn’t want to be judged as a slut/whore. That stopped mattering so much when I started to ‘meet’ more bloggers ‘like’ me. I think I am much more truthful now than I used to be, but still probably not entirely so…

        I don’t write about the husband very often, because the way he acts and treats me and the way I act and treat him are not things I want to remember; or waste time writing about.

What do you think?