Charlie Bertsch (cbertsch) wrote,
Charlie Bertsch

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The Box Canyon of Personal Blogging

In response to a series of recent experiences that have left me feeling distressingly exposed to danger, I'm trying to decide a couple of things: 1) whether I should make this Live Journal anonymous; 2) whether I could live with myself if I made that move; 3) whether the real problem is that I'm being forced to make a decision I've deferred until now, one whose very structure I loathe with ever fiber of being, about whether to comport myself in the blogosphere as either a "professional" or a person.

You see, when I started this journal I made an exhaustively considered decision to use my pre-existing nom de plume, one which happens to be awfully close to my real name. While I have total respect for other writers who use the protection of anonymity, I've never been able to countenance using that protection myself. Simply put, I have always believed that anonymity would be a cop out for me. Further, my convictions have led me to do whatever I can to bring transparency into my computer-mediated interactions, providing ample material with which interested parties could piece together a clear sense of what I do, where I do it, and whom I like to do it with.

For better or worse, I concluded long ago that the best means of protecting one's personal space in an era where privacy is under constant assault is to inflect one's interactions in the public sphere with a heady dose of the personal. By consciously constructing a personal identity for a public, people are able to decide which aspects of their private lives to conceal and which to reveal. And, since there are so many different spaces in which that sort of other-directed self-fashioning can transpire, the opportunity to define different layers of privacy is there. Indeed, one of the major appeals of the Live Journal model for me is that the defining of levels of acquaintance in between absolutely public and absolutely private seems to do a good job of mirroring the way real-world interactions work for someone who is using an offensive approach to defend personal space. Even though I've always made my LJ entries public for all to see, the knowledge that I could fold the space of interaction into a hybrid topology, never wholly inside or outside, made me more comfortable with the process of making things public.

What's happening to me now, though, is that I'm caught between the free expression of LJ friends who post under assumed names and the implicit disapproval of non-LJ friends who declare that their privacy is too important to them to reveal their personal lives in an electronic medium. The fact that one of my LJ friends happens also to be my partner and best friend outside of cyberspace further complicates my situation. Lately, I've been hearing advice from both sides to either go anonymous or to sever my public ties with those who use anonymity to achieve a freedom that would otherwise be barred to them. But the thing is, my entire reason for starting this journal in the first place was to stake out an "in between space": between the academy and the so-called "real world," between the personal blog and the professional blog, between communicative abandon and the constraints of rigid self-control. That is, the raison d'etre for this project was to not give in to the pressure to choose one side of a binary over the other, to leave things deliberately indeterminate.

The reason I blog about everything from my frustrations as a sports fan to my theoretical fixations, from my experiences as a parent to my excitement at radical art, from my love of my wife to my love of a life lived beyond the prison of terms like "husband" and "wife" is that I believe there is liberation in not choosing one side over the other. Back in high school, I quoted lyrics from the Rush song "Free Will" on my yearbook page, a source of considerable embarrassed amusement these days. But the sentiment those lyrics expressed, "if you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice," is one that I've spent the past two decades trying to read against the grain, regarding the failure to take a stand on one side or the other -- the position that Rush's Ayn Rand-influenced lyricist Neal Peart means to ridicule -- as the potential foundation for an anti-extremist ethics, in which choosing not to decide is transformed from a sign of weakness into a show of strength. In my personal mythology, middle men stand up for the value of moderation, the virtues of mediation, the function of the hyphen that both separates and brings together. And that is why I can't imagine continuing De File as a free-wheeling anonymous venture or a sanitized professional space where all traces of excessive personality are sucked up by the janitorial staff.

I really hate it when other people post entries in which they think out loud about making their LJ existence disappear. I'm vigorously opposed to both virtual suicide itself and the manner in which publicly contemplating it -- even if the likelihood of following through on the threat is slim -- invariably inspires a series of "Don't do it!" comments that reinforce a structure of mutual obligation that I find deeply troubling. And yet, I find myself approaching what feels like an impassable wall of rock, hoping all the while that the flatness I discern right now will turn out, on closer inspection, to be an illusion produced by the distance I still have to traverse before reaching that terminus, revealed instead to have a depth and spacing between the rocks that will make it possible to discover the razor-thin defile that I can pass through to the other side. I fear, though, that this time the dead-end I spy ahead may be precisely that. Maybe I should invest in some rock-climbing gear or, barring that, some high-powered explosives.
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