Confessors and Confessions

I’ve been pondering the conditions which make the act of blogging and the ensuing email &/or comments as confessionals. What makes us pour our hearts and deepest secrets out into the world? And what makes readers reply with their own?

Some would say it’s the very anonymity of the Internet which allows (provokes?) bloggers into hiding behind a screen and, like the Wizard of Oz, profess to know everything. Or more accurately, it is anonymity combined with our desire for power to be perceived as all knowing wizards of Oz, politics, or even lingerie.

But I don’t agree.

Under this theory, we are presumably safe. Anonymity presumably gives us the freedom to profess and confess, preach and teach, rant and rave, espouse and expose, all because we can do so without fear. But what about how easy it is for others, equally hidden behind a user ID, to flame and defame, rant & rave, etc. as they will? If this were simply a matter of feeling free, I think the Internet would be a far more volatile place.

Of course, it could just be the optimist in me speaking today, but I think it has more to with the human desire to share. And sharing isn’t deemed the safe thing to do. It’s dangerous.

Bloggers are writers, or at the very least talkers, and communication is what it’s all about. Communication is not just a message going ‘out there somewhere,’ but is about reaching someone — even if just one. As a blogger, knowing that our message reaches just one person is to be heard. To be heard is to be validated. Even if someone disagrees, they have at least accepted (validated) that you believe ‘the other’ and they share from there, hoping for a response (validation if not acceptance) of their own. With the Internet you have a more instantaneous form of conversation. GlamKitty has written an excellent piece on most of this, so I’ll let you read more about that there and move onto my next point.

Yes, anonymity plays it’s part. We indeed feel more comfortable, most of us anyway, with the dangers of confession bounded by specific safe rules of agreements. In church, the priest doesn’t see our face; nor we his. In counseling, we all agree the office is like Vegas and he or she may not share what we’ve said (unless we were to become dangerous and act on ideas). On the Internet, we use IDs and other methods of cloaking so that what we confess is not going to bring admirers, haters or others into our worlds — no one waits on my doorstep, ready to share lingerie dreams with me as I struggle to balance a bag of groceries, my house keys while holding a small child’s hand to help him up the snow-covered stairs. It’s not that I fear you personally, but I’m just not ready to entertain you at your whim. In other words, you are invited to my virtual home, but physical proximity not-so-much. And there are issues of appropriateness. Which is to say that I may enjoy a brief conversation with my bank teller, but both she and I are relieved that we need not discuss our delicates there. It’s not an appropriate setting for such talk because sharing is not safe. It must be done with rules.

Rules and faith. Rules and faith are the two-sides of this confessional coin. We need and want the protection of secrecy, but then who do we trust?

Yes, some of us are as creative with our truths as we are with our IDs. Some pretend to be what they are not. It may be that they wish they were this person, this character; a nom de plume authoring their lives as they wish them to be. Mostly I think they present themselves in a fashion which, rather like child’s play, allows for them to exercise imagination: What would I be if I were allowed to follow this path? A terrible few do this to prey on people one way or another.

But for most of us I do believe we truly share ourselves and that is recognized by readers who join in and confess via comments and emails. (Sometimes I wish more of you posted your confessions as comments so that you would be validated by more than me, have the pleasure of more than one validation — but I do respect your rules of confessional comfort.)

We must have faith in the confessor who hides behind an ID. We want to believe the Wizard will get us home, or otherwise get us off. This is a powerful draw, this reading of confessions. This in intrigue.

We bloggers lay ourselves bare for all to see, which seems counter to our daily lives as humans in which we spend most of our energies covering ourselves up.

We show the stuff that’s deep inside that even the closest to us do not see. Dreams, fears, fantasies… The use of a pen name or ID is the little bit of unknown which makes the confession not just ‘safer’ but more appealing too. The ID is the mystery, the lighting, the lingerie, the feathered mask, which takes the image from ‘stark buck naked’ to ‘artistic nude.’

The dark and hidden confession in church has more romance than the face-to-face fluorescent office lighting of therapy. And done well, blogging surpasses even that romance. Bloggers who confess like a slow strip tease, revealing a bit of ourselves (or our issues) here, a bit more there, entice. It encourages you to do the same.

Confessions are liberating, invigorating, and yes, seductive.

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