The power of the written word

Posted by

I used to read a woman’s blog, everyday. It was amazing: Her drunken, violent mother, her complicated pregnancy, her terrible having a baby experience followed by terrible post-natal depression. It was a detailed slice of life which was compelling to read. One day she wrote that her husband was thinking of resigning from his job to go to another job for more money even though his boss had been great to him and it was a bit of a dilemma and what was he to do? Next day, the blog had gone forever, all that was left was an apology for saying too much.

I can only guess that the last entry, before the blog got deleted, jeopardised her husband’s livelihood and it was the kind of the thing she might not have mentioned to any of husband’s work colleagues had she seen them face-to-face.

I remember when I was eight-years-old being with my mother when we met a woman in the street who told us all about her suicide attempt. At the end of the long, sad story she looked at me as she said,

‘And I lay on the bed and wished that I would never wake up.’

I am probably the same age now as that woman was back then and I wonder would this woman be blogging nowadays? Lots of people do blog about their feelings. Is there any difference between blogging and telling people in the street?

Blogging about something and publishing it online means that you don’t know who you are telling although you have an exact record of what you have said. Telling someone in the street face-to-face means you know whom you have told but you might not remember exactly what you said.

Whether you are saying too much depends on how comfortable you feel sharing whatever you have to say and your state of mind. If you are traumatised, the filters, that you normally have to stop everything you are thinking coming straight out of your mouth, are not always working and sometimes that is not necessarily the best time to be talking about things, well, in front of eight-year olds anyway, but it is often when you have the greatest need.

Talking or blogging can be cathartic and just the thing to make sense of an event. Or, you can, as in the case of the husband-job blogger-woman, say too much and later be sorry because you set into motion events you wish hadn’t happened.

It is easier to be free with your information when there is just you and a computer and no one else. There is the fake intimacy of ‘between you, me, and the four walls…’. The X million people also on their computers who might read what you are writing, are forgotten about.

When interacting with another person we often tailor what we say depending on what they say. Or, we get prevented from saying what we want to say because this other person has something to say. Or, someone else comes along and we don’t feel comfortable having the same discussion in front of them. On a computer there is no one there to stop you saying exactly what you want to say, exactly how you want to say it. Liberating or dangerous?

It is common to read about people getting fired because they have blogged about themselves and the company they work for feels that its reputation is somehow compromised. This is interesting because people often talk about how they feel about their job when in the workplace. But, because they are talking to a limited audience in the canteen or at the coffee machine it doesn’t carry as much weight as if their opinion is all typed up and put online where you have an audience -potentially in the millions. The power of the written word does seem to be greater than the spoken one.

Years later, I asked my mother about the woman we met in the street and she didn’t remember it at all. Perhaps, back then she was forever meeting women who wanted to top themselves. Perhaps, she chose discretion. She chose not to remember in case the woman in question didn’t want anyone to remember and be reminded of a difficult time years later. Or perhaps, we said goodbye to this woman and got on the bus to go home and what to have for tea become the most important thing to us.

And perhaps it is the same when reading blogs. We switch off the computer and go back to our lives and we forget a lot of what we have read and eventually these blogs are deleted by their owners and whatever seemed so important then isn’t so, because life is ever changing. And, since we are all human, and the human condition doesn’t change, perhaps you can’t share too much. Perhaps, sharing our experiences and connecting to others for good or for bad is all we have, whether we do it online or in person.

One comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.