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How to be 'naked' -- online

BlogHer convention, part 3: Identity blogs. How to be careful in your writing while also being candid; how to deal with the risks of being <b>too</b> honest (i.e. stalkers, flamers), and addressing the question of narcisissm.
 
 
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The next BlogHer panel I'm sitting in on is the very popular "How to be Naked," featuring moderator Jory des Jardins (BlogHer organizer and author of the Pause blog). The panelists include uber-famous Dooce.com's Heather Armstrong, who lost her job because of her blog in 2001, then proceeded to become one of the most highly-trafficked blogs on the Net; Ronni Bennett of Time Goes By, which discusses aging (How does it feel to start getting creases around your eyes? See clothes seem to get smaller on everyone else but you?) and ageism; and transgendered British woman Koan Bremner of MultidimensionalMe, which chronicles her transition from "he" to "she."

This panel covers how to handle it when you "blog your true self, and the world shows up." As Jory, the moderator, confesses, as a so-called "identity blogger" (aka, personal blogger), whenever she writes in Pause, she feels "naked." Vulnerable.

She asks the audience: "Identity bloggers, personal bloggers -- do we feel overexposed, underexposed? How do we create limits if we feel we're exposing too much? What about security issues -- bosses, boyfriends, mothers?... How can we be careful while also being candid?"

Then there's the question of narcissism, which elicits many guffaws: "Are identity blogs always narcissistic?" (Most audience members shamelessly agree: YES!).

One member of the audience wants to discuss the risk of stalkers. Someone else wants to cover putting other people at risk -- both legally and personally ("shame-wise").

The panelists begin pontificating.

Heather Armstrong of Dooce reveals that her blog helped her through major postpartum depression; helped her form friendships and connections that in turn helped her through her inability to deal with motherhood.

Ronni Bennett: "'Crabby Old Lady' [ the persona that she blogs under ] is my alter-ego. I can be funny in the third person [as Crabby Old Lady], but not when I say 'I.' Blogging helped me know myself so much better."

Koan Bremner: "Know your boundaries. I write my blog for people that are going through what I'm going through. I know myself a hell of a lot better, but that wasn't my intention. I started my blog for people like me, who feel like the loneliest people in the world. [ She stands and shows off t-shirt that reads "Proud Trans Person" on back." ]

Heather Armstrong: "I've dealt with depression for most of my life. To get pregnant, I had to go off Zoloft, which I haven't admitted in public before. I felt so good during my pregnancy that I thought [postpartum depression] wouldn't happen to me. I was in denial for many, many months. It got to a point where my husband was having a hard time living with me. I felt like I was lying to him, and to my readers [who really supported me], who were not going to judge me for it. Of course I would never recommend postpartum depression to anyone..."

The panelists continue discussing what it means to be naked online. They advise fellow bloggers not to reveal their home addresses (use P.O. boxes instead), and Ronni Bennett suggests that bloggers not post personal photots of their children, surroundings, etc. Basically, don't make it easy for stalkers to find you.
This raises questions from people in the audience, specifically a man who mentions that he and his wife allow their two daughters (around age 9 - 12) to have webcams, and they don't see this as particularly dangerous. [ Hmmmm.] Ronni backtracks, seemingly for the sake of politeness, and tells the man she thinks this is fine and is encouraging kids' expression.

Laura Barcella is an Associate Editor at AlterNet.