I have a question for you bloggers and online content creators: do you ever think about who is viewing your posts? I do, all the time. I pour over my WordPress statistics, trying to paint a picture of my audience. I’m mostly curious about the country and referrer statistics—because they can tell me, among other things, if people I know (people from Canada who, say, find my blog through Facebook when I know I’ve just shared a link on my page) are reading my blog.
I’m intrigued by the concept of having an “online identity” and I’ve often wondered what it means for me, as someone who started blogging because of a school project which involved many people in my school community reading my blog. I know, for instance, that friends, family, teachers and acquaintances follow my blog—but most of my followers do not know me in real life.
This makes my audience an interesting combination. Do I write for the people who know me personally? Or do I write for the large majority of my followers who have never met me? I think the simple answer is that I write primarily for neither of these groups—I write for myself. I sprinkle tidbits of my life across a page, strung together with a narrative and leave my words here for myself to come back in a few weeks, months or years; to remember a moment in my life, a thought that captivated me or simply an idea I deemed worth sharing.
Of course, while I write for myself, I don’t share my writing entirely for myself. I do write quite a few things that never see the light of day. I let these stories sit on the tip of my tongue (and the depths of my leather bound journal). Maybe someday I will craft them into blog posts, articles or (who knows?) a book. But for now, I like to let those words linger in the shade, away from the spotlight of the Internet.
Those places are just for me—here, on my blog, is a place for other people to read my writing. The over two-hundred SherinaSpeaks posts I’ve written and published are all authentic; but they are also all part of my so-called online identity. They are the parts of myself I choose to present to the world, both for the people I know and the people I don’t.
Sometimes when I go back and read my old posts (because, after all, right now I am the future self to which I once wrote) I am surprised by what I’ve decided to publish. Probably because I love the freeing feeling of writing and sharing true, honest words, I’ve blogged about some really personal parts of my life, like moving away for university. I’ve also blogged about a lot of random, seemingly mundane parts of my life; I often enjoy rambling on about these little details.
There’s a liberating feeling in leaving even these little details about my life on the page. If you added them all up, you probably wouldn’t get a complete picture of my life; if you know me in real life, then you’d be closer to it, but still. That is, I guess, what I find strange—that depending on whether my readers know me or not, they could interpret my posts in different ways. It’s not, per se, a bad thing; it’s just interesting. Even people I know in real life but don’t talk to me frequently could stay quite updated on my life through reading my blog. With the exception of comments, blogging can be quite a one-way conversation; I can write and write and write about my life, and whoever wants to read it and not respond is free to do so. I guess, really, it’s the same with any social network—but I share the most on WordPress, I think, so it’s what piqued my attention.
I guess at the end of the day, my online identity is just, well, me. No matter who I imagine is reading my blog (whether I know them in real life or not) I still strive to be genuine. Maybe that’s the best online identity you can have—I certainly believe that writing honestly about my life online has made me a better blogger and more reflective person.