Tag Archives: Anonymity

I Miss…

I miss my anonymity. I miss the nondescriptness of a tacky, one-of-the-available-six templates of my blog. I miss the charm of, “So who is Ideasmith really?”-“I’m just a faceless voice. I’m just a statistic” conversations.

I miss the lightness of being unknown. I miss the comfort of merging into the masses. I miss being average. I miss having an unenviable life and one that people who do listen, are willing to commiserate with.

I miss the striving and the unawareness of drudgery. I miss the struggles from before they became stressful. I miss the gentleness of meaningless fantasies, cheap & plentiful like soap bubbles. Also just as pretty and joyful.

I miss being in my twenties. Come to think of it, I missed them the first time round too. Or maybe not. You don’t get to thirty-one (soon 32) without passing through 20, 21, 22…and so on. Even if you didn’t live them as you think you should have, even if you didn’t relish the meal, it did go down your throat, past your heart and right into you.

I wonder what 32 tastes like.

Lurker

I never said hi
Or so much as a may I
Before I read
The words that you’d bled
Onto the screen
The only go-between
From you to this reader unseen

I never offered praise
Or observation on your ways
Or shielded you
From barbs the others threw
No response, no judgment
No replies to the questions you sent
Out into ether, not even acknowledgment

I watch you
That’s what I do
You entertain, you amuse
You also provoke thought, when you so choose
Your missteps, your very frailty leaves me nothing to say
It’s also the reason I’ll never go away
Where your words go, my mind will follow
Unquestioning, silent every step of the way

~O~O~O~O~O~O~

A long, very long time since I rhymed. So long ago that I even heard creaks in my head when I was turning over each word. But many of them just happened so I didn’t agonize over the ones that didn’t.

As a blogger, I know the frustration, the maddening silence of the vast majority of my readers. The ones that never comment, never answer a poll or a question, never show me their existence except in the mysterious numbers on my stats charts. But oddly, I also know the side of me that clicks through every album visible to me on the social network, spends an entire night reading every post on a particular blog, ego-surfs the names of people I know slightly (or better)….and never mentions a word of it to the person it’s about.

I know that person, by nature, is never acknowledged publicly. There’s a heavy stigma around the word ‘lurker’ with associations of creepiness and stalking. But perhaps because the newfound title of writer gives me carte blanche to be curious, maybe because I can explain it away in the pretty sentence of “Every person has a story”, I acknowledge the lurker in me.

This post is for all those nameless people, you know who you are, who’ve kept me pondering and wondering and agonizing. But really, it’s also for the people whose lives I’ve vicariously lived, who’ve shared with such generosity, the important moments of their lives, in blogposts and photographs, the people in whose lives I lurk. Thank you for everything.

BlogAdda 11: Reader Devo Bhava!

My post on BlogAdda this week, talks about building a relationship with your reader community. This would seem a little odd to people who knew me 6 years ago, in my early blogging days. Yes, I used to be a touch-me-not blogger who wouldn’t respond to comments or any correspondence from my readers. But much has changed since then, my own attitude the least of them all.

This is the era of connections, of actively seeking them out and building on them. It benefits the people at both ends of the connection. Do read this post and let me know what you think!

Also, since this is a free WordPress domain and I don’t enjoy the benefit of the In Series plug-in anymore, here are the earlier articles for your reference.

———————————————————————————————–

Other articles in this column:

  1. Checklist For A Blogger
  2. Building Access: Feeds & Link-sharing
  3. Protecting Your Privacy
  4. Is Your Blog Facebooked?
  5. The Twitter Birdie At Your Blog
  6. Dress Up Your Blog
  7. Dear Reader, Stay Awhile Longer
  8. Group Blogs: Becoming A Part Of The Online Community
  9. The Internet Undesirables
  10. Blogger Profiles: Creating An Identity For Your Blog
  11. Reader Devo Bhava!
  12. “This happened today…”: Blogging An Event

I believe that the audience is an integral part of any artist’s performance. In the case of a writer (or specifically, the blogger), the readers play this role. Any blogger who says that they don’t care about readers, has to be lying. If you didn’t care, you’d write in a private diary, not on a website visible to the whole connected world! So you can see why a blogger needs to establish a tangible connection with his/her readers. A good blogger ensures that his/her content is fresh, top-quality and recent. A great blogger goes the extra mile by thinking about how to make the blog, a real experience for the reader.

(Click here to read the full post on BlogAdda)

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BlogAdda 3: Protecting Your Privacy

My third post is up on BlogAdda. Last week I talked about how to build accessibility for a blog through feeds and link-sharing mechanisms. This week I take a look at the exact opposite.

While the internet opens you up to a broad range of people and experiences, it also leaves you open to a number of undesirable elements. Fortunately, filtering mechanisms are available that can help you tailor your online presence with the level of accessibility and privacy that suits you the best. Privacy is as relevant an issue as accessibility and I felt that after talking about how to make one’s blog visible, it was vital to know how to also protect oneself online.

(Click here to read the post)

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The Intrusive Internet

I promise you, I’m not going to preach, I’ll try not to editorialize and I’ll keep the ranting to a minimum. All I’m going to do, is tell you three stories, all of them based on fact.

Story no.1: A Twitter Tale

@randomstranger: I’m in XYZ location. Who is here?

@friendswhoshouldknowbetter: I’m here. And @ideasmithy is in this area too.

Just for the record, I don’t even know @randomstranger and from what I can see, the tweet wasn’t particularly inquiring about my location. As a subsidiary point, I checked out FourSquare earlier this year and deleted my account since I find it too privacy-intrusive.

Story no.2: The Date

I met my date in a very public place at an event. Understandably there were people I knew there. We shook hands all around, introductions were made, everyone mingled. We left later and went to a nearby restaurant that is known, if at all, for how quiet (decently so) and discreet it is.

Some of my friends turned up there as well. It’s not completely an unknown place after all. The sighting, the recognition, even the teasing faces from the nearby table were all normal and manageable.

What came as a unwelcome surprise the next morning was to see twitter updates of my evening as well as a photograph of my date and I. Thankfully, my date’s face is not visible. I say ‘thankfully’ only because it’s bad enough having my privacy invaded by my friends, imagine how mortifying to discover that they intruded on his as well!

Story no.3: It’s art, not life

A friend of mine is an artist and has shown me some of his sketches in the past for feedback. Recently he has also started sharing his work on Facebook for more feedback and conversation with his audience. One of them is a reworked sketch based on some of my comments.

I logged in to find myself tagged in one of his pictures. I clicked on the notification only to find myself looking at a slightly familiar sketch of a couple engaged in a hot clinch. It wasn’t till I saw his comment that I realized he was asking for my opinion on the revised sketch. The first thing that hit my eyes (and I suspect it will be the only one for the average viewer) was that I was the only one tagged in a picture of a hot couple.

Now all the people I’ve mentioned in these three stories are friends. They are intelligent, nice and not particularly insensitive. I know for a fact that each of their actions could be deemed thoughtless at worst but not worse than that. However, the consequences of each of these could be pretty drastic.

My long struggle with anonymity and open identity has been fraught with questions of this sort. It just seems like people will take extra care if you force them to, with an artificial construct like an anonymous handle or a vehement policy of no photographs. But in the more prevalent ways of the world, most people seem to be quite insensitive about such things.

I promised I wouldn’t editorialize and I won’t, mainly because I don’t know how to with this post. I can’t take my anonymity back. I can (and already have) requested said friends to rectify the situation. But I have no way of ensuring that such things don’t happen again. And I sure as hell can’t teach people to be sensitive to things that could affect me.

Thoughts?

Traveller’s Tales

A young man travels in search of adventure, in search of tales, tall if at all, to tell back home. It’s a quest for personal glory. There is also romance, the search for beautiful women, for the luxuries of life and for triumph over difficult situations.

Why do we travel?

A quest, a search for someone or something? But some of us just are running away. At the end of the travels, we find just what we were trying so hard to leave behind and we realize that we’ve been carrying it within us all along. That, indeed, we’re trying so very hard to hide from ourselves and finally, that the further we go, the nearer we come to ourselves. Because a traveler knows, no matter how light you travel, you always carry your mind with you.

In a new situation, where no one knows you, you can be whoever you want. Anonymity is the opportunity to create a new identity. And then comes along someone who knows you. Some titbit of news and the opening notes of a familiar song. With it, a growing feeling of panic and relief rolled into one.

Panic as the fear of being pulled back into whatever the old identity most threatened. Relief at finding out that, uncomfortable as it was, being you is the only home there is.

~O~O~O~O~O~

Epilogue: I read this at the Caferati Open Mic event at Prithvi today. Some pieces are better read than read out aloud and I realized mine probably fall in the former.

Those of you who have been following my blog-adventures will probably see in a minute that this piece was less to do with any tangible travel and more about my own personal journey from anonymity to…identity, perhaps?

For the record, two people showed some appreciation – a good friend and a stranger who kept looking at me before I read and then asked me out to coffee after I had finished. No further comment.

Write Like No One’s Reading

I read a book of short stories. A compilation of pieces by different people with little or no prior creative writing experience. The book had an introduction to each of them – a brief glossary of details, character sketches in a few lines. I also had a chance to meet one of the authors. I had thought that his story was autobiographical (and perhaps it was). But when I met him, I could only think…he was so unlike his story.

One of the other authors used a pen-name and his (her?) description stated that it was a pseudonym. No more said, nothing more required, I think. If I could, that’s the approach I would have chosen to adopt too. Tough enough to deal with people’s reactions to one’s story, who wants the added complication of reactions to one’s self?

I think that perhaps writers should not reveal their real selves to their readers, except through their craft. It is rather prentitious of me to think of what I will or will not do when I write, considering I’ve never really had anything major published outside my blog. In any case, my anonymity is a laugh now – a thin, cotten screen against a sunlit window that gives away even the pace of one’s breathing by its reverberations.

Anonymity once lost, can never be regained.

I am reminded of my mother drilling this into my head when I was about twelve. Except she was talking about a girl’s honour. Oh well, that which we treasure deeply is easily lost, irreplaceably so, no matter even if it is no use to anyone else. And I think perhaps there is too much curiosity in this world.

They also say that innocence once lost…the question is can one really write like no one’s reading, when one knows that everyone is? People who like what I write say that I write from the heart. And perhaps I have been, thus far. But when knowledge, the consciousness of an audience, their judgement, their values, their opinions, their feelings…all of that come into the picture, is it possible for writing to remain about what comes from the heart anymore?

I think it is a misnomer to say that a writer is unaffected by his/her readers. And I really believe that any blogger who says that they don’t care about their readers is lying. If you really didn’t care, you’d write a diary instead of a blog.

When you know you are being read and by people you know and that you may be asked to explain yourself, justify your emotions (unjustifiable as they may be), explain your thoughts (inexplicable as they may be) and elaborate on your words (as mundane as they may be), don’t you automatically move into either pandering to what you’re being asked to do – or – turn defensive and adopt the proverbial FO attitude? Either way it shows. And your writing is never the same again.

And then again, as your writing starts to become more important to you, the power balance shifts. Instead of you influencing your writing, what you write starts to influence you. So, as your writing gets bolder, smoother, more polished, you do as well. Sometimes you become a player and anonymity, just a game of shifting, transmuting identities.

I am lost in my own words
trapped in a world of my own making
where I am no more than a collage of other people’s impressions.

BlogCamp Mumbai: Traditional & Social Media, Knowledge-Power Systems, Identity & Anonymity

I’m just back from BlogCamp. It was held at the Microsoft office in Kalina and sponsored by Ibibo.com.

Going by last year’s BlogCamp-part-of-Barcamp, I figured it would be a series of important sounding sessions about SEO and monetization and techie tips. Such a pleasant surprise it was for my techno-greeky (Technology is Greek, Greek, Greek to me!) self to find myself sitting in on conversations about traditional media versus new media, personal blogging, live coverage during the terror attacks and sharing social media with our families!

I thoroughly enjoyed Thakkar‘s humorous talk tracing his early blogging experiences right down to what his relatives thought he did for a living. Techies do have a sense of humour (I stand corrected!) and some of them, like this one are bloody brilliant!

The talk on traditional media and social media turned confrontational (and fun!) when I interrupted to share this experience of being misquoted in a national daily, not completely realizing that there were journalists from that very newspaper in the room. I come away with a slightly improved  impression of people in the profession now. 🙂

Rohan started off a talk titled ‘Reflections on blogging’ which lead to an interesting discussion of truth and knowledge, the future of power structures and the world as we know it. We concluded that Knowledge isn’t going to mean Power for very long as we increasingly move into an age of completely democratic, easy-access-for-all knowledge sharing through social media.

It was a personally fulfilling experience for me to address a talk on ‘Anonymity is a game of identity’ where I shared my twisted path through different URLs, multiple blogs, many identities and the schizo/blogicidal impulses that finally brought me to being Ideasmith today. I was surprised (as with so many of my posts) that people were actually interested in hearing what I had to say, many identified with it and still many others were appreciative of my speaking up. Thank you so much, fellow-bloggers, listeners and readers!

I’d like to add a few snippets from my own talk, just to add to the scrapbook of my blogging memories. When I entered the venue in the morning, the security guard asked for a photo-id. “Tricky”, I thought to myself since I had registered as Ideasmith. For a brief moment, I contemplated showing him a printout of my blog. It does have my photograph in the header after all!!! After a much roundabout conversation, I did manage to make it into the blogcamp.

Right after my session, a fellow tweeter in another city set about to discover my identity. Now why that should be of interest to anyone at all is beyond me since I have a pretty ordinary, if not boring real world name and life. But I guess the more of a mystery there is, the more curiosity there is being built up, regardless of the fact that the mystery may be completely not worth it. He succeeded in finding my name and published it which resulted in my having a ‘Oh my god, I’m choking! I’m freaking out!’ few moments. A quick couple of calls and that got sorted out. My faith in the blogosphere not just as social media but a social community is really restored. I’m much indebted to everyone who listened and was sympathetic to my albeit melodramatic outburst and who just ‘took care of it’ for me.

In a very strange sort of way it was as if my before-talk and after-talk experiences both added to my talk itself. Anonymity is something that I and a lot of other personal bloggers are still struggling with. All I can say is we’re not alone here. As soppy as it sounds, I’m just glad I connected with the techies at blogcamp and for the first time saw them as facilitators, friends even instead of ‘the other kind of bloggers’.

I was also really happy that I had a chance to meet Aham even though I came in a little late and missed most of his talk. I carry back from him, one of the sweetest compliments that anyone has ever paid me, as a blogger. When I spoke of having a unisex handle so as to combat allegations of getting hits only because I was a woman, he grinned and said,

You’d get hits even if you were a guy!

🙂 And then it is always fun to catch up with other people I know from my social media activities like Meetu and Aalaap.

We ended with a hullaballoo, quite befitting for an unconference, a photo-session right in the middle of a dusty road and then jetted off to fuel up. From BlogCamp to HoggyCamp, I think it was a Saturday really very well-spent. Thank you Netra, Moksh, Hardik and Sampad for organizing this. You guys truly rock!

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