Twenty-odd years ago, Rolling Stone, bidding for more advertising dollars, ran a series of institutional ads, all constructed along the same lines: one panel representing the readership you thought they had, and another representing the readership they actually wanted to boast. In general, this series consisted of two panels, one (example: the Peace Sign) labeled "Perception," and the other (example: the Mercedes-Benz logo) labeled "Reality."

This might have been the last time Rolling Stone was anything close to being relevant, but clearly they scored a solid hit on the Zeitgeist with this campaign: even today, the question of perception vs. reality perplexes us, especially if we have any kind of public persona. Supermodel Cindy Crawford once observed, "Even I don't wake up looking like Cindy Crawford."

Down here in the blogosphere, we enjoy, if "enjoy" is the word, measures of fame from just this side of "moderate" to way on the far end of "obscure." There are few superstars in this realm, and sometimes you just gotta wonder about them. Lisa explains:

If Pioneer Woman or Dooce or any other successful blogger detailed their lives in excruciatingly mundane detail — who would read? Okay, some would say PW and Dooce do just that. But I'd wager they actually cherrypick just one or two things that happened to them in the course of a day. Those things that have the ability — maybe with some embellishment and a little Photoshopping — to serve up some entertainment value. That's life with the boring bits taken out.

I readily accept that the Internet Pioneer Woman and the Internet Dooce might not be the same people recognizable to their closest friends. Same way I accept that the "character" of Ben Franklin in The Autobiography of Ben Franklin was the wiley old Founding Father's created public persona, the one he wanted posterity to remember.

Which brings me, inevitably, to me. When I started hanging out on people's screens in the middle 1980s — even before that Rolling Stone campaign, in fact — the persona I assumed was pretty much unrecognizable to my closest friends. I was sort of cheerful, upbeat even while dishing out the snark, and prepared for just about anything. Also, I was a girl.

I might argue that this wasn't exactly lying, technically — there are worse things in life than cross-dressing, even if it's only in ASCII — but it had the same drawback as lying: I had to keep track of every last thing I said in order to maintain some sort of continuity, lest the entire façade unravel. Eventually I had to unravel it myself, in order to maintain some sort of sanity.

So eventually I reverted to some semblance of me. How accurate is the portrayal? Certainly I don't have any qualms about describing my life in excruciatingly mundane detail. I'll even go to considerable lengths to cover issues that make me look bad — but not that bad. If I have a certain reticence about blowing my own horn, I have just as much unwillingness to scrape the bottom of my personal barrel. And that, too, is a façade of sorts: I'll give a lot of prominence to things about which I don't care a great deal, just so long as I have enough of a rug to sweep things under when I need to.

And perhaps this is precisely the niche I need to occupy in blogdom: finding entertainment value in the mundane, the tedious, the inexplicable. Maybe even the pathetic, if I start writing about my love life (or lack thereof) again. I have always suspected, however, that no one quite believed my plaintive wails about the emptiness of my dance card, even when I assured them that I wasn't waking up with someone who looked like Cindy Crawford. Or, for that matter, Broderick Crawford. Maybe it's better if no one knows for sure.

The Vent

#669
  14 March 2010

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