Have you ever encountered someone you “know” and they said they found you online? By “know” I mean you are familiar with them, perhaps talk to them, but you’re not intimate by any means. Perhaps you have told this person you write, you blog, without really thinking they’d ever even try to find said blog. Then, one day, they say to you “hey, I found your blog.”
How did you react? Did you panic? Were you totally excited? Were you torn between panic and excitement?
I fancy myself a writer. I want my writing to speak to people. As anything with communication and writing, the interpretation is up to the reader, the audience, but my intent is always to help others, to connect, to establish community. If those are my aspirations, then, of course, I have to be open to others, strangers and friends alike, seeing my work. All of it.
. . . . . .
Last night, one of my students told me before class that I was easy to find on social media, specifically Twitter. I laughed and responded that it isn’t that I don’t wish to be found, rather that I like to control if I would like to connect with those who find me, but that, yes, my Twitter is open. As our conversation progressed, he said he found my writing and he really liked my Bambi story. Of course, as a writer, I was thrilled. But then he continued.
“I’ve read the marriage stuff, too.” It was an offhand comment.
I paused. I felt my heart stop, just momentarily. I’m sure my face betrayed some form of emotion.
“Oh, you found my blog?” I asked. I hoped it came off as more curious than frightened, but I was definitely nervous.
“I think so, yeah.”
Eventually, I came to terms with this conversation, and I used it to discuss computer-mediated communication in society. But it got me thinking.
I have been honest about a lot of things on my blog. I have shared my story as it has unfolded; I have shared articles and stories I have written; I have been open about my faith, my desires, my goals, and my heart. And posting that online has the automatic assumption and understanding that anyone can read it.
As an instructor, I have always desired to keep my personal life out of the classroom, and I’d like to think I achieve that. I share stories about communication as they are relevant, since sharing stories is one way I communicate. I use personal experience to relate to my students. At the same time, I don’t announce to the class what I battle daily. Yet, now this particular student knows, or knows at least more than any other student.
And as I’ve been thinking, I realize I’m okay with that.
As I said, I am a writer, and I always hope my work sees the light of day and can resonate with others. My tagline on my writing profiles is “sharing authentic stories.” I can’t achieve authenticity unless I am open. I can’t be open unless I don’t restrict access.
. . . . . .
This encounter really caught me off guard and had me thinking about my credibility and if my students would see me differently, negatively, should they come across any of my writing.
Would you? Would you judge your instructor off their blog or their writing? If they shared their life experience–good, bad, or indifferent–would you think them unprofessional or unworthy of respect?
That is my fear.
Yet, I am hopeful my own experiences will speak to them. I hope that if they encounter my stories, they will see credibility extends beyond academics. I hope they see that we all make mistakes, that we all make choices we regret. I hope they see that communication can play an important role in life and in relationships and that it goes far beyond just the words we use and how we speak.
I hope I can help them beyond the classroom. Because I am first and foremost a Christian writer.
. . . . . .
So, to that student, if you are reading this: thank you.
Thank you for telling me you found my writing. Thank you for making me question so I could come to my own conclusion, so I could stop questioning. Thank you for expressing that what I have written has helped you, even in a smaller way.
Thank you for showing me I am doing what God created me to do.