The Dangers of Exposing Yourself

Approximate Reading Time: 5 minutes

I’m not speaking of the current trending topic on everything from Huffington Post to Ars Technica—which is the hack that resulted in the release of hundreds of photos of celebrities, mainly movie stars, who made the dubious decision of taking nude selfies with their mobile devices.

I doubt anyone, but an incredibly tiny number of select individuals, would care to see me in a similar state, were I stupid enough to deploy my iPhone so stupidly, and I am not worried about that kind of exposure in all events.

I am talking far more prosaically and, yes, boringly about presenting one’s self, or at least a reasonable persona here on the Internet in the form of blog posts, Facebook news items, email blasts, etc.

Over the years—I’ve been on networked computer-based media since 1982, long before the Internet—I’ve had my share of ways to communicate with the great faceless multitude populating the ether. I’ve had a blog (a still relatively new Web-based phenomenon; it is, after all, a neologism/contraction of Web-log, though it’s always been more in the way of a personal journal than a log, per se) for over ten years in one form or another. Sometimes, as is still true, it’s in several forms.

There are two things that are the hardest to deal with for me personally in terms of my Web presence in this form.

First, there’s the problem of getting readers, that is, regular readers who frequent the pages of the blog, and might even look forward to a new post. What I have to say, I am long since aware, if not always from the get-go, is an acquired taste. And in one of those catch-22 contexts that we seem to create for ourselves, I am of the Groucho school that would just as soon not belong to a club that would have me as a member. The corollary to this famous conundrum is that I am ill-disposed to impose myself on others, even if I know them, and yet, seemingly contradictorily, all right, in direct contradiction, I truly do crave an audience… but a self-selecting one. That is, I only want to be present in the lives of people who actually are interested, in this case, in what I have to say and the way I say it. And, I should add, who go out of their way to seek it out.

Every writer confronts the problem of answering the question of for whom they are writing. As for me, not a problem (so it’s not one of the two problems I mentioned). I write for myself, just as I learned long since not to try to satisfy anyone but myself with my cooking (about which I am equally serious; I love to write, and I love to eat). Whoever comes along for the ride because they think the quality is there, so much the better for me. However, cooking is easier. I can invite two to four friends over for a dinner party with me and my spouse, and I don’t worry about imposing. I know I’m a good cook, and no one will be judging me. I have known people to be eager at the prospect of an invitation (or at least to feign excitement).

Writing somehow is different. For one thing, the context is not that intimate or personal, unless you are the sole recipient of a letter or email. As soon as you “publish” whatever it is, that “it” is viewed differently than a nice plate of braised halibut with vegetables on a mound of farro, with some savory pan juices.

With regard to writing, part of it is, as in that old joke, everyone’s a critic. One way or another almost every single one of us was schooled at some point in how to use the language. Somehow this renders almost every single one of us an expert on the most effective ways to manipulate the parts of speech; regardless of how poorly in fact we learned to do so ourselves. And it’s not so much that we can’t help ourselves from judging—that’s ok, we’re all entitled to the feelings the world evokes—what it is, is that we can’t help but voice our opinion. I’m not shy. If I wanted it, I’d ask. So, the civilized thing is wait for me to ask.

Otherwise, I’ve always tried to offer my writing with a simple proviso. If you don’t like it, don’t read it.

Having gotten all that out of the way, yet again—one of my faults is repeating myself, well short of perseveration—I will simply say, please help me solve that first problem. If you are a subscriber to Per Diem and you haven’t already signed up for the feed here at 1 Standard Deviation, please do so. Scroll back up to the top of the page (though there should also be a nifty little arrow icon pointing up in the lower right of the screen; if you click on that, it will zoom you to to the top). And on the left-hand side, at the top of the sidebar, you should see a small blank window to enter your preferred email for receiving notification of a new post here. Type it in, and wait for the verification email, which should appear in less than a minute, and click on the link and you’re done.

Now, the second problem is of a different sort altogether. Perusing the blog posts here on 1 Standard Deviation, you will see that even the small number of new posts since the inauguration of this site have elicited some comments. I love comments… feedback of a constructive sort of any kind, but comments are easy. If you liked it, please tell me. If you have a cavil or a counterpoint observation, I’d love to hear it, and so would the other readers.

The problem, though, is not getting comments, they come in due course. The problem is that any new blog is like freshly killed game on the savanna. It attracts all sorts of predatory beasts that roam the jungle, in this case, the jungle known as the Internet.

In slightly more than a month, this new blog, with all of five or six posts, has already attracted a special kind of spam. These are comments sent to any one of these random posts (and as I have now migrated another 130 posts from Per Diem to this site, there’s that much more to target) that really are not from people with a genuine, substantive thing to say because they actually read the post. Their posts are thinly disguised mechanisms to get the unsuspecting to click through to their websites. Most of these sites offer merchandise or services that really no one wants… or at least would not seek them out as a resource. Some are worse than that, being hacks that lure the unsuspecting to sites that will surreptitiously install malware on an unprotected computer or mobile device (though I think few people read my verbose posts on a smart phone; at least I hope not).

In a little more than 40 days, this little site has attracted 500 spurious comments, all of which have been virtually automatically purged and destroyed. I have software installed to capture this crap, and furthermore every comment is moderated, so it must pass not only through an automatic filter, but a human filter as well. More often than not, I respond to real comments and remarks from real people. As for the rest, it’s trashed. But it eats up precious time to manage this part of the endeavor, time I could be spending writing even lengthier posts for you to enjoy, especially if you’ve subscribed.

Thank you for your attention, and thank you in advance for subscribing to the feed. Bon appétit.

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