Интернет-эксгибиционизм: как личные дневники стали публичными
Лобанова Н. В. Интернет-эксгибиционизм: как личные дневники стали публичными // Молодой ученый. 2012. №9. С. 249-253.
В статье рассмотрены причины возрастающей популярности открытых интернет-дневников (личных блогов), содержимое которых традиционно относилось к сфере очень личной, а иногда и секретной информации и хранилось в тайне от потенциальных читателей.
Ключевые слова: личный дневник, интернет, блог, анонимность, публичность, рассекречивание, признания, мемуары.
Blogs made a revolution in publishing and allowed anyone to publish and share any content of their liking. An overwhelming majority of bloggers used this opportunity to maintain their personal diaries online. What used to be hidden from others now can be read by millions of online users. A very sensitive and personal nature of the shared information can pose a potential threat to the privacy of writers. Although authors are aware of this threat, they continue exposing their inner and outer lives online. The article analyses the attraction and perceived benefits of such self-disclosure. Two mode of self-disclosure, in-breadth and in-depth, are investigated, and the blogging practices associated with both of them, are described.
Keywords: personal blogs, online diaries, self-disclosure, anonymity, confessions, privacy, transparency.
The emergence and explosion of blogs gave everyone an opportunity to publish any content of their choice. While some use new press to collect and share knowledge, and others try their hand in fiction writing, majority (70%) of bloggers take a more personal approach to content and turn their blogs into a personal diary . Diaries, in their paper form, used to be a private and a secret space, a tool of confession and an extension of individual’s inner life, therefore they were never meant to be published or even read by others without permission . But now, in the age of blogging, authors voluntarily open public assess to a highly personal territory of their private journals. From innocent topics like hobbies and friends, to the highly sensitive information of the most confessional sort, contents of personal diaries now are published online for everyone to read.
This article explores the reasons behind such shift in the vision of privacy and analyses how the authors benefit from self-disclosure and public transparency. The article focuses only on personal blogs, which are characterized by large amounts of intimate self-disclosure and ‘dominated by reflections on the everyday life and relationships of their author’ . Only blogs in which authors truthfully and realistically represent themselves are taken into account. The cases on intentional impression management, as well as diaries of fictional nature are outside of the scope of the article. Terms ‘personal blog’, ‘diary’ and ‘journal’ are synonyms in the context of the article.
BENEFITS OF DISCLOSURE: VIEW FROM OUTSIDE
Analysing why people increasingly use the digital instruments to publicise what used to be private,Dery  claims that we are living in ‘blogorrheic, tweet-expulsive’ time where we feel a compulsive need to broadcast every second of our existence, or otherwise ‘nothing is really real unless it's recorded and, increasingly, shared’. However, there are more optimistic views on the benefits of going public.
Jeff Jarvis, an advocate of openness, considers that self-disclosure is a key to connecting to others. Opening up helps people get closer to others by earning their trust through being transparent. Openness and self-disclosure attracts attention of potential friends and collaborators and establishes ‘instant’ trust . An archive of a personal blog is an integral ‘snapshot’ of the author’s persona. By going through it, a reader becomes familiar with a diarist, even though the two of them may never have met before. Similar to a very detailed Facebook profile, a blog archive eliminates the need to spend a significant amount if time with a person in order to get to know them and establish intimacy.Those, who choose not to be public, on the other hand, pay a cost of lost opportunities, such as attention, connection to similar-minded or compassionate people, or a valuable advice from someone they would never connect to otherwise[6, p. 137].
‘Immortality’ is another benefit of living, thinking and feeling publicly, since ‘[o]nly by being public can we leave our mark on the world’ [6, p. 57]. From the moment of writing, the memory of an individual can be accessed by anyone in any timewithoutmisrepresentation. Steinitz  draws to Ford Madox Brown, a famous English painter, who wrote in 1854 in his diary: ‘Should every one keep a record of his daily acts and sentiments, the history of the world would be made out in a way that no historian could distort’. Digital platforms for diarists offer exactly that: a tool for anyone to publish and thus immortalizes reflections on their daily experiences, both inner and outer, to leave a truthful, authentic imprint of their personality in the world.
BENEFITS OF DISCLOSURE: VIEW FROM THE INSIDE
Although writing one’s own biography and establishing a reputation of a ‘transparent’ and therefore trustworthy person are common side effect of self-disclosure in online diaries, many of the authorsmaintain their blogs with more short-term goals in mind.
For example, personal bloggers, especially females, use blogging as a way to express themselves. Self-expression through a diary-like format of a blog comes hand in hand with the disclosure of very personal information. Since blogs are interactive by their nature, they also serve as a modern version of ‘mirror mirror on the wall’, which reflects the author and what puzzles him, and provides a feedback. Thus, a personal blog with a high level of self-disclosure is sometimes used as an instrument of self-reflection and continuous working on ‘the project of the self’
Another need satisfied by a diary is as old as the diary medium itself. People of all times used their diaries torelease emotional tension. Back in 1813, Byron acknowledged this function of a journal by writing: ‘This journal is a relief. When I am tired—as I generally am—out comes this and down goes everything’ [10, p. 92]. Not much has changes during the last 200 years: modern diarists use their journals to ‘get it out there’ and ‘let off steam’. However, the new element, a presence of the audience (and especially those who provides support by commenting), makes this practice especially powerful.
Interactivity is what makes digital personal blogs so attractive in comparison to a paper-based medium. It represents a dream of many diarists from previous centuries come true: their ‘dear diary’ got its own voice and personality and started writing back. It provides an emotional support and gives advice, appreciates the author’s sense of humour and asks what he had for lunch. In the McCullagh’s study of privacy and self-disclosure through personal blogs, majority (62.6%) of authors have expressed the opinion that ‘social interaction through sharing of personal experiences’ is so important for them that they may voluntarily neglect the privacy risks and use a ‘live’ diary instead of paper-based one to reveal their thoughts.
DIARY AS A (SAFE) PERSONAL SPACE
Evan Williams, a creator of blogging platform Blogger, compares visiting a personal blogs to going to ‘someone’s house, where your friend is the host’ [6, p. 141]. You can visit your friends in their digital houses, or you can ‘invite them over’ to your own. Blogger, in the eyes of its creator, is a platform that provides individuals their own online space, their digital homes, as opposed to forums and web-communities, which are perceived more common places for group gatheringsand bear no personal touch.
Hodkinson  supports this idea and compares online journal to a personal bedroom, seeing both of them as ‘a safe, personally owned and controlled space’. He strongly emphasizes the perceived safety of a personal bedroom and claims that this feeling is extended to an online journal, since the author is fully in control of its content, presentation and the settings of privacy and visibility. A journal, therefore, is seen by its owner as a personal, rather than public, shared territory. Should the authors want, they can selectively limit the access to their virtual space. Although few of them do so, the ability itself makes they feel secure. Therefore the ‘guests’ (readers and commenters) are expected to respect the rules of the place and behave in a polite manner, as they would do in the real room, or they may be asked to leave.
One of the reasons behind keeping a personal online blogs is to maintain existing relationships by sharing news with family and friends, offline and online alike . Another is to create a space of self-representation and to communicate the uniqueness of author’s identity to others [11,12]. And yet another function of personal blogging is to connect to others (sometimes – to a group with shared interests) and ask for support and advice you share the life experience. All mentioned modes of interactions with the readers perfectly fit into the picture of hospitable person who invites the guests to his house to and pass the time in conversations and interesting activities.
This perception of a blog as a digital simulation of a ‘physical private social sphere of the bedroom’  explains a great deal why authors are so relaxed about their transparency online. After all, home is traditionally a place where we allow ourselves to take the masks off, behave freely and be open and honest about our thought and feelings. In our private spaces we feel less vulnerable and more secure than anywhere else, therefore authors often neglect the risks of broad self-disclosure. Their intentionis to invite only friendly-minded individuals who pose no threat to their digital bedrooms. However, it is important to remember that perceived and target audience of a personal blog greatly differs from potential audience
Majority of blog platforms allow at least two levels of privacy: blogs open to anyone and blogs protected by password and visible only to those who has been granted the access. However, overwhelming majority of bloggers (76% in 2004) make a choice not to limit access to their blogs, even though they are fully aware of potential risks of public disclosure.
Some of the bloggers write for offline friends and/or family, but they do not mind leavingthe access open for everyone else, being confident that no-one except for those who knows them personally is interested in reading their diary anyway . Others writeopenly with a goal to attract new internet friends with similar interests . In this case, people can disclose even more to the broad and often unknown audience than the would do to certain groups of acquaintances in the ‘real life’, mainly due to the fact that online friends are unlikely to have overlapping social networks with the authors, therefore the delicate information will not be used against them .
However, the actual audience (those who may read the blog silently without indicating their presence) is often unknown to the authors, and so are their motives . But although the diarists are aware that as long as their blog is not password-protected, it can potentially be read by ‘about 900 million people’ , they often perceive multitudes of strangers who can read their diaries as friendly and sympathetic by default . Therefore authors display the continuous trust in good intentions of those who can accidentally discover their blog. They believe that either those random strangers will stay and become their online friends, or, after a quick glance, will loose the interest and move further. This somewhat naïve and irrational beliefin trustworthiness of potential visitors is another contributing factor towards common and broad self-disclosure in online diaries.
BREADTH OF DISCLOSURE VS. DEPTHS OF DISCLOSURE
When bloggers disclose personal information while writing for family, friends and friendly-minded strangers (i.e. potential online friends), sometimes they can revealunprecedentedamount of personal details. For example, can post photos of their every step, openly publish their full name and names of their friends, share their address, tell some anecdotal stories from their past and discuss plans for the future. In this case we talk of the breadth, or amount of self-disclosure, which indicates how many personal details an individual reveals about himself. The modes of personal blogging discussed above (blog as a home; blogging to connect; blogging to establish trust etc.) apply only to the in-breadths style of self-disclosure. In this case of disclosure, if an author is comfortable about discussing the subject with their friends offline, they would most likely see no reasons to avoid writing about it in their public diaries.
However, self-disclosure can be also measures in depths, which indicates how intimate and sensitive the revealed information is . Truly sensitive information is the kind of information the individual would be ashamed to reveal to or discuss with their peers face-to-face. It can include highly painful topics (miscarriage, psychopathology, sexual problems), embarrassing or immoral thoughts and memories, innermost feeling and experiences, arguments with close people and consequent feeling of remorse and dissatisfaction, etc. [8,9]. This type of information is rarely found in blogs where the identity of the author is easy to track. Hollengaugh’s  study of the reasons behind self-disclosure in blogs revealed that bloggers avoid revealing and discussing any truly sensitive details when there is a chance that friends, family or anyone who can recognise them can read their diary.
ANONYMITY AND DEPTH OF SELF-DISCLOSURE
The depth of self-disclosure online is high only when there is no personal connections and familiarity between the authors their audience. The bloggers who reveal the ‘darkest secrets’ write for ‘an audience of one’: themselves . In the case of deep self-disclosure, afunction of an online blog issimilar a traditional secretly kept personal diary. The author uses it to communicate deeply held thoughts, memories and emotions and get an emotional relief. Nevertheless, there is one exception: if a paper diary is locked and carefully hidden form the eyes of other, a digital diary is still open to a potentially enormous audience to read and judge.
However, the authors of those deeply personal, yet publicly displayed diaries still feel safe, as they protect themselves with a mask of anonymity . When the diarists are sure that their identity is hidden, they change the way of interaction with the diary and the web audience, because they experience ‘a sense of depersonalization and deindividuation’ . In the eyes of ‘secret’ diarist, even if arandom reader readstheirhighly confessional blog, but he will not be able to associate the content of the blog with the person behind it.
Anonymity in the terms of computer-mediated communications is a state where the person is not identifiable – neither visually (by photographs or other visual evidence) not by providing personal information, such as real name, location, profession, hobbies, and sometimes even gender . Profile information is reduced to the essential minimum, and often lacks at all. Anonymous authors try to distance themselves from their readers as much as possible and remain impersonal. If relationships with the readers become too close, the authors tend to abandon a blog and create another, secret one . Why, then, the authors need the audience anyway, if they try to maintain this condition of ‘double-blindness’? It is fair to suggest that the diarists use their secret blogs as a digital confessional booth, where they can easy their inner burden, share their worries and get a feedback from the readers. It also not unlike the situationwhere people disclose very embarrassing information to a complete stranger on a plain, because they are positive that they will never see this person again. These settings of anonymity provide a confidence that what is disclosed will remain a secret and will never be shared with confessor’s circle of friends and acquaintances, and this, in turn, lowers the risks of being ridiculed or put in an awkward position, and therefore highly contribute to the depths of self-disclosure. 
Majority of digital diaries are not seen as traditional paper book of secrets. Instead, they are treated as an extension of a person (like the author’s room) or their broadcasting channel. In the context of such ‘digital residence’, a host can reveal almost as many facts about themselves as they would do in the real life. However, this information is never too sensitive from the author’s point of view. It is the same type of information they would easily discuss with friends.In the online world, the cumulative image of friends is extended to the entire web.
Opposite to broad self-disclosure, there also are cases of deep self-disclosure online, when individual shares subjectively sensitive and embarrassing information with the Internet audience. In this case, authors prefer to choose an anonymous identity and make their audience impersonal.
Two types of self-disclosure in their extreme cases rarely intersect online, since the first is about complete openness, and the second is based on complete secrecy. Table 1 sums up the key differences between the mentioned modes of self-disclosure.
Comparison of two types of self-disclosure
Breadth of self-disclosure
Depths of self-disclosure
Nickname known by many, sometimes true name
Anonymity, nickname never used before
Family, friends, current and potential online friends
Anonymous nebula, total strangers. Audience is impersonal, seen as ‘dear diary’ or a priest in a confession booth.
To enhance existing relationships, to attract new connections, to write ‘biography’, to express oneself; to broadcast personal news
To relieve inner emotional tension, confess, complain, ask for advice
Everyday activities of the blogger; mentions of friends, family; photos, geographic location
Aspects of intimate personality which are usually hidden even from friends/family
Intimate thoughts, shameful experiences
Photos, any identifying data
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