Tag Archives: #creepythesis

Creepy by definition

So what? These are not private sites, anybody can read them.  —gloeden31


How is this #creepy? If one wants to discuss skin issues openly, one should be more than happy to have a skin-issue company actually observe the discussion.  —EthanPeter

@EthanPeter: Because reading blogs is creepy by definition. —skahammer


How DARE they view information that I posted publicly for anyone to read.

THIS is an outrage! —LUV_TRUK


Comments in response to a Gawker post titled
Unilever Is Listening to You Talk About Your Skin Problems.”


Her narrative is compelling

[Lisa’s] blog is great. But I haven’t completely settled the “is she talking to me” question.  While Lisa follows me back, we don’t interact with each other. She uses Tumblr in a very social way, she isn’t really part of the crowd of people whom I otherwise follow. And I find this somewhat troubling. … I like following her because, for whatever reason, her narrative is compelling.  Following her blog is somewhat akin to watching a reality TV show (Not one of the ones where they try to out-dance each other or diet for money, but one that just follows someone’s daily life). She’s my Jersey Shore. But of course, Lisa isn’t a reality TV character, she’s a real person. Yes, I know Snooki is real, too, but celebrities are different.  … treating real people, regular people, the same way we treat celebrities, is problematic.

Patrick Brown

Where does this feeling bad for reading (reading!) a published piece of writing come from? When and why has it become so transgressive to read? I can see perhaps feeling bad for reading something a third-party wrote about a person, for example, if it’s nasty gossip or a breach of confidence. But when it’s a person writing about themselves… well, they’ve made a choice to be a writer (or at least a “writer”) just like Snooki has made the choice to be an “actor.”

Brown is right that personal blogs are compelling in the same way as reality TV. In fact, I think personal blogs are as much responsible for the decline of the soap opera as reality TV. I think lots of people read blogs as episodic stories (there’s a limit to how many interactive relationships a person can keep up), but it’s unpopular to admit to doing this, because it transgresses the “rules” of blogging/social media. It’s ok to watch an episode of Jersey Shore and then shut the TV off and go about your day, but if you read a blog entry, then close your browser and go about your day, you’re “creepy” and a “stalker.” The overuse of those two words probably gets to the heart of why Brown feels bad about reading someone’s blog in the way he wouldn’t if he were reading a book written by the same person.

Where his argument falls apart is in his analysis of celebrity. Arguing that bloggers are not analogous to reality TV stars because people wouldn’t recognize them on the street is fallacious. People who are on TV are obviously more visually recognizable than people who write. But that doesn’t make every TV personality more of a celebrity than every writer. How many people would have recognized JD Salinger had they passed him on the street? At any rate, it’s not like Brown is acting like a papparazzo, virtually stalking Lisa with the goal of finding out something salacious to sell to a gossip blogger. He’s reading her blog. And, in this case, she actually knows he’s part of her audience, and may even be reading his blog.

He asks “is she talking to me”? The answer, obviously, from his pov is yes. He finds her narrative compelling. Ergo, she (or, more specifically her writing, her narrative) is talking to him. Now, did Lisa anticipate that people outside her immediate social circle might be interested in her writing when she started blogging? Perhaps she did, perhaps she didn’t. But once she decided to blog publicly, she opened herself up to the possibility that her real readership (audience) might, and probably would, extend beyond her imagined readership.

A book is much more personal

Books and blogs are very different things. You write a blog every day, it’s super-topical, you communicate with your readers – and you can assume your readers have a certain level of knowledge, even that many are geeks.  A book is much more personal.  It’s more personal to write, and it’s a quieter, more personal, intimate experience to read a book.  I didn’t want the book to be dated next week.  And in the book I wanted to express something that’s under the surface in the blog – that cycling makes me happy.  In the book I wanted to say that overtly.

Eben Weiss

Now this is interesting. Lately I’ve been thinking the changing expectations of/by readers might be the key to my dissertation and I think this ties into that. No one expects a reader of a book to email the writer and announce that they’re reading the book or that they’re on page 182 or that they like it or hate it or that they’re done. I mean, sure, some readers do that. But it’s not expected. You’re not called a lurker or creepy or a stalker if you just read a book w/o notifying the writer that you’ve done so.

But if you just read a blog, you risk being called all those things. As a blog reader, the expectation seems to be that you will announce that you’re reading (in some fashion). Reading blogs (& other online writing) privately is seen as suspect. Case in point: The first mentions I saw of Twitter’s new “fast follow” feature (allows people to follow via sms w/o joining Twitter) yesterday called it creepy and stalkerish. Really? Keep in mind that people can already read Twitter pages (unless private) w/o following and/or follow via RSS. So, what’s the difference? I don’t think there is a substantive one. I think it’s just that it reminded people that they don’t like it when they can’t “see” everyone who is following them.

I think part of it is a writers vs. people-who-write thing. I think the writers tend to be cool with not knowing who all is reading their writing (because they view it as “writing,” i.e. something that they have made/created). But it tends to make the people-who-write uncomfortable because they don’t view what they write as being a creation (separate from self) but a transparent reflection of self. So, looked at that way, it makes sense that they want their readers to be their friends (or at least acquaintances). And that they don’t want “secret” readers.

On the readers’ side, I think when one has been used to considering reading a private activity, this expectation of being social at every turn is a hard adjustment to make, harder than seems to be taken into account. Especially when the most ardent readers tend not to be known for their gregarious personalities. And there’s also the weirdness of being made to feel bad for reading. Just reading. When did readers start to get labeled with terms formerly reserved for deviant (m-w def: deviating especially from an accepted norm) behavior? And does that mean that just-reading (as opposed to “participating in the conversation”) is now deviant? (ooh.)

And then there’s the whole flip side of this reader/writer thing, and that’s distance. Book writers know they have readers, of course (or they hope they do/will), but those readers are distant (not always any more, but in general). So, as Weiss says so elegantly, the book is more personal because it is more individual. Less influenced by the audience. Whereas blog readers (at least some of them, the conversators) are close. They’re in the blogger’s face, cheering or booing as the case may be. So the audience gets entwined in the narrative.

Great Silent Majority

I’ve been reading your blog since last fall. … It seems to me that it’s cathartic for you and maybe even necessary for you to process events in your life. (by the way: hi! hello! I’m Jennifer and I read you avidly but don’t comment much! I prefer the term ‘great silent majority’ to ‘lurker’ though because I don’t think of myself as creepy. You may disagree.) … I hate to see you take the trolls so seriously, especially the toxic ones.

in comments to “Golden Rule Smashed

Alter the Habits

Some online commentators raised the question of whether the library’s Twitter archive could threaten the privacy of users. [Matt] Raymond [the Library of Congress’s director of communications] said that the archive would be available only for scholarly and research purposes. Besides, he added, the vast majority of Twitter messages that would be archived are publicly published on the Web.

“It’s not as if we’re after anything that’s not out there already,” Mr. Raymond said. “People who sign up for Twitter agree to the terms of service.”

Knowing that the Library of Congress will be preserving Twitter messages for posterity could subtly alter the habits of some users, said Paul Saffo, a visiting scholar at Stanford who specializes in technology’s effect on society.

“After all,” Mr. Saffo said, “your indiscretions will be able to be seen by generations and generations of graduate students.”

Steve Lohr

Aside: Doesn’t it seem kind of odd that the issue foremost in people’s minds would be privacy (on Twitter?!) rather than copyright? As in, does Twitter have the right to fork over your tweets en masse to the Library of Congress? Seems pretty clear from their TOS that they do (but do keep in mind that the copyright is still yours; what they have is a non-exclusive license to use your tweets); I’m just surprised that more people didn’t ask that question.

Writing about the things that really matter

One of the places you can really see the influence of “Operating Instructions” is in the proliferation of mommy blogs. I wonder if you read any — or if you think, if you were a young and single mom now, you would be blogging?

I don’t think I would have ever blogged. I am not even sure how you find someone’s blog. What I loved were all those years of doing shaped, crafted essays about my life and spiritual or political pursuits — but those 1,200 or whatever words took a full week to get just right. They were the length and the topics I love to read. I always used to tell my writing students to write what they’d love to come upon — and I love deeply honest, authentic writing about the things that really matter in our lives. I asked Sam the other day if people could make money on Twitter or blogging, and he said, not really. Plus, my friend Mary saw a T-shirt at the airport that said, “No one reads your blog.”

What I think is great is everyone writing their truth, keeping a written video of their lives, their families’ lives — growing up, and seeking connection with others in this very jarring and disconnected world. But I don’t think I’m a blogging type — I’m-too much of a perfectionist. I keep trying to capture moments and passages just right, so other people might find a little light to see by in my work. And that takes forever.

Anne Lamott
in an interview with Sarah Hepola

Miscellaneous (Mommy)Blogging Quotes

Just some quotes from posts I had bookmarked, which may or may not be useful.

Shirley Jackson might have been a part-time mommy-blogger, had she lived in the internet age. … Life Among the Savages, a memoir of her life raising three small children in Vermont … is a direct ancestor of the current crop of mothering memoirs — someone should put together a history of the genre — and it shares their frequently jokey “if I didn’t laugh, I’d cry” tone, a tone so different from that used in “The Lottery” that I had to check to make sure this was the same Shirley Jackson. The beginning sucked me in completely[.]

Stephany Aulenback


The real problem, of course, the real reason why I’m not “squeeing” over BlogHer (ugh, what a word, squee), is that these aren’t really the blogs I read. … BlogHer is a meetup for a particular set of blogging communities, and that’s why people bond and hug and clap and get so emotional. The problem for me is that I read geek blogs and copyright blogs and academic blogs and some politics blogs and some crafts blogs, and those bloggers aren’t at this conference. This conference is for a fairly specific slice of the blogosphere, and I guess it’s not really the slice that I feel at home in.

Jill Walker Rettberg


While the first BlogHer conference, in 2005, seemed to be about empowering women bloggers, today, empowerment appears to be about “look how powerful we are, corporations take us seriously and want to give us free swag!” But of course, if blogging becomes mainly about accepting free swag and loving the corporations, well, that’s not empowerment, that’s more like oppression – a slightly more subtle form of oppression, perhaps, maybe willing oppression. It doesn’t bode well for the power of blogging to actually spread the voices of the people, though, if the people are happy to speak for the corporations.

Jill Walker Rettberg


Honesty – how truthful do you want to be in your blog? There are plenty of examples of fictional blogs that have presented themselves as real. When readers discovered they were fictional, they felt cheated and became very angry (I’ve blogged about why readers get angry at this. On a smaller scale, most bloggers leave out the ugly bits and maybe play up the good stuff, as in the quote from Lars Tangen in this blog post. I’m not saying you need to be utterly honest (in fact, the more literary blogs get, the less factual truth matters, in my opinion, but you do need to think about this.

Jill Walker Rettberg


Dooce.com is now the full time job of both Heather and her husband, Jon. The blog supports an online community and a merchandise store. Heather is the author of a bestselling book, was named by Forbes as one of the 30 most influential women in media in 2009, and just signed an exclusive development deal with HGTV.

In a recent post entitled “Check Up for Self Delusion,” Penelope Trunk, another popular female blogger, recently wrote, “Probably the most accurate representation of women is in the blogosphere. There is no filter here, no need to appeal to both Peoria and Pasadena all at once.” She goes on to compare Dooce.com with an even more popular mommy blog, The Pioneer Woman.

Alaina Smith


Probably the most accurate representation of women is in the blogosphere. There is no filter here, no need to appeal to both Peoria and Pasadena all at once. But even the whole of the blogosphere does not represent the female experience particularly accurately.

The Pioneer Woman is largely housewife porn. The men are hot and rugged, just like in a romance novel. The author, Ree Drummond, is running an operation similar to Rachel Ray or Martha Stewart, but she markets herself as a stay-at-home mom, and a homeschooler at that. The whole thing strikes me as totally preposterous. … On Dooce, Heather Armstrong blogs about depression, her kids being difficult, and her parents being Mormon. I love Heather Armstrong. But she’s the gold standard for writing a blog about your life and keeping a marriage together, and she is not, actually, writing about the female experience for married women.

Penelope Trunk

Round-Up of #creepythesis Posts

Have I missed anything substantive? Let me know.

Someone is Wrong on the Internet!

I wanted to post this screenshot of my stats to illustrate a couple things:

  1. My blog has never seen so much traffic. I see all is back to normal, now, though, and I can go back to talking to myself 😉
  2. Even though I had 250+ visitors in two days, only four people commented. And one of those people I know. So three people who’d never been to my blog before said something. This isn’t a complaint; it’s an observation. Way more people just read than read and comment; if you’ve ever looked at your site stats you know this to be true.

Perhaps the strangest and most interesting thing about #creepythesis is the way people talked about it, about me. As if I was never going to see what they said. (More on this later.) As if Twitter were a private chatroom.

Which it most definitely is not.

While you were following #creepythesis on the weekend, an SFU staffer who monitors Twitter was following keywords of interest to him. You know, like SFU.

(You see where this is going, right?)

#creepythesis may have blown up and burned out faster than ’70s child star, but whether anyone actually intended to follow through on the twitterstorm is moot, because said staffer-who-was-monitoring-SFU-tweets emailed the dean about it anyway.

Anyhow. This isn’t about me, per se. It’s more a heads up for the next time someone is wrong on the internet.

Duty Calls

This is fair warning that I am totally turning #creepythesis into a paper. I’ll be posting some of my initial thoughts as I have time. I’ll tag everything with #creepythesis, so you can just follow that if you want to keep apprised but don’t want to read my other posts.


I woke up yesterday morning to find my thesis had its own twitter hashtag.

I’m not going to launch into a defense. Readers are free to think my writing is crap, skim it, interpret it differently than I intended, etc. That’s the nature of writing. I just wanted to acknowledge that I’ve seen the reaction.

On the bright side (!), more people probably read my thesis yesterday than read most people’s theses ever 😉