Privilege Blog

Don’t Walk On By, Or, Saturday Morning at 10:07am

I wonder what it must be like to have grown up post-Facebook. I remember my daughter had an account very early on. In those days, the social network was intimate, conversations and automated interactions modeled on the murmur of school hallways.

These days, well, you know.

But if we back up a bit, the story extends far beyond Facebook. Don’t many of us now sustain lots of online dialogue in our minds? Don’t we have ideas of our online friends as vivid as the memories of people we had lunch with on, say, Tuesday? So the networked world has exploded open our horizons.

As we feel our communities grow, I have no doubt we experience our selves differently too.

You all know I walk to work most days, through the streets of San Francisco. I remember doing the same as an adolescent, distressed and overwhelmed by Tenderloin catcalls. Then again as a grown woman, focused on where I was going. But now, as I walk, when people look in my face I sometimes wonder if they recognize me from the blog. Their eyes seem to imply more than, “I like her scarf.” Or, “I wonder how old she is?” Or, “Do not take my space, woman!” Whether the recognition is real or imagined, my blog comes with me through the world. I like that.

Let’s be clear. I am in no way a public figure. Even so, I have been recognized a few times. Only once did anyone stop me, rather than inform me later online what had happened. It was commenter, who goes here by rb. She said in the crosswalk, “I know you!” Funny thing is, I’d just noticed her cool shoes. I think they were Tsubo, or maybe Fluevogs. We had lunch, later.

If you were sentient in the 80s, you will remember the Seinfeld episode about Worlds Colliding. I have found the collisions to create energy, in a sort of identity nuclear fusion. One’s sense of self extends in a moment.

This extension happens differently, depending on whether you are anonymous online, or identified. When I first started writing, and for a long time after, I kept my face and name quiet. Here’s the first post I ever wrote. Here’s the first picture of myself I ever made public.

So in the early days, anonymity brought freedom. I explored issues that I’d been too embarrassed ever to discuss. Then, one day, Penelope Trunk outed me. I had known she was going to. I had asked all my family if they minded, since our last name is rare and therefore revealing.

Ever since, I’ve simply been me. Me here. Me on the streets. Me on Twitter. This is a freedom of a different sort. The synthesis of what I wrote behind anonymity, and what I write and photograph out in the open, has enriched my life and my sense of self more than I can articulate.

And as you know, I am a talker. Thank you for listening.

I sense we are not finished with the impact of the social Internet. I feel very lucky to have lived the shift across society and self. I think it’s very much like having been born in the days of the horse and buggy, yet surviving to see the automobile.

Even highways. Even freeways and their high gray cloverleafs.

If you pass me or any other blogger you recognize, I think you should feel free to say hello. If I remember, rb told me it felt odd to use the words “know someone,” in this scenario. But I think it’s not that we don’t know each other online, it’s that knowing another person in and of itself is changing.

Have a wonderful weekend.


In case you want a soundtrack. Dionne Warwick.


30 Responses

  1. Oh my goodness. You’re first blog posting. You’ve come a long way lady! Who knew that’s where you began. I used to make Valentines the same way and give them out at school.

    I love that we all recognize you. Isn’t it fun for an intelligent blogger to be recognized than some other people I will not mention. We all enjoy you so much that it’s fun to see you really do exsist and beautifully also.

  2. Your post has finally convinced me! I’ve been wavering about starting a blog, wondering about mentioning what’s on my mind and whether or not I’d want anyone to know that I was the one thinking it. I’ve been reading blogs for over a year now and am ready to officially join in. Thanks.

  3. So odd, I was thinking about this today. I ‘know’ you, and other bloggers I follow, through what you reveal on your blog(s) but you don’t know me. Is that a relationship? And if so, what kind of relationship is it? It’s rather strange to realize this. I like that you’re open to a ‘hello’.

    Hope you’re enjoying your weekend.

  4. It is starting to happen to me. Funny and weird at the same time, but I agree, just say hallo. Much better than to just stare as I would wonder why that is. The thing is that readers do really get to know you and I them. Through their comments I learn a little more about them every day. After a few years, you know a lot about someone that way…
    On another note, I may be in SF this summer. If there is an opportunity it may be great to meet….

  5. It is true, we are not public celebrity figures in the grand scheme of things; but once we choose to put our pix with our words on the internet or in some other public space we give up our anonymity. Along with my favorite bloggers, I also follow a group of kids on YouTube – If I saw any of them on the street I would politely acknowledge them and their work. While I don’t think of myself as a public figure, the mere act of posting my name and/or pix on the internet or some other public space makes me one. My first public recognition was from a young boy who had seen me on Nickelodeon and was brave enough to ask me about it. My second recognition came from a friend of a friend who pointed out my giant image plastered on a 14’ x 72’ billboard overseeing San Francisco! Hard to miss, I suppose. The world has changed in some pretty amazing ways over my years and all of the techno stuff lets me feel very connected in a very disconnected way. So, yes, if I see you walking down the street, I will say “hi” and invite you for coffee. You see, I feel as if we are friends…just in a contemporary 21st century way.

  6. Quite a coincidence that you wrote this – I was in San Francisco for work on Thursday and Friday and as I walked through your beautiful city I secretly hoped that I would run into you. I’m disappointed that I didn’t – I surely would have said hello. And now that I know your last name (which I of course thought of as “Skyepeale” – I hadn’t paid attention to the Penelope Trunk link until now), I’m wondering if you’re related to the people I know from church; I suspect not, since we are across the country from you and I don’t think they have your background. But I may just ask them….

    1. If you come to SF again, and feel like pinging me to see about having a cup of tea one morning, please do. And to my knowledge we have no direct relatives who share our name in the USA except for my immediate family. But I bet we’re related from back when.

  7. It’s happened to me several times…getting recognized and being introduced to followers/readers. The first time I felt quite embarrassed but now I feel more comfortable with it.
    I thought that I might have been the first to figure out who you were…but I’ve been very secretive about it.

  8. Interesting topic. My name is not officially attached to my blog, but I’m sure it would take most people less than five minutes to uncover it. I was just thinking that eventually there may be a day when I’m loud and proud about it, but I’m definitely not there yet. It’s good to hear you (and others) approach recognition so graciously.

  9. Are you reading my mind? This is exactly the conversation I need to hear as I out-Hamlet Hamlet in vacillating over “to blog or not to blog.” Privacy is the new virginity, and once it’s gone, it’s gone. Ah, but the giddy joys of extension and freedom…I still think you’re brave to expose yourself publicly, particularly around hot-button issues such as privilege in our culture. For as we also know from “Seinfeld,” there’s good naked and there’s bad naked, and the haters out there are happy to help us experience the latter.

  10. I used to post daily on a political message board. Through that board (and almost 10 years ago), I met a woman who lives in Minneapolis. I knew from the beginning that we would be friends–and it became so. After a few years, she happened to be visiting a family member in Dallas and was able to spend several days with us at our house there, and at our farm. She already was someone I knew well. My husband keeps asking me when Maria will come and visit again. He was skeptical at first, but now considers her a friend. Not everyone understands that it is possible to know someone well that you have never met in person. Such is the way the world has changed for those of us who like to explore and are open to meeting people we would love to know in our daily in person lives if that were possible.

    I’ve thought of having a blog as well. I haven’t decided if I will try it or not, but it is an intriguing idea.

    And yes, on my next trip to San Francisco, I will be hoping to spot Lisa on her way to work.

  11. For the first two years, I blogged anonymously. Then I realized that I’d created a body of work that I was proud of and decided to attach my name to it. I also have a distinctive name, and I figured that it wouldn’t take a lot of work to uncover who I am.

    I work hard at the blog, and try to make it a positive experience for those who visit and read it. And it’s always such a lovely feeling when people recognize me because of it. They have a million other things to do, but they choose to take the time to read my blog.

    As for the other bloggers who I’ve met, so much of the inane details about life and likes are already out of the way, so you can concentrate on becoming friends. I already know what you do, what you like, what your style is, and I like it. So when I meet you in person, we’re already friends.

  12. Your posts are always thoughtful and thought provoking, enriching my life immensely!
    I like the first post ever – toe in the water, even then your natural sense of humor shines through. It would be fun if we could all meet together one day!

  13. I was quite active on a support board for 4-5 years and ended up feeling quite connected to the women I met there. We had get-togethers a few times and they was always gave depth to our on-line relationships. I’ve found that strangers are much candid across the Internet than they are in-person. If you’re searching for support that’s helpful.

    Recently a woman at work who’d had the same support issue I did encountered a bump in the road and reached out to me. She’s having a different experience from what I had, but over the years I’ve encountered so many women with something similar to her (new) situation that I feel able to be helpful. As I told her some of the stories I’d collected over the years I found myself referring to the women of the stories as, “my friends.”

  14. You know it’s a good post when you pay attention to every word–yes, skimming is another symptom of this internet freeway. Anyway, love that comparison to a lifespan moving from horse/buggy and living long enough to see cars on freeways. It makes me a bit sad, but this is where so many of us are. I’m so glad you are writing here again and you’ve stirred up so many thoughts in my mind.

    xo Mary Jo

    1. Hi Mary Jo. You were one of the first connections I made, and I’m still reading your blog too:).

  15. I’ve had the privilege of getting to “know” some lovely people through blogging. I have to say to those who think you can’t get to know someone in this way, it isn’t too far removed from the days of pen pals, only with pretty pictures.

  16. I am happy that you continue on through cybor evolution, not many have the strength nor time to devote. An honest thank you. For me however, maintaining an online presence was daunting. The constant interaction was sensory overload and emotional suicide LOL Repeatedly reminding me that I had THINGS to DO! FB was the first to go and I could have run a marathon that day! Instead I focused that energy into engaging the people I see and meet everyday in a more authentic way. Looking up, eye to eye :) The blog went by the wayside next. I still follow a few and love them dearly, but my preference is to communicate directly, face to face in simple day to day ways- sometimes just a smile makes all the difference to someone. And who knows, I might have even prevented an untimely collision with some rudefully placed sidewalk object LOL
    Great Post!!

    1. Sounds like you made the right choice for you. Still, I’m very happy to have you here and reading.

  17. When I began blogging I decided on an alias. I figured if I was warning my children about the dangers of the Internet I should also be cautious. Recently I took off my alias signature. Never been recognized though but I have come across people familiar with my blog which is amazing to me. It can be a very small world. So glad ours have crossed paths.

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