Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about (and struggling a bit with) my online identity. This is something which first crossed my mind when setting up Myspace and Facebook accounts, but being part of Skepchick is something new entirely. I no longer have any control over who reads my words, and, more importantly, whether or not they interpret my words in the way that they are intended to be read.
Like many people here, my beliefs differ from those of most of the people in my life. This has been true for some time now; I left the Catholic church about ten years ago. As a non-Catholic Christian, then a neopagan, and eventually an agnostic, I couldn’t escape the feeling that I was the flawed one, and that I should have to account for my nonconformity to the belief system of my family. Some of this came from them, directly or indirectly (hurtful/judgmental things said to me or about me outside of my presence), and some of it came from my own social insecurities. It didn’t matter what I believed or how strongly I believed it, in their eyes, I would just always be wrong. And that stung. It still stings.
Now, I feel that this journey has come to a sort of culmination. I had spent years trying to maintain some kind of religious faith, and to finally allow myself to let that go felt amazing. I think I stopped believing in god years ago, but it took a long time for me to finally admit it to myself. Acknowledging my unbelief felt like coming home. I finally feel as though I’ve found my answer to the ultimate question (and no, it isn’t “42”, but it may as well be), and I’m tired of being treated by my family as though I am in the wrong. So I’m trying to stand up for myself, and not to be intimidated, and basically to let them know when their ostensibly well-meaning behavior is coming off as condescending or vindictive.
My dilemma comes in my desire not to make a hypocrite of myself. While I may harbor some emotional bitterness toward my family, on a rational level, I understand where they’re coming from, and aspire to afford them the same level of respect that I wish to be afforded myself. I am already incredibly critical of myself, editing and re-editing every word I utter or type to ensure that what I say is meaningful and not susceptible to misunderstanding, so this just adds another layer of self analysis to an already rigorous regime. I am very aware of the fact that my writings are public, and it is entirely possible that my family could read them. One thing I’m struggling over is whether or not to tell them about this blog.
I wonder if I’m being too careful not to offend. Do religious people agonize over whether or not something they write or say will offend atheists? I honestly don’t know. I’m not sure my family gives a second thought to whether they’re being insensitive: they are simply right. As much as I wonder to myself why I can’t play by these rules as well, I realize that I won’t allow it. It’s not in my nature to consciously do something that could cause hurt to someone I love. I’ve been on the wrong side of that for long enough to know how much it sucks.
So where does this leave me? As in many other aspects of my life, I guess I’m in a grey area. I aspire to be able to fully express my views in a thoughtful and non-threatening way, but I also realize that it is impossible for me to control how my words are understood. I don’t want to water down my opinions, or be overly p.c. Maybe I really just need to stop caring so much, I don’t know. I clearly have more thinking to do on this topic.
By no means am I suggesting that everyone should try to play nice. I think people who speak the truth as they see it without regard for framing or public relations value are as right as I am, and I admire them greatly. Ultimately, I think we need to be true to ourselves, and express our views in a way that is well-suited to each of us individually. With all the hoopla around framing and whatnot lately I think it’s important to continue this discussion.