An imperfect slate

A recent article on Britney “Shears” talks about how the shaving incident is a good indicator of where we have gone wrong. Specifically, how ‘the focus on celebrity (mis)behaviour is helping to shift the line between what society considers to be a private matter and a public issue – to the detriment of both the private and public spheres.’

I think the line between public and private was shifted some time ago, and affects not only how we consume other people’s behaviours (celebrity, “Reality” TV etc.) but also how we structure our own. It is a very curious phenomenon because it straddles many more boundaries than those between public and private. It is deeply philosophical and also extremely simple. As I argued recently at a conference on Popular Culture, technology is key. The basic answer to the question of why people are flaunting and watching what should be private is that they can. You may argue that poor Britney didn’t (herself) post a clip on YouTube of a private moment between her and the shears, that she was “victim” of the paparazzi and so on, but neither did she do anything to avoid public glare, like stay at home. Cries of being tired of everyone touching her are then too ridiculous to merit sympathy.

I am not a celebrity – I can’t think of an even dubious claim to fame – but there is something here even for me, and perhaps for you. Blogging stems from the same impulse; a way to make public what often should be private. Mostly I find it a very good space because it keeps me writing and it’s a way to keep some people reading, whether for updates on my life (mother) or for a quirk on food (302). There is no doubt about the fact that blogging is an intensely egoistical exercise and also a rewarding one. I assume people care, and they do (you may be bored by now, but here you are).

But it’s also a potentially evil and stupid thing to do. Recent fuck-ups in my life have resulted in more than one late night post that I wake up regretting and have to rush to delete in the hope that not too much of the world has managed to glimpse it yet. Of course it never is much of the world that is reading my blog, but much of my world, and that’s the point. I often forget or misunderstand the difference between writing as sharing or catharsis – getting it out there – and writing in the hope that someone very specific is going to read it. That other people will potentially read it too is often desirable in the moment that you feel sorry for yourself, and here’s the line between public and private. Coded late night blogging as the new drinking and dialing is really not an interesting or admirable thing to do, especially when you remember how many millions of posts and blogs are out there detailing things that we’d frankly rather not know.

From Adrienne Rich: ‘They’re luckiest who know they’re not unique.’