06 February 2011

The pitfalls of not being anonymous

Hey Everyone,

So I have a blog post that is waiting in the wings, entitled: "A funny thing happened in Bedford." I'd really like to write it for everyone's enjoyment, and maybe even education, but I've run into a snag. That snag is that you all actually know who I am. (Well, except for the few people that have chanced upon my blog from foreign counties, due to the fact that I made a post about the Snuggie Sutra.)

Now, this creates an issue for me. Whenever I want to make a post, I have to consider who might be reading it. I don't think my mom is still reading the blog, but many of my readers have connections to my parents, friends of parents, past educators, or past employers. This hasn't been a huge issue in the past, seeing as most people can stomach the fact that a 24-year-old girl makes out with boys on a regular basis. (Heck, it's not a stretch to believe it's encouraged.) However, if anything could come across as slightly irresponsible or lacking in good judgment, it tends to wind up in me not posting.

In some ways, I think it isn't fair. I have stories that I know my friends have enjoyed (and even encouraged) on a regular basis. People often use the phrase, "This would only happen to you," and a lot of the time it's true! There's something about my curiosity and my willingness to interact with people without judgment that puts me in situations in which most people would never find themselves. EVER.

Let me explain. I am a cultural anthropologist in the truest sense of the word. I am most exhilarated, intrigued, and satisfied by the pursuit of knowledge about people. More specifically, I never tire of learning about how people experience their lives. When someone goes to church, I want to know what they are feeling, what they are thinking, how they understand the experience, why they go, who and what they believe. The religion itself is only of interest to me insomuch as it pertains to the person's individual existence and cognition of that experience.

This can apply to anything. Take body modification, for example. That was an interest that particularly scared my parents. Although I have ear piercings and 2 tattoos, I am hardly what would be considered a true body modification insider. However, I spent hours doing research online for the sheer fun of it. My father, worried that I was about to show up with a forked tongue and some sort of amputation (yes, those do exist as a more extreme version of body modification), gingerly asked me one day why I was so enthralled. I simply said that I wanted to know why.

Why these people show such whole-hearted and enthusiastic devotion to something that can be seen as destructive to the body. I knew from my limited experience the rush that one can feel, and the strength of knowing what you can survive through, but there were sides of it that I couldn't even begin to understand. How does a person find themselves desperately feeling the need to rid themselves of a body part? What is the personal significance of scars left behind after scarification? What does a person tell themselves as their skin is burning from the red-hot brand?

I don't know how many of you would just say, "Who cares? They're crazy!" I've gotten enough weird looks to realize that my sincere interest is quite out of the ordinary. Particularly since I tend to gravitate towards counter-culture, rather than understanding the ways in which cultural norms are understood and upheld in the general population. Finding ways in which people attempt to justify and normalize out-of-the-ordinary behavior is fascinating to me. The lengths that people will go to in order to make their actions mimic the outside norms is extreme and seemingly superfluous, and yet is essential to their ability to comfortably express themselves.

Here's where things get difficult in my wishes to share what fascinates me with you all. Anthropology is entrenched in participant-observation. Now, the extent of "participant" is extremely variable, but observation is absolutely essential to the researching of human beings. OBSERVATION = YOU HAVE TO BE THERE. So, when I am fascinated by something, I find ways to observe, talk to the people involved, and and try to understand on a more personal level what is happening around me.

So let's put this all together. I'm fascinated by people's experiences in counter-cultural acts, and I actively pursue means of observing and interacting with the characters. Can you see how this might be tough to share in a forum where anonymity is not upheld?

So, it comes to this - I'm interested in what you all have to say. What your feelings are about the stories I might be able to tell. I generally ask for comments on any post, but rarely ever get them posted to the blog itself. This time I'm asking you very specifically. Please write below what you think. Is there a possibility that you can detach me from my stories, as I am detached from them? Would you allow yourselves to be just as fascinated by the behaviors of fellow human beings as I am, rather than distracted by the implications of those actions? Can you be anthropologists with me? or are we going to run into issues regarding my reputation?

Let me know!



Terra Lillie Reed said...

Maybe it's just because I haven't seen/talked to/interacted with you in a while, but I feel like I could totally do that...but at the same time I think it would be difficult in the context of your current blog that is very...you. Complicated as it might seem, maybe you need to separate the posts you hesitate before posting into their own blog. Most people would read them knowing who you were and where they were coming from, but creating a separate space is sometimes enough. Just a thought.

Katie said...

I actually went to the extreme and created a separate blog with a VERY limited release, since I didn't hear back from many people about this post. Thanks for the suggestion!