By Robert Cluley
Yes it's true. I confess. In my darkest days, desperation led me to run an internet blog.
Blogs, for anyone unfamiliar, are essentially on-line diaries with two unique features: firstly, they are public - anyone with the internet can access them, and secondly, the viewers have the power to pass judgement by posting a comment on each entry - a comment that can be read by other viewers, who in turn can post their comment.
My blog lasted for around four months. I didn't post everyday, but I posted most days. I've tried to justify to myself why I started it. It began just after I'd split up with a long-term girlfriend, and a practical reason was that it would mean she'd know I was okay without us having to talk to each other directly. However, the blog soon took on a life of it's own. Maybe because I could do it in work time and still looking like I was working. Maybe I needed to speak to someone but didn't feel I could confide in friends or family. I'm not sure.
For months no one posted a comment. Yet everyday I still posted a record of my thoughts and life. I began to over dramatise events, using the blog more as an exercise in writing; it became my challenge to make my life sound more interesting than it, ultimately, was. However, one day a string of comments appeared. All signed of as being from John DeL. To show my gratitude I posted responses to the comments, and low and behold, a few days later more comments appeared from this same source. He began to leave his name signed as John De Lorean. I was intrigued. Who was this guy?
In his posts he frequently made reference to himself as an old man on death's door after a good life. Any post where I moaned about my life, he'd respond that it wasn't as bad as having a tube down your schlong. He had a point.
Frequently his comments were correct, and apart from his pension for filthy turns of phrase, and his obsession with cocksuckers, gays and pussies, I grew quite fond of him.
I wanted to know more. Who was he? He never left an email address, but did leave a website. It had some vaguely suspicious name like www.funkyworld.com or www.junkyfilth.com so I was always too scared to follow the link at work, fearing it was be complete grot and would land me in no small amount of trouble. However, one particularly slow morning I decided to take the plunge and followed it. It led me to a page about John De Lorean. John De Lorean, it turned out was the man behind the De Lorean car made famous in the Back to the Future trilogy. The website looked very impressive and was ran by a car enthusiast, there was an interview with De Lorean on the website which I downloaded and dissected. It seemed like the same person.
Part of me is deeply suspicious, I know how easy it is to pretend your are something you aren't on the internet - that's precisely what I was doing with my blog. But still part of me hopes that it was John De Lorean, I pictured him on his deathbed stumbling over my blog and taking the time to tell me to stop being a cocksucker. It'd be nice if that were true.
But it got me thinking, whether or not he was John De Lorean, or some sad man getting off on pretending to be him, or even just someone with a very odd sense of humour. What I was doing was no different. In writing my blog I almost began to live my life for my blog. Some days I would try to write myself up as a beatnik poet, other days the destroyed, broken man. I wrote for my ex-girlfriend to see, hoping she'd take pity, and sometimes hoping to hurt her. And whilst I didn't lie on it I found myself talking about my friends like they were characters in the book of my life. Some of my friends stumbled over it and called me weird. I'm glad they did because after rereading the whole thing, I realised that I agreed: it was weird. So I deleted it.
As I read my blog back to myself, it became clear that blogs, whilst being fun and useful, can be very dangerous because they blur the line of who you are. French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan suggested we will always desire an otherness that we can never quite reach, our primary way of attempting to create that otherness is language. Writing about your self in the fickle world of the Internet encourages you to talk about yourself and your friends like characters. And it's hard not to write about those characters as if they are a in a soap opera or film of your life; in other words: fictional characters. I think today, when everything is so ethereal we must be really careful, we can all write our own stories, the biggest crime, however is writing your own autobiography without actually living it.
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