I am attempting to shake off private blues to regain control. Privacy proves baffling in that respect. It appears to offer control, but it takes plenty away too. Here lies a drop in the ocean on ‘exposure’ and ‘control’.
Exposure has benefits and weaknesses. It can come from desire to put right a wrong, to have one’s say, or to disclose murky secrets. It is sometimes borne from vanity and often has a motive or selfishness to it.
But then selfishness is sometimes necessary. Letting someone get away with something that deserves exposure can eat away at us. I have a great respect for those who value their privacy, but it’s still my opinion that a lower public profile means to be forgotten.
Publicness combined with the ready availability of material lead to laziness and apathy. Will I travel distances to a library to hold by hand something I can retrieve on my screen? Unlikely.
This also translates to personal contact and self-promotion. Will people react to what is displayed in front of them publicly? Perhaps. Will they actively go looking for it? Probably not. It is a drug that infiltrates the culture of thought as well as the medium of communication.
As a writer who values privacy, I’d rather find the exposure that comes through people discovering, rather than me promoting. There’s not as much of it to go around.
Time for rue smiles. The traffic to this blog remains quite low. Of course I would like it to be higher, but there is greater reward in knowing that the numbers are there not because I have advertised the blog to death and compelled friends to follow. But there are signs spreading, slowly, that I exist.
The sacrificial migration of some of my articles to HubPages yielded 1,000 views quite quickly. This, I discovered, was the work of wonderful Gareth Malone fans.
Making small contributions within the academic circle, meanwhile, does not go unnoticed. It is a nice surprise to surface on the radar of the academic blogs that you bookmark and follow.
Perhaps the most alarming exposure has been the online publication of my master’s dissertation, which I was obliged to submit digitally to Edinburgh as a condition of graduation. Since then, it has registered on the British Index to Theses, and, perhaps more dauntingly, at the top of the list of Luminarium, an undergraduate haven for early modern material.
Alas that the dissertation is so poorly written. It’s not the greatest advert.
Measure for Measure
There comes the crux. Exposure – the desire to make something public – is one thing; the ability to control it is another.
There is a subtle echo across two of Andrew Marvell’s Latin poems, in 1651 and 1676, about committing words to talkative paper – a sign that his concerns about exposure and control started early in his literary career.
You can’t have it both ways, of course. You can’t hope for a certain kind of passive attention and then complain when it appears. What we do want is some measure of control about the picture of ourselves that appears.
Privacy is one thing, control is another. It is a fascinating interplay, even if a tormenting one under the wrong circumstances.