Have you ever felt naked online? Too much information out there, about yourself, your feelings, your surroundings, your private opinions?
I was struck by the resemblance between these three stories yesterday, as I by coincidence stumbled upon some of them. And all of these three people; Dag Solstad, Norwegian writer, Lee Siegel, American critic, and Emily Gould, American blogger, have or are still dreading the online exposure (mostly self-inflicted though), and even more, the interaction with the readers.
Dag Solstad has been all over Norwegian news recently, after his essay (not online) in Samtiden about freedom of speech, where he argues (among other things) that he is supporting the freedom of press, but he doesn’t think freedom of speech is a sacred right. “The perverted freedom of speech, which is expressed in blogs, such as in Dagbladet (…) is what I react against, Solstad says (my translation).
A few sentences later, we learn this: “I have never read a blog and will never do it”.
Of course, the reactions have been strong, both supportive and highly critical (take a look at the readers’ comments at Dagbladet). I think it’s rather sad to read such an elitist approach (hail the author/editor, but spare us from the unreflected crowd out there), with so little trust in the “people” (Solstad has been a communist, he might still be). Eirik Newth has a sharp post about the same issue, here is also John Olav Egeland.
Anyway, Solstad seems trapped in the 60’s, but the two Americans I mentioned earlier, are definitively not left behind. Emily Gould has this amazing and very private article in the NYTimes Magazine (via Mary Madden at Pew Internet) about her life as a highly confessional blogger at Gawker, a New York gossip blog.
Solstad, if you want to learn about the Internet culture, with all its ups and downs, addictions and heart beating intensity, read her article (which has 1216 comments at this moment – and so much aggression!).
Over at Guardian, the literature critic Lee Siegel is biting back at his critics. He lost his job at The New Republic after he got caught posting flattering comments in his own blog. I wrote about his story here. Siegel got so sick and tired of the unfiltered, anonymous and hateful comments in his blog that he created his alias “sprezzatura”, who wrote: “”Siegel is brave, brilliant, and wittier than Stewart will ever be. Take that, you bunch of immature, abusive sheep.” He was so content with sprezzatura that he even repeated his alias’ phrases when writing as Siegel – yes, that was when the bloggers caught him.
The Internet is painful, no doubt. But also, I think these stories has something to do with a point the cartoonist Gapingvoid has depicted so perfectly: