In Baltimore this past weekend, I had the chance to attend a friend's kiddush (Saturday late morning/early afternoon party for the gentile folk out there) in honor of their new home and baby. It was great to see some of my old Pikesville and Park Heights JCC friends and the free food and beer weren't bad either.
Then, through the haze of sheitel-wearing women and black-hatted men, I spotted someone who looked strangely familiar. I'd actually never met the man in question but I recognized him instantly - it was Frum Satire - a fellow blogger and Facebook friend who I'd only ever encountered in the virtual world. Here he was in the flesh, looking and acting exactly as I'd imagined.
We exchanged the basic pleasantries and URLs, then got to that favorite pastime of Jewish Geography. Both of us being nothing if not fierce competitors in blitzkrieg rounds of this game, we found ourselves mutually knowing half the room, including the brother/sister duo I'd come to the party with. This despite the fact that neither of us currently lives in Baltimore.
The encounter got me thinking about what happens when the real world and the blog world collide. I knew so much about this guy - where he lives, his passion for the outdoors, his wit on idiosyncracies and hypocrises in the Orthodox community, etc. and yet I had never met him. He's also sent me 42 visits in the past month, so our readers at least have something in common.
It astounds me how much we are willing to reveal about ourselves and our innermost thoughts to a universe of people who may only know a fraction of the truth about us. What conclusions do they draw without hearing our voices or knowing our pasts? Should the bloggers among us censor our posts in order to give a better representation? And perhaps most critically - what implications do our online personas have when they encounter each other in daily life?
The Internet provides incredible opportunities to create new identities, but no protocol exists for reconciling and consolidating them into one person. From the guy or girl who in no way resembles his or her online dating profile photo to the posturing blogger who readily demurs from conflict offline, we risk shadowboxing when we try to pin someone down and then stumble upon them at a party or the store.
Perhaps a philosopher lurks among you, dear readers, who can better explain why we often feel more secure divulging our feelings to everyone rather than just one specific person. Until that comment appears, I'll be reading others' blogs and looking for inspiration.