Thursday, March 24, 2011

Little White Lies

Recently a blogger started a discussion on 20-Something Bloggers about how honest we should be on our blogs. I can't remember the specifics of the discussion, but I think the blogger asked if it would matter if some of the stuff on our blogs wasn't 100% true. That made me think of people who write memoirs, particularly the ones like James Frey who have taken "creative liberties" with nonfiction.

When I read a blog I simply assume that whatever is on there is true. What is on my blog is actually what happened. I started a blog because I had never really shared my writing with anyone before, and I thought that this would be a good start. I didn't want to reveal the complete truth about my life, such as my real name, which neighborhood I live in, and what school I go to or where I've taught. Nothing against anyone who isn't anonymous online, of course, because I figure it's your prerogative to reveal who you are or not to. And for now, I've just chosen not to.

What matters to me is the story and whether or not it entertains me and inspires me. It doesn't necessarily have to be what really happened. But on the other hand, I have to admit that it would bother me a little if a nonfiction writer specifically made a false claim about something being true. I can understand why people would be upset with authors like James Frey who misled their audience. But I guess it depends on the reader and what you want or expect from a book or a blog.

If I was going to lie on my blog, I'd probably write the following things:

1. I never thought about filling a big bucket of ice cold water and dumping it on the heads of the people who smoke outside my window every night (I live right above the front door), even though their cigarette smoke fills my apartment every time I open my window. (I have to open my window, even in the winter, because it's incredibly stuffy in my apartment and it feels like it's eighty degrees even when the heat's turned off.)

2. I don't even really need an online dating membership; I just signed up for fun. In fact, whenever I go out, all I have to do is flip my hair over one shoulder and the guys all start arm-wrestling to see who can buy me a drink. (In reality, when I flip my hair, it's more than likely that my hair is going to get caught in my watch and I'll start trying to yank my wrist away from my hair, shrieking, "Ow! I can't get it out! I think I'm stuck!")

3. It doesn't bother me at all when I'm woken up in the middle of the night because somebody is leaning on their car horn or some drunk people outside have decided that it's much more fun to start singing in the street than have some consideration for the people who are trying to sleep. (What, did I get trapped in a Broadway musical or something?) In fact, I'd open my window and call out to them, "It's 3 A.M.!  You should totally sing louder! I just love it when your voices crack on the high notes! Encore!"

4. When a guy suggests that we go out for "drinks and appetizers," I never feel tempted to say, 'Maybe you can be satisfied with just an appetizer, but I'm going to have an actual dinner that I'll pay for myself, okay? And FYI? I'm going to eat every bite of it without sharing it with you, so PBBBPPTTHHH!"

5. When a guy I meet online pulls a disappearing act on me after sending me a few e-mails, I never have the urge to e-mail him an award that says, "Tool of the Year". And it's not like I would ever want to e-mail that same award along with all of his information to every female I know.

6. When there's a person in front of me in line in the grocery store who's buying fruit, vegetables, nonfat yogurt, and fish, I never feel guilty that I'm buying Froot Loops and chocolate.

7. I write every day and I never procrastinate by watching crime dramas or Youtube videos of The Office bloopers. I also never procrastinate by thinking of all the things I would do if I ruled the world. (#1: My slogan as World Leader would be, "Workaholics of the world, unite!")

What do you think? Would you still be willing to read blogs or memoirs that aren't 100% true? If you were going to write "little white lies" on your blog, what kinds of things would you write?


  1. My blog is true, but I certainly play up elements of my life in an exaggerated fashion to make the story more interesting or riveting. Is that truthful?

    I always think about how two people can be involved in the same event and see two different things. What is the truth? If you were watching my life, would you agree with what I wrote about it? It's hard to say.

    So, I'm honest in the writing I do on my blog, but I'm also an exaggerator.

  2. Hi NGS,
    I think it's okay to exaggerate, especially if it works for the story. You're right about how people have different perspectives of the same event; I never considered that actually. I think their perspectives often depend on what they want or what's important to them, which is why they might see different things.

  3. I don't lie on my blog. But, like NGS said, the idea of "truth" is pretty fluid. I mean, take my last entry, in which I bitch about my roommate and talk about how I told her I want her out, ASAP. That happened and I do feel that way about her. But if she told the story of our talk, it would be told very differently. Neither of our versions would be a lie, per se, but they'd still be radically different.

    But if people do outright lie on purpose... well then that means they need to get more interesting lives, probably, haha.

  4. Hi mmarinaa,
    Your experience made me think of how writers can take the same story, like Cinderella or one of the other fairy tales, and put their own spin on it; each time it'll come out sounding different. I think our own interpretations of what happened are important because they show how unique we all are.

  5. Oh, this is a fun post. And by the way, your apartment sounds like loads of fun! Smoking and horns. How are you sleeping!? I don't lie on my blog, but generally, I don't talk about anything important either. I certainly wouldn't want to read a blog filled with lies! Whats the fun in that? Isn't a blog for being truthful?
    In any case. I would lie about my hair if I were going of right now its fuzzy, unmanagable, dry and such...I would lie and say it wasn't those things.
    I am an exciting person. I know. You don't have to tell me.

  6. Hi Gina,
    I don't always sleep as well as I'd like, because the noise outside often wakes me up. I think that whether or not a blog is truthful depends on what the blogger's intentions are. I've read blogs where the writers made it clear that they were "fictionalized" versions of the truth. But I think that it's different if the blogger presents his or her blog as being true when it's actually not.

  7. This is going to ruin everything, I just know it, but... sometimes I use creative license in my stories. Like, Isaac will point out something was not quite quoted correctly after I write it. But the thing is, that's how it really happened in my head. Like, that's how I heard it. So, I just think of my blog as my perspective on life. And perspective is reality, right?

    My blog, my world.

  8. I agree with everyone here: my perspective of how a date went could be VERY different from my date's! And sometimes I do exaggerate things or play up certain elements for the sake of telling a good story.

    For my co-blogger and I, it’s not so much an issue of lying as it’s an issue of what we do and don’t disclose. From the beginning, we knew we would write under pseudonyms: his real name isn’t Rock, mine isn’t Doris, and we’re open about that (for a time we considered blogging as Gay Guy and Straight Girl). We don’t share our city, specific locations of dates, or anyone else’s real name. There are reasons for this: specifically, we are writing about real people, including our ex-boyfriends, and we want to respect their privacy while still talking about our experiences and feelings. We also sometimes make decisions we know our friends, coworkers, and family members won’t necessarily approve. We know there is a risk someone will track down the blog and figure out it’s us, but we do everything possible to make sure that’s less likely to happen.

    When I read blogs or memoirs, I take it with a grain of salt, i.e. some elements may be exaggerated, played up, condensed, in the spirit of the story. That’s fine. What’s not fine is when someone tells outright lies and passes them off as truth (e.g. A Million Little Pieces, the JT LeRoy scandal, etc).

  9. Hi FreeFlying,
    I think it's perfectly fine to blog about your perspective on life, especially since I think that a lot of people write about their own perspectives too. And as other people have commented, your own perspective could be different from someone else's, but that doesn't mean that it isn't real.

    Hi No Way Cupid,
    I think that a lot of people who write memoirs do play around with the truth a little bit, because like you said, it's for the sake of the story. But what they're writing is based on the truth, so I think it's okay.

  10. One more thing: as for the drinks/appetizers thing, there are a couple reasons why a dude might suggest that. I usually wait until the second or third date to do a full dinner. One reason is the expense, another is because dinner takes longer and I’m not sure I want to invest that much time on a first date where we might not connect. If I’m going on a second date, we obviously had enough to talk about the first time around and can usually find some kind of rapport again.

    That said, if you are hungry, order something more substantial. Nothing wrong with that. If you are paying I don’t see the problem.

  11. Ah, city living. Between living in Cambridge and New York City I can relate to the list.

    I'm 100% honest in my posts. Like you, I leave out certain details to protect the guilty.

  12. Hi Theresa,
    I think it'd be neat to live in Cambridge and New York City; I've never been to either place. I used to think I wanted to stay in Chicago forever, but now I'm thinking I'd like to find out what it's like to live somewhere else.