Who Owns the Story? Pt2 – being sold

The problem is once people have bought you, in this case becoming regular readers with the metrics and clicks and whatnot that brings, well they feel they deserve something.  Two recent examples come to mind (strangely both involving divorce):

1)  As I’m sure most of you know, Heather Armstrong and her husband Jon (of Dooce) are getting divorced.  Dooce is by far the most popular personal blog and the news hit far and wide (even in the NYT!)  garnering thousands of people’s opinions.  Heather is no stranger to sharing her private life with the world; she shared her difficulties with post-partum depression for example.

The responses to the news were widespread and ranging.  There was a lot of sadness, of “I knew its”, and even joy – one of the top results for dooce and divorce is a post “Dooce is getting a divorce.  And I’m glad” But, in reaction to a request for privacy and understanding, there was a lot of “why do they think (they deserve) get privacy now”?  In some ways, since Heather had been open before, she was seen to have lost the right to be private now.  Her life was assumed to be public content and  although she provided very little information, people constantly analyzed, cited, and demanded more.  I’d love to know how she navigated that, giving just enough information for her audience/customers but not more than she could personally handle.

2) Chaviva (who I once hired for a job a bazillion years ago) also recently got a divorce, inpacting how she viewed and acted as a Orthodox Jewish convert.  She got a fair amount of negative feedback on some of her life decisions leading her to take down her entire blog – years worth of posts.  This is particularly notable since, like Dooce, she makes her living off of social media and blogging (although to a much lesser extent).  She, in essence, trashed her resume.

Her life was public enough where people felt like they could comment and judge her on her behavior.  She’d set it up that way – becoming a public voice on converting and being an Orthodox convert, but her posts didn’t divert from that – they were on the new religious difficulties that she faced.  But her narrative didn’t match what people expected from her even though it was still coherent, it still made sense to who she had been and who she was becoming.  It makes me think of the out cry when Harry and Hermione didn’t end up together and makes me wonder if there’s a convergence between real people who seem more fictional/narrative and fictional characters who become more real in our lives.

Either way, for both of these women, they lost control over their stories to their audiences – their lives became public consumption to be critiqued.  The reader became the consumer, feeling free to demand something for their attention.

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