An intriguing concept occurred to me yesterday. No doubt it is not new and I am just slow to realize it. Writing, yes even blogging, is somewhat blind; or at least it has the ability to severely limit the visual image of who the author is. We are all anonymous when we write in here; or at least as anonymous as we want to be. We see what the author wants us to see. The author sets the limits on our vision. As visual creatures we tend to accept what we can see. When absent from the physical presence of a person we accept what they give us to read.
Think about it. When you read a blog your mind automatically paints a vague image of the author—accurate or inaccurate as it may be. You are given a few clues, as to the characteristics of the author, when you first enter a blog site. You are usually provided with a name or at least a handle. If the author’s name is ‘George’ you automatically form a masculine image. If it is ‘Susan’, a female image similarly develops. If the page has a biographical sketch, you may have an enhanced image of the person. Some pages will have a photograph which may substantially complete the image. As you read the article, the photo along with the traits provided by the biographical sketch gives us an image to which we refer throughout the read. Interestingly, I suspect each of us has a different and unique image of the same author.
Sometimes, we learn about the author as we read the piece, gleaning information that builds the image as we read. It’s like one of those “Transformer” gadget my grandson has. It morphs from one image to another as the story develops.
But, sometimes I have nothing to go on—no bio, no name, no information; I’m totally blind. Perhaps I have a handle like “Restless Spirit.” That gives me no hint as to gender, age, nationality or race—the basics of the image. My mind has difficulty dealing with that lack of data. Nevertheless, out of the void an image of the author will coalesce. Perhaps it’s more of an impression of an image.
I read a blog yesterday that illustrates this image building phenomena we possess. The article was written by someone with an ageless, genderless, handle—much like the “Restless Spirit” of my example. The style of the article was light, humorous, and very skillfully crafted. Don’t ask me why, but I sensed a male influence on the piece. I perceived an active middle-aged man, intelligent and probably college trained, a professional, and without nationality or race. However, since I am a white guy, I imagined him the same.
As I progressed through the article, enjoying it completely, my image began to change. Hints in the article began to tell me he was probably a little older than I imagined him. I had him pegged at about thirty-eight. As I read, his age began to move into the forties. And then one sentence destroyed my image and jolted me to consciously stop reading and consider what I had read. The sentence was, “Such a thing does not discourage this seventy-five year old grandmother.” My image scrambled for a second or two and reformed consistently with the new information. I continued to read; however, with a new image of the author.
This experience left me amazed at the power of the written word. I mean, any of us can write in such a manner as to be young in the minds of our readers. It is the outside facts and data that control that image. But, given a lack of outside information, a person may be any age, gender, nationality, or race they wish to be, depending on the skill of the author. It is likely an author’s writing will eventually give way to indications of their true self. However, with enough skill the image can be maintained with some consistency.
This anonymity is in most cases harmless. Other than messing with my mind it does not hurt anyone. However there is a sinister element with this anonymity. The fact that any pervert or coward may hide in the recesses of his closet and spew whatever drivel they wish in total anonymity, beyond the measure of accountability, is disconcerting. It is dishonest and can be hurtful. However, please understand that person is not the focus of my article. No, I am focusing on the author who chooses anonymity and remains within the limits of civility and propriety. As for myself, I am quite happy with who I am and don’t seek to paint my image any differently than what it actually is. However, I would appreciate you imagining me fifty pounds lighter. I’m on something of a diet. The old saying, “you get what you see” applies.
The whole aspect of literary vision fascinates me. We are all blind in here to some degree. None of us sees clearly. Each author is imagined according to the outside information which they provide. In some cases we have met other authors in real life, which has always been a pleasant experience for me. But, it has always caused me to alter my image somewhat. In many cases the only image I have of an author is the one I have painted in my mind. I wonder how many times the image differs with the actual person. Heck, I have discovered the image which I hold of someone I know in real life can be different from the actual person. In that case, I rather prefer the one I built in my mind.
So, as you read this and form the image of PlannerDan, I hope it is a pleasant one. Only, remember, you may wish to drop about fifty pounds from the image…and don’t forget to put my black Lab, Max, at my feet. I guess that’s about it.