How do you say goodbye to someone you don’t “technically” know?
Today is a sad day in the Pittsburgh blogging and social media community. The anonymous author of The Burgh Blog, PittGirl, a.k.a. Jane Pitt, has closed up shop. She had mentioned on numerous occasions that she wished she could join the rest of us in the various events that popped up throughout the course of the year, but that her privacy and keeping her identity a secret was, unfortunately, more important.
Some people don’t understand this aspect of Internet culture, or blogging. They figure, “Hey, if you can’t attach your name to it, then you’re a fraud/chicken/blahblahblah.” But that’s not always the case. Ask Heather Armstrong about how easy it was when co-workers and employers found out that she was the author of Dooce.com. She lost her job and she had been using pseudonyms for people in her life and at work. Ask “Miss Snark” how easy it was to continue working as a Literary Agent while maintaining her brutally honest advice and commentary about the publishing filed over at Miss Snark, the Literary Agent (dark as of 5/27/08).
While the culture of Internet anonymity perplexes and (at times) infuriates some, it does have a purpose. There are thousands (go ahead and look it up) of works that have been published anonymously, from Beowulf, the Epic of Gilgamesh, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, to Primary Colors. There are even more works that have been published under pseudonyms, or pen names, to protect the author. The topical matter of these works generally falls in a handful of categories: Politics, Sex, Religion, or Controversial topics that butt heads with the predominant cultural norms of the time/place. Pen names–nom de plumes–allow authors to write honestly, critically, and without fear of retaliation for holding and speaking from a different point of view than the majority. Going against the grain and being the voice of criticism in a political environment is particularly difficult. When you work in politics, to question or criticize the current administration (local, or national) is asking to be tarred and feathered.
Majorities and ruling parties like sycophants. Just ask Richard II… and we all know how well that turned out…
Bloggers like PittGirl are important to a culture and city because they give a voice to those who refuse to be blinded by power. Her criticisms weren’t only witty, they were spot on and topical. They made people think, and any writer that accomplishes that task has already won the game. Pittsburgh has a vibrant social media community with active blogger, podcasters, content producers, and social networkers, but the loss of PittGirl’s voice will shake things up. She bridged the gap between the Internet culture and the people of the community, and people will miss that. They’ll miss her. It’s like saying goodbye to a college friend you don’t know if you’ll ever see again.
But every individual has a right to their privacy and their lives. I only hope fans and detractors both give her the privacy she has a right to. I’ll certainly miss reading her daily posts and her wit, and I hope she is able to find another voice somewhere to connect to the people who love to listen to her. More importantly, I hope that she inspired individuals to create their own homes online to speak from, and maybe the void that her leaving will create will be temporary. Maybe people will reach out and fill it with their own voices because she led the way for them to do so. I hope.
PittGirl is a gifted humorist and writer, and I only hope she finds a new home to write from.
PG: KIT, yo. TTYL.