“Fools’ Names and Fools’ Faces…

Are always seen in public places.”

So goes an adage I often heard growing up, mostly from my grandparents. It came in response to things such as my childish desire to sign every guest book I came across, though there must have been other circumstances as well, because I still retain a vague discomfort with notoriety. Been known seems, well, unseemly.

I’ve come to the realization recently that I’ve carried this unease with me into the Interwebs, and have what might best be called a love-hate relationship with having a traceable presence online. For example:

  • LOVE: I was thrilled to discover that an article I wrote is cited as a source for a Wikipedia listing. (I am a footnote! Whee!)
  • HATE: It took nearly three months of writing on this blog for me to finally click the button in WordPress that allows search engines to crawl my pages.
  • LOVE: I have both a Facebook page and a LinkedIn profile, both of which use my name, yet (HATE) neither offer a link to this blog .
  • HATE: I started this blog primarily as a device for keeping in touch with family and friends, yet I have sent the URL to only a dozen or so people.

Random examples, sure, but it all comes back to one thing: why can’t I connect my name with my thoughts online? In a professional capacity, I have been doing this for a long time. But personally, the fear of foolishness looms large.

Why?

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About Sarah Heffern

Writer. Editor. Preservationist. Social media enthusiast. Caps/Nats fan. Knitter. Reader. Traveler. Beer drinker. STNY heart, WDC home.

4 thoughts on ““Fools’ Names and Fools’ Faces…

  1. Beware. This is a very long comment.

    Wow was that a blast from the past…now that you say it, it sounds so vaguely familiar.

    I think, inherent in this adage, are two distinct notions of notoriety. There is good notoriety – for professional accomplishments (demonstration of skill or intellect), positive contribution to your community, etc. and negative notoriety – Paris Hilton, Heidi Fleiss, Brittany Spears. And especially for girls in the era of our grandparents, girls who became known were not known for good things (partly because they were not known to be either professional or intellectual).

    Anyway, we were raised to be accomplished, smart and skilled, and we were taught to use these accomplishments to better not just ourselves and our families but our community as well. This was not so much a goal but an expectation, as in, the price you pay for being here. It wasn’t something special or extraordinary for which we should desire or expect accolades. It was/is, effectively, normal. One accomplishes and acts because it is what is “right,” and “good,” and expected of just being a human being.

    And really today, in a way, this idea holds up. Most of what we see on the news is sad and tragic, and most of the people we glorify are shallow, self-absorbed, or self-aggrandizing. Of course, we get the occasional puff piece (or Oprah) that highlights the ordinary amongst us doing the extraordinary, or even the mundane, which seems extraordinary in this crazy world of ours. It seems like no one does anything just because it is the right thing to do. There always has to be an angle. (Except that guy who dove onto the NY subway tracks to help the guy having a seizure or something.)

    The other part of this equation is that “in this day and age” anyone, at any time, for any reason has the ability to Google my name and discover any and every thing I have ever said and done and use that information for whatever purpose they intend whether that is for good or “evil.” (I don’t like that word.) They can do it to steal from me or to impersonate me, or to “hold me to account” to whatever standard the prevailing wind is promoting at that moment – and that is all incredibly scary.

    I agree with Sweetpea, to be included as a citation in Wikipedia is exciting. To have someone interviewing me for a job read this blog and say you haven’t had a job since June of 2006 and you said on your blog, “inertia has really overtaken, and though I am bored, I find there is little I am doing to change it,” so why should I hire you? That would be awful! And that is the beauty of the modern era.

    In this way, we face the same dilemma that has faced every presidential candidate – being held to account (at a very high standard, always set by other people) for every single thing we say and do, every single day of our lives. The good news is that this ridiculous expectation can’t be maintained forever… remember when Gary Hart was effectively kicked out of politics for having an extramarital affair, or when Bill Clinton couldn’t admit that he had inhaled? How many of today’s candidates, or public officials, haven’t had affairs, or inhaled? The bad news it seems is that we continually lower the standard (it’s okay now to be both a philanderer and a drug user). But no one wants to be the Gary Hart in this story so you can be today’s Newt Gingrich or Rudy Guilani.

    So in some ways, we all want to be held to account, and in others we don’t. We want to control our name and our information so it can be used for good (and not harm), but we can’t have it all in this brave new world. So what’s a girl to do, but take the plunge (albeit cautiously and prudently, cause that’s what our daddy and our grandpa would want us to do)?

  2. You are correct, Sweetpea. I do believe this adage originated as far as I know with your grandparents, passed down to us. These first generation Americans (or nearly first in some instances) were a private “lot” – they somehow felt that we (particularly the women) were more vulnerable if names — perish the thought “faces” — were out there (i.e. Grandma still had her phone listed in Grandpa’s name and he never lived at her new address). Grandparents feared letting go of too much of their private life; they had a need to protect what they had. That need I would imagine grew from leaving their countries, losing family and friends to wars and disease, and then their possessions to depressing financial times. They would be aghast to know that EVERYTHING is out there today on the Internet.

  3. That in a nutshell is why I don’t have a blog…ok, I started one and didn’t keep it up at all, but in essence, I was very uncomfortable about having my words out there for anyone to see.

    But for some reason, I don’t seem to mind commenting. Go figure.

    Some of my rational comes from knowing that my stepkids put their lives out there on their MySpaces and it really bothers me. They think it’s private and no one is watching…guess again.

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