“When you imagine who will read your Facebook or blog posts, you are more likely to think of the much smaller group of active Facebook than the large group of invisible lurkers.”
Rettberg asserts that, on social networking sites, it’s “easy to forget about all the invisible readers.” On the one hand I can agree completely. It took forever for me to even notice that I have 75 followers on Tumblr, and I often forget while writing more personal posts that one of those followers is my brother.
On the other hand, such an assertion (although made very recently, the second edition of Blogging is copyrighted 2014) is somewhat outdated. The idea of an invisible audience isn’t exactly new, and is a common phenomenon both online and off, as Ryan Holiday explains. Preteens, teenagers, and young adults often operate under the pretense that they are being watched and evaluated at all times by their peers and the public. Brittany Johnson describes how this can affect college students academically (in regards to presentations and such) and provides some tips for overcoming the effects of what she calls Invisible Audience Syndrome.
Today’s bloggers (with the possible exception of those who are new to the social media scene) are usually well aware of the fact that they have an invisible audience and little control over who sees their posts. Unlike Dooce, who posted her complaints about her job on her blog and was subsequently fired for it, most bloggers are not only aware of the possible vastness of their readership, they openly acknowledge it. Many bloggers such as the authors of Hurray Crochet and The Chalice Well write posts specifically aimed towards the lurkers of the blogosphere, usually to say something along the lines of “hey, I know you’re out there, thanks for listening to me ramble about shit on the internet.” One blogger who goes by the username blondeambassador even went so far as to give her (I’m assuming she’s female based on the posts) blog the title “Letters to an Invisible Audience”
The author of NDloveNY gives a brief yet accurate explanation of how the knowledge that one has an audience affects how a blogger writes and what they write about. She elaborates on the fact that she tailors her posts so as to avoid angering her audience or hurting their feelings. Had Dooce considered the possibility that her employers could read her blog, she might not have written what she wrote. The influence of the invisible audience is quite pervasive. Rettberg states that it can be easy to forget you are friends with certain people on Facebook if you don’t interact with them regularly as they disappear from you’re news feed. I have to disagree with this. Even though I don’t always see them in my news feed, I am all too aware of the fact that I am friends with a lot of moms from when I was in 4-H, and I usually censor myself accordingly so as not to have their opinion of my character marred. This has been changing though, as I become more comfortable in my stance on inflammatory issues and better able to defend my stances.