It's safe to say the phenomenon known as blogging -- and all its sister activities that take place exclusively on the web, be they tweeting or tumbling -- has drastically altered our sense of what is and isn't private knowledge.
What was once reserved for the pages of diaries or the confines of a zine has become primary source material for a new generation of writing. We now unabashedly make confessions to readers online, admissions that have almost no chance of happening organically in conversation, information we'd scarcely imagine sharing with our parents or even friends. There's something about our laptops and tablets, those innocent portals into a universe much larger than anything we encounter IRL, that makes us feel safe sharing. And share we do.
Artist Anna Ladd caught onto the paradox in 2013. Fascinated with this idea that our intimate, mostly secret lives made fodder for blog posts, she began the cleverly titled series "things i told the internet but didn't tell my mom." She'd been in the trenches of daily blogging for six years before she launched the project, slowly noticing that with every story she told to the unidentified masses, the emotional distance between herself and her audience weighed heavier and heavier.
"I can't remember exactly how the project began but I do remember trying to find the first blog that I ever made, from when I was 13, and realizing that I had a written record of almost every day of my life for six years," Ladd explained to HuffPost. "I made that original blog because I needed some sort of outlet to explore myself and my feelings and I wasn't comfortable doing that with people. I blog because I enjoy it but I made the work when I realized it was a habit that I formed as a result of having trouble relating to people."
The series captures portraits of vaguely familiar phrases. "I need other people to validate that I am important because I can't do it for myself," one reads. "It's getting bad again," says another, more cryptic blurb. The words are rendered as cheerful banners, creating, as Ladd points out in her artist statement, a contrast between the chipper appearance of the artworks and the detached acknowledgments they depict.
A craving for validation certainly pricks the hairs on any new media confessor. Part of the draw of blogging is the immediate satisfaction we get afterward. Proclaiming insecurities to your actual friends cuts your chances of finding that perfect, sympathetic response. Sending them into the void of the internet, however, is like fishing in a plentiful pond with endless bait. It dulls the pain of rejection at the same time as it multiplies the opportunity for praise. But Philadelphia-based Ladd is conscious of the fact that this reality, as virtual as it is, isn't necessarily bad.
"As far as the internet, I think it's way too easy to look down on it as this thing that indulges vanity or lack of communication or whatever else 'adults' are saying about 'millennials' this week," she said. "I have this huge record of my life and the lives of my friends and family that doesn't take up any physical space and I think that's incredible. Talking about my personal life online and having other people identify with it over the years gave me more confidence to open up in person and I'd hardly say that's a negative thing."
You can check out more of Ladd's work on her website. She's currently pursuing a BFA in photography at the University of the Arts, living with six roommates and five pets to boot.