Building Caricature

I would like to thank John for inviting me to be a guest blogger and apologize for not having posted sooner. Actually I tried to post almost a week ago, but at that very moment the Blogger system decided that it was time to mind-meld with a lump of asphalt and my post was lost in the process.

As John mentioned, we are old acquaintances from the BYU Foreign Language Housing where I lived for a time in the Spanish House and then in the Portuguese House. I actually met John’s wife Allison before I did John. I wonder if she ever told him about the lollipop-kiss she gave me in the FLHC Laundry Room…? Anyway…

The bloggernacle is so full of smart folks, I always feel a little intimidated when I post or comment. Writing is surprisingly hard for me and I am very self critical. I admire those of you who can so consistently come up with interesting, well articulated posts and comments.

It is interesting how our views of people are warped by cyberspace. John comes across very differently in person than he does in the blogosphere. And I know that blogging seems to artificially magnify certain aspects of my personality, while others are practically invisible. Does the Internet turn us all into caricatures of ourselves, like cartoon drawings that overemphasize certain aspects of our appearance for humorous effect?

Do you like your bloggernacle caricature? If you could start over again in the bloggernacle, would you try to change the perceptions people have of you and build a different caricature than you have now?

–Ebenezer Orthodoxy

37 Responses to Building Caricature

  1. Dave says:

    What an interesting question, EO. I’m quite happy with who I am online, but I’m not sure everyone else is! It’s easier, perhaps, to think in terms of a separate online persona when one is an unknown person, as opposed to say one of the East Coast bloggernackers that all seem to know each other. Then there’s the interesting question of how eponymous bloggers choose a name for their online alter ego . . .

  2. Ronan says:

    Maybe if I were starting over it would be fun to write under one or more pseudonymns. Dave has it easy-he can say what he want with impunity because we don’t know who he is. John is braver: he speaks his mind, and if we don’t like it then we know who he is and where he works….!

  3. Kim Siever says:

    That depends. What is my online caricature?

  4. john f. says:

    You seem nice enough.

  5. pate says:

    Like Kim, I don’t know if I like my caricture, because I don’t see it. Blogging and commenting are hard for me, since I’m a bit intimidated (like EO) by all of the smart people in the bloggernacle. (I don’t think I’m a dummy, it’s just that I’m a Linux geek at heart and I feel out of my league in a lot of conversations here.)

  6. pate says:

    This post has been removed by the author.

  7. Rusty says:

    I like this question EO. I must ask the same question as Kim though, what is my online caricature? I’m afraid I don’t comment enough on other’s blogs (do a lot of reading though) to even have a caricature. On my own blog, my brother pointed out I might seem like a complainer, which I’m really not at all. Who knows.

    I think we would have a better idea of Ronan’s if he’d spell with an English accent. In my head he sounds American.

    Being in New York has helped line up the personality with the caricature. For the most part, everyone I’ve met is more gracious and sweet in real life and they also aren’t as intimidating (though if I had to, I think I could take Nate Oman… or at least Kristine).

  8. Rusty Said:”For the most part, everyone I’ve met is more gracious and sweet in real life and they also aren’t as intimidating

    I think that this may be true of many of us. In my own case I feel that my sense of humor tends to come out a lot more in person than it does online. I’m afraid I come across as all serious and humorless in the bloggernacle…

  9. Kaimi says:

    I know that I come across differently in the Nacle.

    I probably come across as more serious; more political; more combative than I find myself in real life.

    I’m not really much of a political junkie — I’ve never been to a political rally or march in my life. I find that the chair has a lot of inertia.

    This means that in real life, I work, go home, play with my kids. But online, I think I come across as more of a political person.

    Another interesting difference is the mix of people. At both blog mixers I’ve attended, Kristine and Davis hit it off immediately and chatted for long stretches — I think Kris talked to Davis more than either Steve or me. Which, given online personas, I probably wouldn’t have predicted.

    (Of course, my own identity at both mixers was “the person who leaves early to get home” which also might not be anyone’s guess).

  10. john f. says:

    Rusty wrote I think we would have a better idea of Ronan’s if he’d spell with an English accent. In my head he sounds American.That’s pretty funny. I can’t imagine Ronan speaking with an American accent.

    I don’t like my bloggernacle caricature at all. My wife absolutely hates it. Starting over is a near impossibility, the way I figure it.

    What led to the creation of this caricature? Well, for one thing, knowing someone in real life, you have small talk conversation. In the Bloggernacle, almost all conversation is serious and focused on an issue for discussion. Furthermore, the communication is done by means of writing, which, while powerful, has its limitations over chatting in someone’s living room. It is difficult to write, even for fast typers, so a lot of conciliatory and sympathetic content gets cut in the interest of the salient points someone is trying to make. This supports what Kaimi has said about how he feels about how he comes across online as well as my own discontents with online caricatures.

  11. Kaimi says:

    Well, John, there’s always the possibility of rebranding. You know, make “John Fowles” go away and come back as “Bilbo Underhill” or “Teancum” or something like that.

    That has the disadvantage of requiring you to start over in brand building.

    I wonder if someone decided to quit the bloggernacle — particularly someone pseudonymous like Dave or Kingsley or previously Ebenezer — if they could sell their online handle, pass it down, sort of like a Dread Pirate Roberts kind of thing. Hmm . . .

  12. Aimee says:

    I don’t know what my characiture is either, but I don’t really care. I blog to express my thoughts, to have fun, and to get to know people outside of my sphere of friends.

    I feel like the best I can do is be myself. If I was trying to fit in, or be impressive, or somehow project a view that wasn’t really me, then I would be sad.

    I liked the Dred Pirate Roberts thing! 🙂 I almost spit my hot chocolate all over my screen!

  13. Sarah says:

    I don’t think I’m a caricature. I used to be — as a teenager I had a new internet “call sign” every few weeks (I always kept “lloannna” — just added other stuff before and after it.) There was a period where everything was very stylized, very orchestrated.

    But that’s really hard to maintain. I don’t think I’m very different in person, at least with my good friends, than I am online.

    Now, if you want to know if I like myself the way I really am…

  14. Anonymous says:

    Fascinating. I think all of you who have a caricature should be happy and know that you are secretly envied by those of us who in spite of our efforts — remain anonymous.

  15. J. Stapley says:

    This is a fascinating discussion. I have been around the ‘nacle less than a year, yet I feel like a new guy on the block compared to the iconic archetypes around. Consequently, as I’m not one of the archetypes, I feel like I still have less of a characiture.

    I know in “real” life I come across very conservative/orthodox (white shirt, dark suit, no facial hair(on sundays at least), and “normal” comments at church). I imagine that online I come across liberal/heterodox. Reality is probably somewhere in between.

  16. john f. says:

    J. wrote Consequently, as I’m not one of the archetypes, I feel like I still have less of a characiture.J., don’t be silly. After all, who is the NYT interviewing about the Bloggernacle? That should stand for something.

  17. I used to post under my real name, and now I use a pseudonym (with that and some TCP/IP adjustments, one can make his own “Get out of blog-jail free” card). The feedback I’ve gotten is that I was funnier and more insightful under my real name, and I’m angrier but more honest under a pseudonym. Maybe the feeling of anonymity has made me careless. Maybe it doesn’t make that big of a difference (in both cases Mormons mostly just find me irritating). Maybe it’s the weather.

  18. Ronan says:

    Bollocks. Colour. Queen Elizabeth. Awright, mate.

  19. chronicler says:

    I know what my online persona is outside the bloogernacle and I like. Inside the bloggernacle I think I am more of an enigma. However, that is a spillover to ‘real-life’ too. Very few people ever really get to know someone. There are many aquaintances – as Geoff Johnston said recently – and few real friendships. I am happy with the acquaintances I’ve developed in the ‘nacle. Overall most eveyone has their day, or say, then to be identified ona completely different realm in another post.

    It’s what i love about the bloggossphere…a greater view of the world through other people’s eyes.

    cooper -(I choose anonymity because I blog while working, and because my husband holds a position of authority at church. I don’t want my online persona running amock in his world, or, my employers’.)

  20. Sarah, I wonder if one can really be completely one’s self online. There are people who purposefully create an online persona as you used to do. But I suspect that even those who blog under their real names and express their real thoughts, and are all around “themselves” are still subject to some kind of perception warping power of the Internet that causes an unbalanced caricature to form over time.

    I wonder if, becoming aware of this warping influence, one can manipulate it to better present who she thinks she really is?

    And once an undesirable caricature has been formed, can you fix it, or must you start over under a new name?

  21. Kaimi says:

    It seems to me that the issue is that each of us have multifacted personalities. I certainly do. I’m serious about a lot of things; I’m also inclined to be goofy about other things, make frequent use of bad puns, and spend as much time as possible with children. I get annoyed at sloppy arguments and prize intellectual honesty; yet I also have a tendency to sometimes BS my way through arguments. I like sports, but I’m no good at them. And the list continues.

    I make a comment in the Nacle, and everyone applies a label. “Kaimi is the serious one” or “Kaimi is the goofy one” or “Kaimi is a family guy” or “Kaimi is a liberal.” And then that label tends to stick. In particular, I’ll be critiqued for what I say in the Nacle which will make me defend those positions, making it look more and more like I’m an “obsessed with topic X” person, when in fact I may spend very little time outside of the bloggernacle even thinking about topic X.

  22. I’ve been told that I come across as a cartoon character in real life so it would seem that the transition between my online and offline persona is seamless.

  23. Steve says:

    This really is a great topic. I don’t think that I’ve consciously tried to create a distinct online persona, and yet – presto! – there it is. At times I feel this persona gets somewhat out of control, and that disturbs me. At times I find myself genuinely worried about how I am perceived in the Bloggernacle. Other times, I have no idea why I should even care.

  24. Kristine says:

    Like Ronan, I sort of like the idea of a pseudonym, and I’ve occasionally toyed with the idea of inventing an alter ego–a guy who went to BYU and lives in SLC–to say the same things as I say, just to see how the reactions would differ. I feel like sometimes people argue with some generic Eastern-educated feminist liberal Mormon instead of with me and what I say, and that there’s only incidental overlap between what the GEEFLM would think and what I actually think and say.

    Also, if I had it to do over again, I think I would try to start out being kinder. As I’ve met people that I only “knew” online, I find it so easy to like them, even people I disagree with about virtually everything. I met Matt Evans last weekend and instantly adored him, even though I don’t think we’ve *ever* had a non-confrontational exchange in the bloggernacle. It makes me want to argue a lot less–in fact, once I meet john fowles in person, I’ll probably find it impossible to ever blog again :). It’s so easy to say clever, cutting things, and so much easier to be a critic than an enthusiast. I’d try harder to let my love for the Church show through, even though I feel very shy about it, and wary of exposing my spiritual sentiments to the entire world.

  25. Peter D. says:


    I read more than I comment, and from what I’ve read, there is nothing indicating you are “Eastern-educated.” I could have easily mistaken you for being educated at Idaho State, Northern Arizona, or anywhere in Utah for that matter. As far as the “feminist liberal Mormon” part, you might be on to something. ;->

    I think people by and large respond to arguments not names. Just go to BCC and T&S and start making hardline-old-school-conservative-defender-of-the-faith arguments with a “straight face” and check out the responses you garner. It’d be hilarious.

  26. john f. says:

    Been there, done that. It’s actually not that hilarious. It just gets people mad at you.

  27. Kristine says:

    Peter D., I’m glad to see not everyone shares my compunction about unkindness; the bloggernacle would probably run out of steam without a little thinly veiled rudeness now and then.

  28. Peter D. says:


    I’m sorry you view my comment as unkindness/rudeness. I suppose I could view your response the same way, since it gives me no benefit of the doubt, instead presuming maliciousness on my part.

    But I choose to view it instead as responding to my *arguments* (that bloggers respond to arguments and that I could not tell from your blogging that you are “Eastern-educated”) not to my self-described identity as a Western-educated caucasion male non-liberal/feminist member of the CJCLDS.

    And I will certainly try to view your reaction as not disparaging all other forms of education other than “Eastern” ones.

  29. Kaimi says:


    I’m with Pete — I don’t think he meant his comment as rude.

    Besides, I know him slightly, and he doesn’t seem like a mean guy.


    Kris isn’t mean either. She’s a teddy bear. Don’t let her ferocious feminism frighten you.

  30. john f. says:

    Kaimi, very nice alliteration.

  31. Kristine says:

    Well, if you didn’t mean to be snide, Pete, then I’m sorry. I’m just a teensy tiny bit sensitive about being the least educated and arguably the dumbest of the permabloggers at T&S. It was therefore easy to read your assertion that I could easily be mistaken for a graduate of a not-particularly-selective state school as a polite way of pointing out that I’m not very smart. It shouldn’t bother me that much anyway, but it does.

  32. Peter D. says:


    Even if I were “politely” trying to point out that you’re not very smart, that would be rude indeed. That was not my intention (I suppose I did imply that an Eastern education is not per se better than any other formal education).

    Please no hard feelings. I was not aware of your sensitivity re your educational/intellectual status among the T&S permabloggers. FWIW, I think you fit in just fine there, at least from an education-level standpoint.

    We are most certainly not our caricatures: I know Kaimi a little, and he doesn’t seem nearly so wild and crazy in person as he does in the ‘nacle. ;->

  33. Kristine: I’m… arguably the dumbest of the permabloggers at T&SROTFLMAO. Is this part of your new “poor dumb me” internet persona? Earth to Kristine: Wilfried, Russell, Frank, Julie, and Kaimi are all way dumber than you are. But if you keep this kind of stuff up, you may just give them a run for their money. (You eastern educated feminists say the darnedest things.)

  34. And lest anyone take my preceding comment the wrong way, allow me to clarify that it is a light hearted compliment–one can do quite a lot worse than being way dumber than Kristine.

  35. Kaimi says:

    Kris’s odd insistence that she’s an intellectual lightweight have never seemed particularly convincing to me.

    In fact, her protests remind me of nothing so much as the cute cheerleaders in high school who would complain about how fat they were, when they all had bodies that the rest of the school would kill for.

    And come on — isn’t it common knowledge that intellectual lightweights go to law school? (Or become computer geeks, of course).

    So the whole phenomenon strikes me as silly. I thought it was silly in high school too. But then, I’ve never been one who had a particularly good understanding of the female psyche. I sometimes think it’s amazing that I managed to get married.

  36. Kaimi says:

    Oops, forgot the end of the comment. (Commenting after midnight fries my brain.). Let’s be quick before I become totally incoherent (too late?).

    In other words, Kris complaining about her lack of intelligence is as silly as the cute cheerleaders complaining that they’re fat.

  37. My online persona seems to be very much rooted in who I am in real life. My guess is that a lot of those who don’t like me in blogs wouldn’t find me charming or clever in real life either.

    In a group conversation with several of my co-workers, a friend mentioned to me, “By the way, I notice you don’t swear a lot.” I shot back, “Open your f*cking ears, jack*ss.” This got some pretty loud laughter, perhaps at the expense of a missionary moment. Ever the fun loving frat boy, I generally get along a lot better with non-Mormons, and I have since my early teens.

    I do get along quite well with some Mormons, even some surprisingly conservative ones. But in life and on blogs, mostly I get the feeling that many Mormons begrudge me something, though I’m uncertain what it is or why it matters. Perhaps it’s my keen sense for the inappropriate.

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