Outed

ANNE

In a previous post I mentioned that Richard Branson, the British airline and media tycoon, has taken on US prison reform as a pet cause. He (one of his PR people, I’m sure) has a blog about it, so I posted a comment thanking him and pointing him to Vince’s and my blog in case he wanted a firsthand account of what prison life is like.

I happened to go to Linked In about 15 minutes later, and there was my comment to Richard Branson, complete with the photo of me with my jailbird son! Linked In? Not exactly the social network I would choose to share such a thing with! I zapped the post.

Little did I know that, during those 15 minutes, a coworker had seen the post and not only shared it on her Linked In page but also on Facebook. She is a super outgoing person; one of those people who has exceeded her maximum number of connections on Linked In. I’m not Facebook friends with coworkers, so I don’t know how many Facebook friends she has, but I think it’s a safe bet that they number in the thousands.

And she is Facebook friends with coworkers. So at work on Monday, coworkers started emailing me and stopping by my cube to say they’d read the blog—including my boss.

All of their feedback has been positive and supportive, and several have confided that they have a brother or son or someone in prison, too.

I figure that for every person who has talked to me about it, there are 2-3 others out there who have seen the blog and for one reason or other are not going to let on that they’ve read it.

I checked the blog stats for the first time ever, and saw a gigantic spike over the weekend. Vince and I had been building a steady readership in the dozens, and suddenly —Kaboom!—there were thousands. And because my coworker and I work for an international organization, Vince and I now have double digit readership in Armenia, the UK, Australia, Senegal, and Kenya.

I loved knowing that strangers in Armenia were reading the blog, but it turned my stomach to think about certain family members reading it.

I talked to a friend whose son has also been in prison. She reminded me that the whole point of the blog is to fight the shame and silence around imprisonment and addiction.

I kept getting overwhelmingly positive feedback. I talked it over with Vince, and he said, “Go for it, Mom. Post it on my Facebook page.” I was okay with that. Then he said, “But you have to post it on yours, too.”

Gulp. It felt like the right thing to do, but also scary. I called my mom to tell her she would see a photo of Vince and me on Facebook, and that the blog it led to contained swear words and unpleasant things. I don’t think she really understood what it was all about but at least she wouldn’t be taken by surprise. My sister already knew Vince and I were blogging because I’d shown her the first post where I mention she has cancer and had asked her if it was ok to publish. I called my cousin and my brother, who both said, “Just go for it.”

I unfriended some people who weren’t really friends, then hit the plunger.

Vince and I don’t have that many FB friends but my niece, for instance, has nearly a thousand and she shared the link immediately, as did a few other people. When I got up the next morning, there were dozens of comments and also texts, emails, and phone messages. The most common themes have been: 1) this is courageous; 2) it’s refreshing to read someone being “real” online; 3) you have important stories to tell; and 4) you made me cry and you made me laugh out loud.

Mission accomplished! Now all we need is a corporate sponsor so I can quit my job and work on this full time. I have a feeling it’s not gonna be Bob Barker, Inc.

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