A fellow blogger posted a rather provocative piece about cliques in the blogging community. I went back to review and reference it here, but it seems that she has removed it. I hope that she did not feel pressured to retract her thoughts and observations in order to preserve her daily number of clicks, i.e. visits to her blog.
In the now-missing post, her thesis was that here in cyberspace, just as in our real daily lives, people form cliques. She argued that there are the “popular” people and the not-so-popular folks who are not allowed to sit at the metaphorical “best” table in the school cafeteria with all the cool people.
I had never really noticed any of this going on in the blogosphere until I read her post.
I confess to being very slow on the up-take when it comes to these kinds of social groupings. You can undoubtedly guess why. Nope, I have never, ever been one of the “popular” or “cool” people. In high school, I was decidedly un-cool. I was a chubby, naive kid with good grades who hung out in the music building and “Press” room with the rest of the newspaper and yearbook staff. I didn’t have a boyfriend and never went to a prom. I was the last one picked for the team on more than one occasion.
When I went away to college, my roommates and I landed the apartment on the first floor at the foot of the stairs, so our place was the logical gathering spot for social events. I have never lost the “y’all come” mentality that I developed in those days. My philosophy is “the more the merrier” because I never want anyone to feel left out or unwanted. So I am usually the one asking questions like, “Did you tell so-and-so where we are going for lunch?” not for the purpose of avoiding so-and-so, but, rather, to make sure that he/she knows they are welcome to join us.
It’s also not shocking that I became a civil rights attorney, in part as an extension of my belief in that kind of inclusiveness. Some folks call it “radical inclusiveness.” I don’t really see anything “radical” about it, though. I just call it being a decent human being. Nobody should have to re-live the experience of standing on the playground in your ugly gymsuit, knowing that the athletically-inclined team captains are not going to call your name willingly and, when they find out they are stuck with you, will look over at their equally cool, popular friends and roll their eyes in disgust.
I guess that I’m still that chubby, naive kid in many ways because my blogging attitude has always been pretty straight-forward: Come visit my blog, I’ll visit yours, and we’ll all have a great time together. Leave a comment and let me know you were here, and I’ll do the same. Express your opinion and I’ll respect it. Please do the same for me.
Yes, I participate in memes solely because they are a fun way to get acquainted with other bloggers, but I have never viewed them as anything more than that.
I have certainly never envisioned blogging as any form of popularity contest.
But that blogger’s post got me thinking about the concept of blog-land as its own microcosmic society, complete with power brokers at one end of the spectrum and those who feel marginalized and left out at the other end.
I reluctantly find myself admitting that, to some extent, her observations may be accurate. For me, the jury is still out, though, because the evidence is inconclusive.
Since my attention has been drawn to the alleged phenomenon, I have noticed comments posted that I don’t understand because they appear to be directed only to some sort of “insiders” who know the blog or blogger’s history. There seem to be jokes comprehended only by the members of some cyber-”in” group who visit. Titles like “Links to My Friends’ Blogs” or “My Blogging Friends” are very common. Still, do those things necessarily mean that the bloggers in question are stand-offish or turn a cold shoulder to ”outsiders” who visit their blogs? Does it mean that they will refuse to visit the blogs owned by anyone outside their circle of friends or, if they do visit, refrain from posting a comment there? Does it mean that they will not blogroll those folks who are outside their “inner circle” of friends?
Or do such gestures simply indicate that the bloggers in question have found a little blogging community in which they feel comfortable and have gotten to know other bloggers on a very personal level? Does that mean that those folks are part of a clique? Technically yes, if we consider the actual meaning of the word:
1. a small, exclusive group of people; coterie; set –verb (used without object)
2. Informal. to form, or associate in, a clique.
The word is, of course, usually used in a pejorative sense and that was certainly the message of the blog post in question.
Before jumping to conclusions about people or their intentions, I think we have to consider a number of factors, the most important being commonality. From time to time, I click on a link and find myself visiting a blog in which I have absolutely no interest. Why? I have nothing in common with the blogger. Examples for me include blogs devoted to discussions about pregnancy and/or mothering very young children (my youngest is a 15-year-old high school freshman), homeschooling (don’t believe in it), politics (can’t stand politics, so don’t want to think about, much less discuss it). Obviously, I am not going to join a community devoted to “Blogging for Choice” when I am an advocate for the sanctity of all human life. I’m not going to immerse myself in a group of bloggers whose religious beliefs or convictions I do not share.
Another factor is the tone and tenor of the blogger’s writing. Candidly, if I see a lot of misspellings, grammar or punctuation errors, or the improper use of language, I’m not going to invest a lot of time reading what the author has to say. Additionally, I’m not going to waste my valuable time reading posts that contain language or comments that I find offensive or hate-filled.
I will also move on to another site if the blog’s layout is such that it is difficult for me to navigate. I also avoid blogs written in teeny tiny font that my browser cannot enlarge and I will not strain what remains of my eyesight (post-retinal detachments) trying to leave a comment in a window that boasts only pale pink or yellow text.
Do any of those factors make me anti-blog-social? I don’t believe so.
I think we all have to step back from time to time and ask ourselves, as we sit down in front of the keyboard and monitor, “Why do I blog? What do I want to accomplish by engaging in this activity instead of . . . [insert all the other things you enjoy doing]?”
Is it your goal to amass the largest number of daily clicks, highest ranking in a blog directory or some other form of cyber-status? Do you want to impart information on a very specific subject that will be of interest to other people who share that interest? Do you want to express political viewpoints for the purpose of getting ”high-fived” by like-minded folks or engage in a vigorous debate with people who have a very different outlook? Do you want to become part of a social network that leads to in-person meetings with your fellow bloggers? Do you want to attract clients or customers? The possibilities are literally endless.
Only after honestly assessing our individual purpose(s) for joining the blogosphere, can we evaluate the quality of the relationships and interactions we have in this community and, as necessary or desirable, work to improve them.
When all is said and done, however, isn’t the notion of blogosphere “in crowds” or “cliques” pretty darn silly? This isn’t junior high school and what is there to be gained from attaining the status of “most popular” kid on the blogging block?
After all, for the vast majority of us, this blogging adventure is only a small part of our lives. We have other responsibilities, obligations – business to conduct, families to raise, and social interactions with real, live people in our real-life neighborhoods to maintain and enjoy.
What do you think? Have you observed or experienced blogosphere “cliques”?