Life in the Blogosphere: Why Are We Here?
I’ve been doing a lot of reading and thinking about this question: Why blog?
With an estimated 55 million blogs now on-line, it seems reasonable to ask why so many people are engaging in this activity. And, more importantly, why so many bloggers comment, facetiously or not, that they are “addicted” or “obsessed” with blogging, can’t live without it, and regularly confess that they are “spending way too much time blogging.” Many writers joke about their laundry piles, dusty furniture and dirty hair, and acknowledge eating fast food because they are too busy blogging to cook. Only those writers (and their families) know for sure, of course, how much truth is actually being divulged.
At Loving Change.com, Neil Cox offers “50 Reasons to Blog,” beginning with “because you can.” The remainder of his list consists of many predictable reasons, including networking with other folks who share our viewpoints, religious beliefs and concerns about societal issues, as well as the fact that blogs are big business. In addition, many print magazines and newspapers are now incorporating blogs featuring their writers and columnists who publish their entries between issues in order to stimulate and maintain reader interest.
Little has been written (at least that I have found) about the proliferation of personal blogs. I touched on this subject a few weeks ago when I asked whether there is such a thing as “T.M.I.” (too much information) in the blogosphere. But that inquiry relates to existing blogs.
Let’s back up. Why establish a personal blog?
The obvious answers are that we are seeking to make connections with other human beings, even though they may be located at the other end of the world. We are looking for people like ourselves, i.e., folks with similar interests, values, beliefs, outlooks, and opinions. We are seeking validation, acceptance, and to be part of a community. Indeed, long-lasting friendships can have their genesis in on-line connections. I have several dear friends from various parts of the country that I met a number of years ago via an America OnLine message board.
I also believe that blogs have largely replaced personal diaries and journals, chronicles of our lives. If you spend time reading a few personal blogs, you will find many filled with the mundane details of the blogger’s existence . . . everything from trips to the dentist, to how much stuff has to be put into the diaper bag before the mother of a toddler can leave the house, to photos of a blogger’s new living room furniture — shots taken from the catalogue from which she ordered the items, of the old living room furniture being moved out, and of the room with the new furniture in place.
Many blogs contain commentary (but not actual reviews) of what music the writer is listening to, what television shows he/she is watching ((On one site, the author posts her favorite lines from that week’s episode of “Grey’s Anatomy”)), what books the blogger is reading or plans to read.
And then, of course, there are the seemingly limitless number of blogs related to pregnancy, childbirth, motherhood, parenting, and the like. One blogger has posted at length about her pregnancy and, most recently, premature labor. She even has her videotaped sonogram posted on her site.
It is my belief that, for some bloggers, time spent on the computer is a tangible and valid way to connect with others, while, for others, it is an avoidance technique, sparing the writer from dealing with real human beings in their own communities. I have no scientific proof, of course, but I believe that many of the conversations taking place on-line would have, in the days before the Internet, taken place over the back fence, at the kitchen table with the coffee pot percolating, at the grocery store, laundromat or salon, on the telephone, or in a church, community center or other social gathering.
On the plus side, in cyberspace we may be encountering a more diverse population than exists in our real neighborhoods. But can blog comments trump in-person conversations?
I would also speculate that much of the time spent on-line now might have been devoted ten or more years ago to “my stories.” Most of us grew up watching daytime soaps. My college roommates and I planned our classes around “One Life to Live” and “General Hospital” (that was in the days before vcr’s). Not only are we watching different types and a far wider variety of programs these days, we have no need to commit to viewing them at any specific time because we record them and watch at our convenience. And I confess that I listen to more than actually watch 99% of the television that I see, the one exception being “The Sopranos” because life grinds to a screeching halt for that one hour. For instance, as I write this, I am “watching” this past Thursday’s episode of “The View.” How many of you “watch” television this way while blogging or surfing the ‘Net? How many of you blog, as I do, between folding loads of laundry, unloading and loading the dishwasher, or performing other household chores?
I wonder how much personal stress, frustration, anger and heartache is resolved via blogging. And how many psychiatrists and psychologists might be out of business because bloggers post about their neuroses, psychoses and diagnoses, and find support, solace and a great deal of useful information, including coping mechanisms, from other bloggers similarly afflicted.
How many lost loves have been found because one of the partners blogged about pining for the other?
One writer suggests — and I paraphrase here — that before sitting down to create and publish our first blog entry, we ask ourselves, “Why am I doing this? What is it that I am seeking to accomplish? What will my words contribute to the conversation already taking place in cyberspace?”
If you have a personal blog, did you ask yourself those questions before launching it? Did you assess your blogging goals, analyze who your readers would be, consider what impact your words might have upon your readers? Did you contemplate whether or not you could make a valuable contribution to the cyber-dialogue taking place 24/7? Or did you just figure it might be fun because “everybody is doing it” or, as Neil Cox suggested, “because you [could].”
Even if you did not ask those questions at the outset, it is never too late to do so.
Before you log in and post another entry in your personal blog, I challenge you to ask yourself, “Why am I blogging?”
Originally published at Write Stuff.