A question

I’ve been thinking a lot about blogs and online journals recently.  To be honest, not in any consideration of what I’m doing with my own so much as just being very interested in them as a form or mode.  I’m interested in knowing what other people think about them.  What are they for?  What are some of the various reasons why people keep them?  How do they decide on what to write?  What sort of content do they choose to make public versus the old idea of the private journal or diary and why?  I’m interested because I think the blog or online journal has its origins in the form of the journal or diary or log, and those are (mostly) private spaces, but an online journal is in a public space, and I think this makes it something very different from the private mode where its form, its structure at least, originates.  I know some people use them as public platforms for their business or career or their politics, which falls in line with public use of a public form, but what about the journals that seem more oriented to private matters being posted in a public space?  Does it indicate that certain things we once considered private matters are transitioning into public or social matters?  All sorts of questions I have about this stuff, but I don’t have a sense of what lots of other people think, to be honest, so school me.

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5 responses

  1. I think it’s an interesting question. I wrote along similar lines in a ‘Blogs,Social Networks..’ post. I still feel slightly uncomfortable with blogs.

    I’m not sure if it’s a age problem or not (I’m 40).

    My guess is that the younger generations have less inhibitions than my generation. They are fine with airing all their dirty laundry in public. They also have different definitions.

    For instance the word ‘Friends’. A ‘Friend’ to me, means something completely different compared to a Facebook user gathering ‘Friends’ on his account.

    I also tend to think that blogs cross all of those lines you mentioned above, some should be private, but aren’t, some are geared toward the business community and some are a mixture of all those and more.

    For me, I try to have something important to say, but at times it’s just normal ‘diary – notebook’ material.
    I think people look because it gives them (and me) a sense of Voyerism (sp?)

    I’m also not comfortable with the ‘look at me! look at me!’ Paris Hilton feeling I get sometimes when posting. I mean C’mon…am *I* really that important that someone should read my posts? Uh…not really.

    But I try to be worthy. I try to get past the superficial and write something that matters (to me at the very least).

    I’m interested in what other people think.

    Phil

  2. These are great questions, and aside from just general announcement type stuff, I guess I look at what I blog as being in an intersection between the public and private. Kind of like a neighborhood tavern–is that a public or private space? It’s a little bit of both. It’s also weird looking back at the first posts on Ptarmigan for me, when I was trying to do an anti-journal, or fake confessionals….which slowly melded into actual blogging. But it was a strange transition from using the blog as a kind of performative space to actually ‘oh hey, I actually want to use this form to say stuff.’

    But I also do think that, perhaps, it’s all a performative space in one form or another.

  3. A blog is always a public space to me. But I’ve always been deeply convinced that no one reads my books, despite any evidence to the contrary. (While at the same time being convinced that EVERYONE has read my books, and a lot of people think less of me as a result. Says a lot about me.)

    I read Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking a short while ago, and I don’t think of my blog as more personal than her essays or nonfiction. I am willing to say things revealing about myself, but I would suggest that no one take it as strict, factual, autobiographical truth.

    I started my blog because of illness. Now that the plot has been resolved, it’s been much more difficult to decide what it is.

  4. I stopped my first blog because the very notion of blogs seemed so egomaniacal to me. Thousands of people droning on about … well, not much, usually. There are some blogs like And We Shall March and The Mumpsimus that are always full of thoughtful, well-crafted posts, and their reasons for existence seem self-evident. Ones like mine, which seemed to be more personal in nature, not so much.

    Once I stopped, though, I found myself returning to the other blogs I read. And I found I usually preferred the less topical ones. I like Maureen’s blog, for instance, and I like Barth Anderson’s blog, and this one. Others like these. Precisely, I think, because they tend to be more personal, less concerned with always having something weighty to say. It’s like a phone conversation with a friend (set aside the fact that most of us don’t actually know each other!): most of those conversations are simple, forgetable, but filled with the small joys of shared experience, mutual griefs or triumphs … you know, life stuff. So I started up again a few days ago and I’ve decided not to worry so much about what it is, or what I might be expected to say, or anything else. I might only ever have half a dozen readers, but they’ll probably be people I’d be happy to know.

  5. Thanks for the feedback, guys. Sorry I got delayed in responding. Got thrown off this week, like most people, I think, and am just now getting back to things I left as is at the beginning of the week. I tend to like blogs like the ones you describe, Nathan, though the ones with specific frameworks for content and focus are appealing in their own ways, too. Despite that, those also don’t tend to hold me the same way the more personal ones do. I always like to see someone using blogs differently than they’re generally thought to be used for, too. I think we’ve still probably got lots of weird concepts to come in the blogosphere still.

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