Sunday, June 01, 2008

The Inner Mind of the Blogger

I'm wondering if any of you have read this article, from last Sunday's New York Times magazine (5/25): "Exposed: What I Gained-- And Lost-- By Writing About My Intimate Life Online," by Emily Gould. Gould is a former Gawker blogger who seems to have taken that subtitle to the implied extremes . Some critics are calling it "masturbatory" blogging, or even "vagina monoblogging."

I was pointed to the article by a friend who knows that I blog but really doesn't get why anyone in her right mind would do so.

"So, it's like a journal that everybody reads, right?" she says. "That's sick."

Well, yes, and no. I kept a journal beginning when I was a young girl, and intermittently into my adulthood. A traumatic experience with my mother reading my journal when I was a teenager caused me to have some anxiety about the safety of committing my unedited thoughts to paper, though I kept experimenting with the medium well into my thirties.

Blogging is different. It is not a journal. I do edit my thoughts here, for example. I don't share all the details of my most intimate experiences, though I have written in broad strokes about divorce, parenthood, ministry and the death of a parent. Blogging... I don't know why I'm telling you this; you know perfectly well... is both more and less than a journal, for me. It is more because of the possibility of making connections with others through what I write. It is less because, by my own standards of what is acceptable, I choose not to write with absolute transparency and candor. That stuff is for my friends and my therapist. Some of it is only for me.

I think people get into trouble blogging when they get too addicted to the rush of how many comments they get, or how many hits their blogs get. That seems to be what happened to poor Emily (though the girl doesn't have the sense a rabbit was born with, if you ask me. And no one did, I realize). I like hits and comments as much as the next girl, but what I like better-- what I love-- is the sense of community in this blogging world, imperfect as it is. I love the fact that real caring and real relationships spring up... sometimes leading to real life encounters that are all the richer because we actually know one another just a bit better than most people meeting for the first time.

I'm interested in what you think about Emily. But I won't go into the tank if no one comments on it.


Wyldth1ng said...

OpSec always have to think of it. I personally think blogging has helped my writing skills. In your profession that may be a moot point.

LittleMary said...

thanks for this link mags. super helpful as i am rethinking my blogging patterns...

3ThingsI'veLost: said...

i second what LM said...

Choralgirl said...

I think that the line between conversation/pondering and selfish gratification is a thin one in every circumstance,not just in online communication. If we're not respectful of all the parties involved, that's a problem. If we're talking to hear ourselves talk, that's a problem. If we're using the tool of the internet as a weapon, that's a problem--and these differ only in scope and immediacy "from other forms of communication. The same rules of courtesy and good sense should apply.

Seems that Emily was in a position that encouraged her to forget those things, coupled with her own inexperience and ego. Messy. Kind of dumb. And increasingly common.

I also think that the "what constitutes a relationship" line is an interesting one. I do feel that there's a community here, and that genuine caring is being expressed. I like what you said about the richness of the real life encounter," as that has been true for me, as well. :-)

But I try to be careful to respect boundaries with friends who are both "live" and "bloggy"--there's a woman in my congregation who reads my blog and writes her own (which I also read), and it's important to check in with one another as PEOPLE from time to time.

FranIAm said...

I actually did read this - a friend had sent me the article last week.

It is interesting to think about. Slowly I have revealed certain things about myself, but others I have not. And I am at peace with the balance right now.

I have seen some folks reveal what I think is way too much, but that is their business.

When I was newer to blogging and my blog kind of took off a bit, I think I was too fixated on hits and comments. That has changed now that I think of it.

Jane R said...

I just went and read the piece. Whew.

I have actually been thinking a lot about blogging and boundaries. I think about it when reading some other bloggers and I think about it when writing my own blog. Very tricky stuff. Like you, Mags, I make some careful decisions for professional and personal reasons (poor Emily, I think she was unwise, but it would be even more unwise for us as religious professionals to go into the TMI zone) but I do talk about myself somewhat more than I expected to when I began blogging.

It's interesting to me how blogging can affect the culture which can affect the blogging which can affect the culture, and so on. We're certainly seeing it with the political scene and some parts of the religious scene.

Then there's my friend X, as I will call him, who was blogging a LOT a few years ago, so much so that his mother asked him on the phone "Are you blogging your life or living it?"

Littlemary, I'm considering a formal sabbath from blogging each week. And wondering how hooked I am on blogging, and whether to breathe before I blog as I try to do before I speak. (And don't always!)

These are very disjointed thoughts but I just read that Emily piece and am still shaking my head -- and also wondering whether I should examine my own blogging more carefully, not that I ever blog about my relational life as she did, or even about my work or my health. Heck, I don't even know what Gawker is. Still...

Choralgirl, you make some really good points. And Wyld, it's good to see you in writing again, this reminds me I haven't read your blog in a while, I will visit in the next day or two :-). Hope you are well.

Magdalene6127 said...

You have all said some wonderfully insightful things... Choralgirl, speaking of the line between self-disclosure and self-gratification in all communication... yes! So true. For me, certainly.

And I want to say that some of the blogs I read most faithfully are those in which people's personal lives have been very openly shared, and in which I admire their vulnerability with their readership.

And Fran, I know what you mean... little by little things come out. ;-) And Jane, a blogging sabbath sounds good, though I write fairly infrequently compared to some... maybe 15 posts per month, tops.

Interesting, Wyld, about blogging improving writing. When I look at mine, I tend to think I wrote better at the beginning... but then, I was unemployed at the time, and had more time to hone each post.

Thank you all...

Diane said...

I've been thinking about this too, recently. I read the article, and I have been thinking that I do have boundaries around what I share and what I don't. Sometimes I think I am too careful, and that is what makes me boring. But other times I think, no, it's boring, and there are other people (my congregation, my stepsons, my husband, for example) whose privacy needs to be honored.

But there's a sense that the blogger community sometimes rewards our "flashing" pieces of ourselves. And there's also a sense that if we share too little, we end up not seeming real.

So, the balance, too much? too little? what is 'just right'?

so, it's not exactly a journal, at least, if you do it right.