November 6th, 2003

Crisis Management

Every relationship must proceed through a series of crises. Today must be the week of crises between "real" and blogging selves in my tightly circumscribed internet world.

First Steven and I have an exchange about how personally revealing a person should be on her or his blog. Steven tells me he got burned by saying too much about friends from long ago. I tell him I'd rather err on the side of transparency.

Then Steven frets that readers drawn to his blog by his participation in a political experiment won't see much evidence of his "left libertarian" location on the political compass:
But I'm concerned about these new, if temporary, readers. Because they are coming from a chart locating me on a "political compass," but I hardly ever write anything specifically about politics. The last time I had a post that was explicitly political was more than two weeks ago, when I linked to a piece about Rush Limbaugh and drugs ... ironically, the link was to the website of the Libertarian Party ... the title I gave that entry was "libertarian party finally gets one right" ... I guess I protesteth too much, honest folks, I am not a libertarian!
If Deltoid posted a chart that somehow blended your place on the political compass with the amount of blog space you devoted to politics, well, I guess I'd be off that chart. Here's a rough breakdown of my blog entries for October 2003:
music-related: 23
teevee-related: 13
sports-related: 11
navel-gazing: 8
movie-related: 7
miscellaneous: 6
politics-related: 6
family-related: 5
"science"-related: 3
friends-related: 2
After reading Steven's entry, Kim -- kdotdammit -- worries that her blog entries aren't sophisticated enough, compartmentalized enough, that they resist easy categorization. More than that, though, she worries that she is only speaking to and for herself:
I am feeling so blog-inadequate. I read my friends and others and they are so witty, informed, intelligent and well-backed. Should I be quoting more literature and cultural theory? Am I intellectually unequipped to produce a meaningful piece of writing – bloggish that it is? Does my world always have to be about ME?
Steven listed the number of entries per subject for the month of October in his blog. I thought, "Here’s a good idea. Let me try it." I couldn’t do it because I couldn’t figure out what the fuck I was writing about. Was I writing about films or friends, pop culture or food, music or family? I can’t figure it out. I guess I’m just writing about ME, and what I THINK. How selfish.

Laura has drinks after a poetry reading with two colleagues who "think blogs are too revealing, the internet too available. I think they were horrified by personal revelation." In her next entry she muses on "self-revelation and personal vulnerability and reaches a depressing conclusion:
It's hard for me to believe anyone cares. I feel old enough now that I don't imagine people are fooled by whatever lies I tell myself, and I'm more or less convinced that most people already know about me the stuff I think I'm hiding. I said to David when he woke up, "Do you still bother to tell other people the lies you're trying to persuade yourself are true, the narrative of your life that makes it all seem a little less tawdry or drab or depressing?" He said he didn't have time to tell himself the story of his life.

And I've had doubts myself, after having a longtime friend ask me to change something I wrote about her on my blog recently, because she didn't want me to make her thoughts public.

I've thought long and hard about all these moments of self-scrutiny, though, and am even more convinced that we need to keep doing what we've been doing, without fear of consequences.

Sure, it's an act of faith -- sorry, Steven -- but one that has obvious advantages over going to church, or the movies, or a baseball game.

For better or worse, blogging puts your words out there where people can stumble across them and, with any luck, lose their footing.

Losing one's footing doesn't necessarily lead to reflection, but it has a tendency to inspire it.

After you've landed on your bottom on the ice for the tenth time in a row, you can't help but wonder whether there might be another, better way to step.
  • Current Music
    The Watersample - Tarwater - Silur

To Blog Or Not To Blog

Following on the general anxiety of my friends and I that I enumerated in my last entry, I had three encounters today with people who think blogging is a bad idea:

1) A colleague of mine, the technology expert mentioned in the entry by Laura I referenced, passed me in the hall and tittered at me, "You have a blog." She then proceeded to interrogate me in the department office, dripping incredulity, about why I would want to something like this. I told her that it was pretty obvious that I wouldn't be making many meaningful friends in my new position and home and am therefore using the blog to reconnect with friends far away with whom I might otherwise lose touch. That's not exactly true, I suppose, but good enough.

2) Another colleague, the guest lecturer in Laura's entry, shouted "You can put it in your blog!" to someone in the hall. The student I was talking to said he was speaking to another student, but I can't be sure, since I didn't witness it. I couldn't help but detect a note of derision.

3) That student in my office then told me how much he dislikes the idea of blogs and said that his two long-distance friends would come back to Tucson and shoot him if he started one.

On the other hand, I talked with Laura, who reaffirmed my sense of why blogging is good.

Better still, I attended a screening of the documentary on Jacques Derrida, organized by the aforementioned guest lecturer, in which the topics of autobiography, privacy, dissembling and, yes, archives were repeatedly broached. I'll write more about the experience tomorrow, if I get a chance, but I do want to note here that I had the bizarre sensation that the entire film was about a culture, our culture, in which blogging appears seductive.

I've never had much use for Derrida, with the exception of his most famous pieces of the 1960s and early 1970s, but the film, dorky as it was at times, inspired me to look more closely at his more "self-indulgent" writings from the 1980s onward. I'm especially keen to check out his Archive Fever.
  • Current Music
    Cheeseball - Rainer - Nocturnes