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Saturday, May 24, 2008


Zen and the Art of Blogging

Found this article via FourFour, and was just blown away by it. It's by Emily Gould, the former editor of Gawker, about the ethos of blogging. Although I didn't experience the painful, disturbing morality tale that she has, much of she says resonated deeply with me.

If you're a blogger (or a blog reader), it's really worth your time to sit with it, and ask where this media-fueled, personality-drived form is headed. And if you want to share your thoughts in the comments, I'd love to hear them.



Blogger beth said...

I am intrigued with Emily Gould’s article in today’s NY Times about blogging. Ms. Gould was a writer for Gawker, a Manhattan media news and gossip site. In her NYT article she writes about the whole phenomena of “blogging” – writing publicly and incessantly about the mundane and the personal. Exposing oneself and others.

I rethink my own experience with blogging and the Internet.

I began blogging because I liked the way it helped my writing. It seemed that when writing in a blogging-mode – if I was writing to someone (a Who) - I was better able to express myself than if I just kept a journal. My writing was more focused and organized.

One of my first experiences with the Internet was in the early 1990’s when I discovered an online email list: merton-l. This was a group of mostly educated people from around the world who were holding an online discussion about contemplative life and Thomas Merton. It was started by a professor at a university in West Virginia, and most of the participants were university professors and/or ministers.

This was before the days of email programs, or even web sites. With very slow modems (1800 baud) a computer would dial into an Internet provider and then access a site to read the discussion. Everything was text, and black and white. We used a program called “Pine” to compose, in real time, our contributions. Simple editing was so complicated that I was forced to just write.

Not being a writer, I was somewhat amazed that I could do this.

I was also fascinated (blown away) with the idea that one could participate in some sort of “community” with people that one had never met. Was this real? Could it be trusted?

Ms. Gould got so tangled up in the complex relating that goes with Internet involvement that she says that she wanted to “shut down” the Internet.

There’s definitely a lot of projection that goes on, on the Internet. It could be that the Internet is nothing but projection. (Where, exactly, does the Internet exist?) If you look at the comment section of just about any Internet article, you’ll see a barrage of insult, criticism, cruelty, self-hatred. It’s nasty. Things that would never be said to a person’s face are thrown around ruthlessly on the Internet. What is this? It’s as if the people to whom these comments are addressed are not real.

Which leads me to ask again, is the Internet real? Is it worth bothering with for anything other than an exchange of information?

My informational blogs, Quotes and Musings, and louie louie, are not personal. They serve as a sort of holding tank for writings that I gather, whether my own or quotes. And they seem to have a life of their own. Both get about 200 hits a day, mostly from google searches about a particular subject. There's a lot of hits now on Robert F. Kennedy quotes. But the most popularly hit blogpost I have is one about a black hole – there is a photo of a black hole with what looks like a cross etched in the center.

I had 2 other blogs that were more personal.

“Like A Diamond” was about my breast cancer experience. When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer, I appreciated finding personal information on line from other women. Also, keeping the blog helped me to uncover and express complex feelings as I was finding my way through the experience. Many times I didn’t know what I was feeling, and writing helped me. It was easier for me to write using a blog format than if I were keeping a journal.

I have taken that blog offline.

My other personal blog – Search for Solitude – which was a sort of raw and offhanded account of my dealings with God, has also been taken offline.

I’ve come to understand, better, that the Internet is no place for my personal life. It’s too real, and putting it "out there" in some way diminishes that reality. I've also discovered that the dimensions of my reality are a lot smaller and closer than I might have imagined them to be.

5/25/08, 7:14 PM  
OpenID myfatcat said...

Gould's article is also about the BUSINESS of blogging, which I think gets lost in her hyperconfessional style. She was urged to write more personally because it drove traffic to Gawker.

I actually started sending e-mails a month before Gould was born (if her Wikipedia entry is right), and I think the overshare/withdrawal pattern she describes has been going on since the beginning of time. And in Gould's case, it certainly predated her access to blogs--look at her compulsive publicizing in high school and college. I guess, maybe because I am old enough to be her mother, and remember my 20s for the weird ride they were, I didn't find much of what she wrote about her life all that interesting. She's not doing interesting things, her voice is very unformed--and I don't think blogging necessarily teaches you to rewrite, or to seek subjects outside yourself. She was most interesting when she wasn't writing about herself.

I think the web is an extraordinary tool for connection AND destruction. I think it makes people feel less lonely ("what? I'm not the only one who feels that way?") and more lonely ("are these people real?"). What's interesting is how it can be both an act of confession and an act of commerce. What would Spalding Gray's blog looked like, I wonder?

5/28/08, 10:30 AM  

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