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Sunday, August 26, 2007

Blogging – redefining friendship in the 2.0 age

How is blogging like keeping a pen-pal? Is it at all? Let's see: you can keep in touch, cross continents. There is often dialogues and confessions. Conversations are as likely to be continued via email, person to person, once contacts and trust has been established. It is arguably more convenient, also. One can choose to leave comments or not. One can choose not even to visit a blog or not anymore. That arguably leaves less evidence than of a hand-written relationship; of papers left in drawers, aged epistles which are proof of the owner’s lack of depth or patience.

I have a secret. When I was in primary school, there was an initiative to begin a pen-pal program with kids in America. Sexes were split between hats and our future correspondent was drawn as a lottery-- about as random a start to a relationship as any. Thus, many, I’m certain, were doomed from the start. Mine sure was. I do not remember much about my pen-pal, except that she lived in Ohio, and had the roundest, happiest writing I have ever seen and for years after associated with the personality of Americans as a whole. Did I respect her though? No. It was the writing; I have long had mistrust for people with nice penmanship (as those with appalling penmanship, like me, tend to do). So every time I got a letter on that pastel pink paper, peppered with love-hearts instead of dots on the ‘i’s, it made my young blood boil. Would it now? No.

But now I have other tastes to discriminate with.

If I am perusing new blogs and am in less than a benevolent mood, I could (and have) spent a good few minutes coveting their design, their owner’s ability to photoshop, their spacial abilities to be able to fit all their images and accoutrement's into the coding matrix. I can on mine, don't get me wrong, but that’s only because I paid someone to set it up to my liking in the first place. I sometimes feel like a fraud. I feel like I’m one of those domineering (male) bosses in those old movies, dictating speeches and letters to a secretary who is madly typing nearby, being the facilitator of information. What exactly have I done on my blog that is completely unique?

Which brings us to ‘voice’. Of course, our ‘voice’ is our own. No-one’s blog can be exactly like another for that reason. But I adulterate my voice at times, so how can my ‘friendships’ that are based upon the words which I write be fully legitimate? It’s like I’m friendly with ghosts, and they’re friendly with a simulacrum of me. I can see why such conferences as Blogher, then, are so vitally important. They give bloggers a chance to socialise face-to-face; in the ‘old-fashioned’ way. I’m sitting here, on the underside of the planet, where I guess I feel safe to wonder such things, but I wonder what women get out of meeting fellow bloggers? Do any get pinched by the little gremlin of jealousy? Of envy? Of awe? Do they get out of the experience all that they’ve hoped for?

I must admit; I've struggled this week. I've returned from a month's holiday, from (enforced and situational) unplugging. So, if I read your blog, you might've noticed I've not been around for a while. Or have you?

So the other night, I sat down to hundreds and hundreds of unread feeds from my favourite blogs. Do you know what I felt? Dread. A weight of unconquerable labour was gently massaging my head, about to drop completely. Could I really sift through all these posts? Did I want to? These people were my 'friends'. What did I do? I hit 'delete all'*; taking me back to nothingness.

It was a relief: so what in the hell kind of friend am I?



It doesn't seem I've changed very much from when I was a child, abandoning my long-distance pen-pal, does it? I would never knock on a RL friend's door after a month's absence, poke my head through, ask her what she's been up to for the past month, and when she's about to reply, I just put up my hand and say, "Hang on, not interested. Let's just continue our friendship from...now." So why do I do it online? And why am I confessing this secret here, where many of you are my friends, and I am fully expecting an irate retaliation (which I may or may not deserve).

What kind of friend are you? Do you do the same? How do you justify your blogging practice? Or have you been more sensible than I and decided not to follow any sort of self-imposed policy?

Or do you suspect, as I do, that I think way too much about all this. Fullstop. Period.



*On about 75% of them, as it turned out. I checked. But it's still a lot!

Crossposted at Blogrhet.

Comments on "Blogging – redefining friendship in the 2.0 age"

 

Blogger Bob said ... (9:58 am) : 

Don't beat yourself up. I'd say you have the right to skip a few posts now and then.

By the way, great looking blog. I love your header. What cuties!

Have a good day.

Click here for my blog

 

Anonymous Meg said ... (10:29 am) : 

Karen

Assuming, just for a second, that my posts were in your feed reader - I wouldn't be in the slightest bit offended. Or take it personally.

We have to declare RSS bankruptcy from time to time or else go insane (and that's what archives are for, if you think you've missed something critical).

PS I missed you :)

 

Blogger jeanie said ... (11:57 am) : 

I love the RSS bankruptcy phrase!

I think it is okay to refresh the feed when you have been away - otherwise you spend waaay too much time on finding out what has passed before knowing what is going on.

I had 3 penpals - all long gone...

 

Blogger Di said ... (10:19 pm) : 

Blogging friendships are like the perfect adult friendships taken to the nth degree. When we are adults, we don't have time for the middle school, high school, college BS. As adults, if someone doesn't call back, we should assume they forgot...not in a martyrish, "I'm so much more respondible than she is" kind of way...but in a "been there, done that" kind of way.

A phone call in which a sentence is interrupted with, "If you don't turn that TV down right now, I'm going to backhand you", is not an annoyance, but part of the patois of adult friendship language.

Except for the occasional, "Are you still alive?" after not blogging for some time, my blog friends are unconditional "love" taken to the extreme. There are no expectations and as soon as there are, these blog friendships lose their allure.

I can read, laugh at and agree with 90% of what a blogger writes...they can write one stupid thing and I'll still be there reading...not ending a friendship because of one stupid thing...as I have experienced in a F2F relationship during this past year.

I once asked a blogger whose blog I read frequently why she chose the format where the first few sentences of the blog show on the page but then you have to click MORE to read the rest. I was curious, really. She responded by e-mail that she really didn't care whether I read her blog or not. Oops...guess she took it the wrong way. I still read her blog and get from it what I like...but she rarely sends kind, witty responses to my comments. So I don't comment as much. Oh well...

In a F2F relationship, the analagous interplay would have pierced me to the core. I would have felt compelled to explain my perspective, etc. Not in the blog world.

BTW, I am still e-pals with a woman in Italy who I "met" when we were pregnant with our now-11 year old sons! We've never met, but I consider her a friend.

 

Anonymous SusieJ said ... (1:43 am) : 

I'm with Meg -- and everyone else here -- if I was on your feed, and you deleted my old posts -- so what. I'm blogging for my own need to write. Yes, I love it when you, and others stop by, but that's not the true reason I'm here.

Now, blog posts are usually updated daily or semi-daily, so their current news. Like a newspaper. We don't save old newspapers and "catch up" We start where we are, and move forward.

So, if I have a post that refers to something in the past, then I link to it.

So no, we shouldn't be sweating over this stuff.
Hope you had a great vacation.

 

Blogger Jean-Luc Picard said ... (3:10 am) : 

With blogging, there can be more regular correspondance than with a penpal. Getting an actual snail mail letter is always pleasing, though.

 

Blogger Jaycee said ... (10:04 am) : 

If you can't read my oh so excellent posts from the last month (assuming you're subscribed to me) then I won't know and therefore I won't care. A day is a long time in the amount of updates posted so you'd have to spend ages to catch up on a month's worth.

I guess blogging friendships, like face-to-face friendships come and go.

I don't think I justify my blogging practice, I just like to do it and if I need to take a break I'll say so to be courteous incase anyone misses me, but I try not to beat myself up about it and neither should you.

I would have loved to see Clive James by the way!

 

Blogger Miscellaneous-Mum said ... (3:45 pm) : 

Bob- thanks for that
Meg - shh.........but yes, I read you :) ;) I think you knew that though?!
Jeanie - yes, its a nice term, eh? good one meg!
Di - wow, now you've got me wondering who's blog it is! That would've cut me down pretty quick. She's lucky you're still reading her, perhaps!! thanks for your thoughtful response.
susiej - yes, that's the kind of response I was hoping for "I write for me, nobody else. so what if you delete me?" I wonder though, at those people who think differently. I was hoping to draw them out - I haven't yet!
JLP - that's right, the double sword of the digital age. Mind, I still adore snail mail too
jaycee- that's the kind of elasticity I shoot for too :)

 

Blogger strauss said ... (3:53 pm) : 

If I am under the pump then I only read my favourite favourite blog people and when things aren't so chaotic I catch up on others. I don't subscribe to any so I don't get messages when people have blogged, I have to go check myself.

 

Blogger D. Paul said ... (3:53 am) : 

I dunno; I operate under the illusion that three people read my blog regularly, and that they usually don't bother commenting, anyway. For me, blogging is a catharsis, a way to clear out the mental detritus that accumulates from time to time. As for reading others' blogs, I'm a regular reader, but an infrequent commenter, as I feel I have very little to say. So, there's a good chance people have no idea I'm even there.

As for deleting messages, hey, you always have the right to disconnect from everything and everyone, and just enjoy the silence. Mature, rational adults will understand. Anyone else probably isn't worth the bother.

But it's always a pleasure to have you back.

 

Blogger Patricia Singleton said ... (1:38 pm) : 

This is my first time to visit your blog. I like what I see. I am planning a 3 week trip soon with no access to a computer. That means no blog articles posted by me while I am gone and no access to read all of the articles that everyone else will be posting while I am gone. I am dreading coming home to a computer overflowing with newsletter. I probably will do what I did before I had a blog and got so many newsletters. I will go through and delete the stuff that I know that I don't want to read. I have 2 very dear friends that I will email that I am leaving and ask them to hold their emails until I get home. They won't and the majority of their emails will be in the immediately deleted list. I read so much online right now that I am getting more and more selective in what I read and what I delete. There are only so many hours in a day. Thanks for this great article and your honesty.

 

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