It’s an odd feeling at first. Your words on a public forum. It’s even odder when you realize that hundreds of people a day are reading the words. It changes your perspective on what you see and what you want to write about. And sometimes, when people react in ways you don’t expect, you realize how different you are from other people. When we publish our opinions online, we are fair game, so if you say anything the least bit controversial, the extent of the reactions can be surprising, at least to some of us.
If you are journalling privately, you can just ramble on stream of consciousness and not worry about accuracy or about insulting anyone. But when you’re a blogger, you find yourself writing much more carefully. It doesn’t mean measuring your words, necessarily. It just means checking the validity of what you are saying.
First of all, you don’t want to publish anything that isn’t true. It’s irresponsible and will come back to bite you via angry tongue-lashing comments and personal guilt. But sometimes you can check a fact until you’re blue in the face and not be able to get it quite right, in which case you write qualifiers like, “I am told that…” Or, “it seems.”
You also want to make it clear that you are joking on posts you intend to be tongue-in-cheek. That way you can hope that people will accept your words for their humor value and not react angrily. It doesn’t always work out this way. In one of my earliest posts, about gossip, I included a fictitious list of scandalous rumors. (Well, all but one was fictitious.) I heard back that these rumors were taken seriously by some people and that they spent appreciable time trying to figure out who the people were who I was talking about. I’ve got to tell you that if I knew someone was having an affair or going to rehab, I would NOT blog about it. What’s the point?
Sometimes it’s hard to avoid being angry and/or sarcastic, and in those cases, we try to express these feelings carefully. We want to avoid ranting, because it’s boring and immature and destroys our credibility. Rather, we want to be clear and direct. That’s what journalistic and editorial writing is all about.
The point is that we bloggers are writing to an expanded audience, not to to ourselves or to our close friends. We have to measure the weight of what we’re saying and make sure we want the whole world to know we said it. You never know where or when you will be quoted. The yenta has had her articles or parts of them reproduced in other blogs and even in published articles. The minute we write down our words, they are public. We are public.
Analyzing my web statistics, I see that the greatest amount of bandwidth is used by RSS feeds and services that disperse data. I imagine many blogs find this to be true. It gives me stage fright.
Expressing opinions is always a risk in any venue, not just on blogs. Some people will like your opinions and some people won’t. Some of us lose friends this way and that’s always painful. It’s probably better to just shut up and keep your opinions to yourself. I am often surprised at the reactions. Sometimes people surprise me by getting angry at what I say. But then again, I make new friends through my blog. Other bloggers and I become each other’s “fans.”
So why do we do it? Why do we care if other people know what we think or see? Is it ego? Is it a desire to right things we think are wrong? Is it because we think it’s possible that we have perspectives on things that other people don’t? Or that we have unique information? Are we closet entertainers who can’t sing or dance? Or are we just obnoxious? It’s probably some combination of all these sterling qualities.
Some bloggers take safe paths and stick to material that is factual and relatively pleasant. But in the wider blogging community, most bloggers are not like this. Check out the news blogs, or even the techie blogs or movie review blogs, where there are vehement, insulting discussions on just about everything. When we put anything on our blogs other than good-natured statements of fact, we can expect a reaction. After a while, you need to ask yourself why you are doing this. I do, anyway. When I have isolated conversations with people, or talk to a small group, only a few people at a time hear what you are saying. But when I blog, many more people read it and they discuss it among themselves.
As bloggers, we can even get into trouble with readers for giving a negative opinion on a restaurant they hold dear.
Many of us bloggers are geeky introverts who tend to avoid large social gatherings and interactions with numbers of people. We have fun sitting in front of our blinking computer screens late at night and dreaming up our odd perspectives. We aren’t used to attention, especially the vehement kind.
Aside from the public opinion aspect of blogging, it’s important to note that running a serious blog is enormously time consuming. An article I wrote recently took me three days to research and write. The blog can take as much time as I give it. Writing the blog has changed my schedules, my activities, and my opinions. I read less. I go to far fewer social events. I blog and write instead.
Blogging makes you take a hard look at yourself. My blog has been called “controversial,” and more recently, “notorious.” Notorious! I kind of liked that. I don’t think this is going to change how I blog. In life, some people will like you and some people won’t. The only way around this is to keep your opinions completely to yourself, which is not the way of the Yenta.