One theme that has come up in the blogosphere lately is that Facebook (aka FB) has, as Dr. Virago so pithily put it, “killed the blogosphere star.” Now, I’m no blogosphere star like others who’ve blamed their FBing for their missing bloggings, i.e. Orange Tangerine, or another, who, despite dozens of pleas from dozens of bloggy fans, refuses to join FB. But I do agree that there are times when FB gives me more pleasure than blogging, and vice versa.
Facebook includes those of my RL (real life) friends who actually want to be on Facebook (and certainly many do not), as well as old classmates and boyfriends, a few now former students, a former Big Blue Marble pen pal, some family members-including my mom, and, interestingly, my pastor from church (who tends to use FB as a place to draft his sermons in twitter form-which greatly amuses me). On FB I get a snapshot of how or what those various people are doing each week. Lately, they’ve been taking quizzes so now I know who the REAL New Yorkers are, and which TV mom they are most like. Sometimes, someone will post something of interest, like a clip from the Daily Show that I missed, but usually I’m the poster/sharer of information-that’s when the blogger side of me spills into FB: I tend to be the one who “shares” articles on my Profile on subjects ranging from 40somethings who use Facebook to Taylor Mali’s Utube poetry. When I do that, it’s a sign I need to return to my blog.
Unlike FB, my blog is anonymous: I haven’t shared my blog with any of my FB friends on purpose. For many bloggers, our blogs are our anonymous spaces where we interact with other anonymous faces (though we are often all in similar fields, such as writing or academia, so in the real life-RL-we might actually be friendly to each other). That anonymity is, at least for me, part of the pleasure of blogging vs. FB: I want to see if those who do not know and like me in RL are interested in reading my random thoughts. Yes, there is the risk of being “caught” by those who know me, but I suppose that’s adds a sort of exhibitionist pleasure to the whole endeavor. Wordpress allows me to see how strangers find my blog through search terms, and that gives me some clue about who might be stumbling onto my blog accidentally (the most popular search terms relate to Cutty from House, titles of novels I mention, and, interestingly, “annieem”: I’m sort of curious about that one since it means that someone is specifically googling my pseudonym. Let me tell you right now: I’m NOT the dog or craft lady Annieem).
Not that all bloggers are anonymous (obviously, for some, blogging is another way to get their ideas out there, and perhaps to help sell their books), but for others, it’s a way of testing new ideas, or venting about students and teaching, or just making connections with those who do not have to listen to us. We form a community, of sorts, one where I know that no matter how inane my posting, that sometimes I’ll get a sweet comment or two from those who remind me that I’m not totally writing to a dark hole.
There’s an interesting article in this week’s New Yorker about humans as social animals: “Hell Hole” by Atul Gawande asks, and answers, the question of whether or not forced solitary confinement is torture. Of course it is: he quotes Terry Anderson, who was a hostage, mostly in solitary confinement, for seven years: “I would rather have had the worst companion than no companion at all,” he noted. We humans physically deteriorate when we are deprived of social contact with another human.
We humans also get too caught up in our own heads without contact with others, though perhaps, when we have the choice, we prefer social contact with the best companions rather than the worst. Nicholas Kristoff calls this “The Daily Me” : since the web allows us to self select the news and information and ideas we read, we often choose what best reflects what we already believe. His focus is more on the potential political polarization that could occur nationally as a result of this, but his solution is something I force my composition students to do as a matter of course: “So perhaps the only way forward is for each of us to struggle on our own to work out intellectually with sparring partners whose views we deplore. Think of it as a daily mental workout analogous to a trip to the gym; if you don’t work up a sweat, it doesn’t count.” For one essay, my students must objectively report on various perspectives on an issue, and then for the next essay, they get to choose a position and “spar” with the others. They, naturally, struggle with this, and more often than not change their perspective to something more moderate than what they began with: truly knowing and understanding what the opposition thinks helps us clarify our own thinking.
We anonymous bloggers, however, are probably more interested in the comments from our like-minded community members than in sparring, unlike those bloggers who love a good online fight (see, once again, here or even here-it’s the comment section where the “discussion” happens, of course). But even when there is debate/discussion the blogger usually “wins” the fight, and the interloper is chastised by the rest of the like-minded community (or the comment itself is deleted, though I suspect that happens mostly to spam-right?). Ezra Klein has categorized the sorts of postings that lead to more comments/debate: politics, low culture, and a high level of snark.
Of course on FB there is little sparring since the purpose is not to debate ideas (though there may be a link to a political group you’ve joined, or a link to the latest low culture gossip, it’s just a link, an invitation to spar), but to share pieces of ourselves with others. If there is snarkiness, it’s a shared sense of snark since you are writing to friends after all. And sometimes I just want that affirmation that there are others out there who know what I did today (even if it was just taking a walk on a windy, but sunny, Sunday afternoon), or who share my sense of what is amusing in the world, while other times I want more idea development, feedback or advice-and it doesn’t matter if any readers know who I am based on 25 random things, or what I did today.
Of course, anyone who is still reading this now nearly 1200 word blog posting is probably part of my Daily Us. I’m not interested in sparring (though I do enjoy reading such debates), and I’m not always interested in snarky writing about students and teaching (though I do so love reading such snark), so my bloggings will probably continue to be rambling thoughts like this, or requests for book titles (I’m still waiting for more funny short stories or novels you’ve read)….