I continuously write blogs in my head. It’s the thing that will keep me awake on a restless night or drive me to distraction when I’ve lost focus on a dull conversation. In those moments I wish I had paper in hand so I could begin jotting my ideas down. Certainly, not all of them would find their way onto a blog – much like this piece will probably find its way to the trash bin when I polish it off, but I’d like to think that there are a couple that would survive and find their way out into the world to be seen by my handful of readers.
I occasionally lament (and joke) about not having readers. I sometimes yearn for the validation of strangers – to have someone I haven’t bullied into approving of me say “wow, that piece really struck a chord with me”, but then there’s also something great about my blog’s anonymity. My blog is a conversation that I have between my family and my friends and the few of you who’ve stumbled upon it. Albeit, it’s a little one sided at times, but still it’s a small way I can connect and share my thoughts or some random story about my misadventures through life. When I see the bigger blogs I follow, the ones who have grown in popularity, I also see the nuts that come with that. Fans who offer up their unsolicited “wisdom” or “critiques” based off of what they’re seeing and reading. There’s a connection they feel with the writer likely based on the writer having shared something personal. In that reader’s mind a bond (albeit artificial) has developed. Maybe in this age of technology the lines of normal social interaction are blurred? Perhaps a solid etiquette hasn’t been established when it comes to personal websites? Still, I think about a story that a manager at a clothing store shared about a personal tragedy when I was out shopping not too long ago and I think that while I greatly sympathized with what had befallen her (her son had been murdered in Queens by strangers and the parents of the boys who were at the trial laughed at her while she and her family were in the courtroom), I would not presume to try to impose my personal beliefs on her. My upbringing said that in that moment my job was to listen and be sympathetic. I was irate when she needed me to be and consolatory when the moment called for it. I judged what she needed based off of what she was saying and the emotions she was displaying. I felt connected, because she shared something so intimate, but I also was aware she wasn’t a good friend or family, she was another soul in this world in a great deal of pain that needed to reach out to another person and share their story. I think we can apply how we’d react to a stranger to how we’d react to a person’s written word on their blog. Maybe it’s the disconnect of the written word that causes some people to feel more comfortable expressing their opinion, but I also suspect it has something to do with the anonymity of the situation. You can say what you want, the author is oftentimes forced to read it, and you don’t have to worry because you’re hidden by an avatar you use to represent yourself, a handle instead of your name as an identity and likely distance – you probably don’t live across the street from the blogger’s whose stories you rad. Plus, I think a little of what you see happen with celebrities is occurring. Here’s this blogger with a huge following and you want to get noticed, because for whatever reason you feel close and you want to be the one among hundred that gets attention even if it’s negative. I know I’m not immune to swooning when one of the bigger names acknowledges a comment I’ve made. I once got a small note from Matt. I lived off of that for days! (See Matt’s video below and join in the dance. It’s a good rant break. And know every time I watch it, I beam.)
I know I love the blogs I follow and I truly believe those writers are great. I, too, occasionally feel really connected to them. Maybe it was a post that rang true with me the day I read it or a laugh over an anecdote they shared, but I have no illusions that we’re ever going to have a real bond. You guys are CRAZY! Well, obviously not you. I meant the other person next to you. I don’t see me showing up in their city and gabbing at their favorite haunt about our personal lives, because I love them the best and am their #1 stalker. I see our “relationship” as one where I’ve been given the gift of getting to peek into their lives. And because I know it’s just a small snapshot, I wouldn’t presume to make a judgment call based off of that. I say that based off of my own writing. I offer snapshots where sometimes a little truth is sacrificed in the name of the story.
What I’m winding around to is that when you’re on someone’s site, you’re a guest there and you should show some manners while visiting especially if it is someone whose writing you’re enjoying. As a snapshot of their lives, you may not be seeing the whole truth that surrounds the story and therefore shouldn’t presume to pass judgment. If a blogger chooses to show me a picture of a bottle of Absinthe, I don’t assume they’re lying around hallucinating on the floor in some drunken stupor (they could be, I don’t know, I don’t have enough information). If it’s a picture of a child in a car, I don’t assume they’re doing more than just being in that car. And I’m certainly not going to suggest an intervention is called or question the person’s parenting.
I guess I’m a little wound up after reading an off comment on a site I enjoy. I know better. I usually make a rule not to read other’s comments, but sometimes I get sucked in and it always seems I’m rewarded by finding the one commenting troll who gets me completely riled up. Then, I end up being completely baffled by how this troll and I can live in the same universe since we clearly see things so very differently. It feels like we’re saying “The sun is yellow!” “No, the sun is blue!” and I’m just left wanting to ask, “what is WRONG with you?”