I was having a conversation the other night with a seasoned blogger about the nature of blogging and what it meant to him and also to me. It struck me that I’m only peripherally touching, in my own use of this medium, of the potential of blogging even if I am uncertain of how useful I would find some of the more social aspects of blogging.
I remain ambivalent about the linking of blogs, the constant references to other blogs and even the usefulness of comments. Mordwen wrote in her blog about the pulpit like nature of some of the celebrity blogs out there where comments were neither welcome or indeed possible. I commented something along the lines of how it could be understandable because famous people tend to attract kooks.
Anyway, I had a think about my ambivalence, and came up with a few reasons.
The first being that at a basic level, I feel that the more time I spend reading opinions or other blogs, the less well informed I am of the underlying ‘facts’ that those opinions are based on and the less likely I am to come up (even if the odds are close to zero anyway) of forming an original opinion by myself. Also more importantly, I’m less likely to do the thinking myself, to spend the time and effort required to formulate a coherent and backed up argument. So, primary sources are good and reading blogs and op-eds, unless I have already done a fair amount of research and grunt work and have thought and written about it, are bad.
Regarding comments, the seasoned blogger mentioned something about being hungry for comments and that resonated at some level in the sense that I got the attraction of blogging – that being an audience, especially an engaged audience. But he also talked about hatemail and abuse and the effect it had on his ability to write freely and independently without compromise. I’d already been thinking that the value of commentary is a function of how intelligent, informed and coherent the commentor is but I had not fully appreciated the levels of vitriol possible. On balance, given that I can easily seek out superior, well-informed, well-written comments (even if not directed to my own writing) about pretty much anything I’ve ever thought about out there, it seemed that the cons of comments far outweighed its pros.
So all this brings up the very obvious question as to why I am writing this blog if I am so ambivalent about the very features that are unique to blogging? Why am I not writing this in a private journal instead?
It’s because blogging comes closest to a community of the mind that I can think of. It’s not a mailing list which by its structure is more of a conversation. A blog, for me, is more like an ongoing representation of a person’s thoughts, a picture into that person’s view of the world. Social interactions have their own strengths especially in getting to know someones physical and emotional self but a journal opens up a different and I think deeper aspect of that person. Hence, I write this not just because I enjoy writing and thinking and all the associated research activities but because by writing, by having a presence, it is possible, through and past the ignorant, the trivial, the hateful and the downright stupid, to find others who while holding ideas of every variety are nonetheless still of my own kind.