The OF Blog: Why I Blog

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Why I Blog

In such a statement, the I becomes the focal point of not just the writer, but also any potential readers. But despite any attempts to scry the intents, purposes, motivations, and other elements of this I, ultimately such attempts are as futile as those of the scientists in 2001 trying to grasp the import of the black monolith. But yet that I still lurks there, developing meanings beyond the ken of even itself.

So when I title this article "Why I Blog," I have to be mindful not just of my own self, blind and deaf as I can be, but also to the blindness and deafness of that equally vague and possible nefarious Other reading this. But I shall soldier on and shift away from the philosophical to the more practical realm of discourse.

I created this blog almost five years ago and added four others to the posting list (most of whom haven't posted here since 2007). When I created it, I was a very active member of a fansite forum, wotmania and particularly its Other Fantasy section. I had been a member there since 2000, when I was 26, and by the time that I took this blog out of its part-time status in June 2007, I was almost 33 and things had changed a lot in the interim. Internet forums can at first glance be very interesting places, especially for moderate extroverts such as myself who look constantly for interactions and places to have discourses. However, the more one becomes a member in these entities, especially larger ones containing membership rolls in the tens of thousands or more, the focus shifts too much from things of interest to people of interest. Much as I love people (by my best guesstimations, I have had at least a 5 minute conversation with somewhere between 25,000 and 30,000 people over the course of my lifetime, if not double that in terms of having slightly briefer conversations with still tens of thousands of others), there comes a point when this "personal" part of forum interactions becomes a bit much. When "I am tired of so-and-so going on for the umpteenth time on this issue!" or "So s/he doesn't care for me because I don't always respond immediately to what s/he has to say? WTF?" becomes a large part of my reaction to dealing with people on forums after a period of time, I get rather burned out.

I recently decided almost two months ago that I would participate in forum talks on a strictly "book discussion" level. I took an indefinite hiatus from all Administrator duties at wotmania (in part because I was tired of dealing with people 10-18 years younger than me and in part because the direction of the discussions at the OF section were unappealing to me and I didn't feel that I should stand in the way of the flood of TV/Movie talk, even when such conversations tend to drown out substantive discussions), cut back on posting at other SF/F forums, and just thought I'd blog.

Because over the past 20 months or so that I've been active on this blog, I've discovered that the social dynamics are different. I can still get that quasi-social thing (even though I prefer face-to-face talks) while there is enough of a distance that discussions here (or discussions when I comment on others' blogs) stay more on the Object level than on the Personal one. When there's something contentious that happens, I've noticed that there isn't as much (still some, especially when I read certain, larger blogs with comment levels being in the hundreds compared to the 1-20 that respond here on average) personal animosity coming up. I love disagreements such as this one, where author Hal Duncan took a reaction of mine to the word "rape" being used in a forum discussion and turned it into a very thoughtful 4-part series on word conventions. Everything stays on the object/intellectual level and never devolves into the personal. I love that.

That's not to say that I don't like personal posts of any sort. I occasionally have blogged about things from my personal/professional life, even though I tend to value the boundaries I've set up between my job/personal life and blogging about books. I do enjoy reading about other bloggers' personal stories, even if I choose not to respond to most of them. But there are boundaries, and I don't care for the part of crossing over to where I'm expected to read others' thoughts on certain subjects, just as I wouldn't want to expect others to read my opinions. There is a certain necessary distance in blogging that I think makes for a healthy blogging environment. Good fences making for good neighbors and all that.

However, when I blog, I do it with the hope of a balancing act between stating my opinions to the four winds and sharing in a larger conversation. I refuse to Twitter, just like I don't care to use my MySpace or Facebook accounts for more than reading another's comments when I'm directly linked to those. There can be an insidious tyranny in devoting so much time to social matters. I don't blog to please others, although I certainly don't mind it if something I say sparks a reaction from another and a conversation develops. I don't need others to feel as though they have to keep up with my thoughts, reflections, and personal anecdotes; I certainly don't like anyone thinking that I'm obliged to do so for them. After all, I have upwards of 30 often-needy students a class period to fulfill my obligations to pay close, constant attention to others; I don't need to extend that to the sometimes nebulous online world, since I'd rather have some "me" space on occasion.

So why again do I blog? Because I'm me and I like some interaction with others, whether they be writers, publicists, editors, other reviewers, or just curious passers-by. Blogging seems to be a happy medium between the potentially-oppressive social networking and forum climates and the cold solitude of solitary reading/thinking. So yeah, that's pretty much it. Just something I wanted to address for a few weeks now, even if there have been a few posts, such as this one, that made me decide to just go ahead and blog my thoughts...for my own sake. And please, do read that link, as it has several good points about other facets of online communication than the ones I'm obliquely making here.


Tia Nevitt said...

I never got into forums, but probably for different reasons. I found it difficult to connect to people in the forums because of the sheer number of people on the forum. You might make an impact on someone and get into a conversation, but by the time they see your name again elsewhere in the forum, they might only vaguely recall who you are.

On the other hand, with a blog, when I read an insightful post, I bookmark the blog. I go back to it for later readings. I leave comments. They get curious and wander over to my blog. It's a much closer interaction. I've even found enthusiastic readers for my novel through my blog (my writing blog, not Fantasy Debut), which I never managed to find through forums.

Mihai A. said...

And your blog is one of the beatiful things of Internet (Tia, yours as well :)).
So, although I would like to meet you in person and maybe have a nice conversation, I am very happy I met you online and maybe in the future who knows :)
I am also very happy that I met a lot of very nice people through my blog and I've noticed that indeed the blogs give a more closer connection between people than a forum.
Keep up the great work, Larry!

RobB said...

Cool and thoughtful post. What I learned the most from it? We are the same age.
...and that's the bottom line!

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