Monday, June 18, 2007

Contested

There seems to be such a dichotomy going in the blogosphere lately. On one hand, you have the women who are posting about how blogging has empowered them, and on the other hand, you have the people who are considering whether or not to stop blogging altogether. I'm on an emotional rollercoaster these days as it is, but after reading posts on either end of the spectrum, I feel rather like the child sitting in the middle of the Chalk Circle, wondering if his two mothers are going to pull him apart at the seams.

When I read about the empowerment that blogging bestows, I am uplifted and certain that I am spending my time in a worthwhile pursuit. But everytime I read about a blogger who is quitting, or taking a vacation, my heart sinks just a little lower in my breast and my stomach turns to lead. While I don't look to other bloggers to tell me whether or not to continue, they are most certainly the reason that I do.

What makes me the saddest of all is that when someone decides to stop blogging, it's almost never seems to be because the reason that they started their blog is gone. People all have their own reasons for starting a blog, but when it comes to the momosphere, it does seem to almost always boil down to three basic reasons: they want to keep a record of their children's lives (virtual scrapbooking of a sort); they want to connect with other people for advice, support and mental stimulation; or they are working through issues of their own, and need the blog as a creative outlet. Sometimes all those reasons, and more, are present. But when they stop blogging, those reasons are all still there, but perhaps their private space has been violated, or they find that the virtual world takes too much time away from the real world.

It's sort of like watching a particularly painful divorce proceeding, where you know that the parties involved still love each other, but outside circumstances are forcing them to go ahead with the divorce anyway. And the readers are the children watching it happen, knowing that the place they went to for support, love, laughs will no longer be there. I've never been a proponent of the idea that parents should stay together "for the kids' sake", when they are miserable with each other. But it makes me sad all the same. For no reason other than that I will miss their voice.

I think that maybe - and maybe I'm being naive here, so bear with me - that we're all just suffering from the Snowball Effect. You start off blogging because you have something to say. It's fun, it's easy, it's accessible. It's an outlet. Then you start getting some comments, and you realize that people want to hear what you have to say. You write more often. And, of course, you have to visit the people who commented on your blog. And because everyone I've met so far is so interesting / witty / insightful / funny / down-to-earth / real that you have to read more, and write more. And you want to write more, and better yourself. And because this is such a wonderful caring community, there's all these amazing extras, outlets and outreaches like the Just Posts, raising money for good causes, awards. You become inextricably enmeshed. Who wouldn't want to be a part of such a community? You'd have to be crazy not to want to. But it can get to be too much sometimes, can't it? Like you're living more of your life online than in the flesh? This may not be everyone's experience, but I bet I'm not too far off target here. I'm a Type A personality myself, and I know firsthand how easy it is to get caught up in the need to do more, better.

So here's what I'm thinking - maybe we should just take the pressure off and realize that this blogging thing doesn't have to be so much of a ... big deal. I mean, does it? You don't have to post every day to make me want to read your blog. Each post doesn't have to better than the last. If I read your blog, it's because I've found in you a kindred spirit, not because I like an individual post. You don't need to get an award for me to think you're a good writer - frankly, I wouldn't be reading if I didn't already think you were. And I won't stop reading if you never comment on my blog either (eventhough I am a comment-whore). Just do what you do, and know that we'll be back because we like you. Just the way you are.

15 comments:

painted maypole said...

very nice. It's interesting, as a new blogger, and one who was just peeking into the world for a while but was finally drawn into the whole community of it, to see this debate going on. Thanks for your take on it, and I agree. You don't have to write everyday. You don't have to comment all the time (but again, I love the comments, I didn't realize how much I would thrill to each new comment!) I think we all need to find the right balance. And that is not easy to do, when we have so many other obligations and wants. It will be every changing, and we have to let each other do that.

bubandpie said...

I was thinking the other day about how there are only a handful of people (three to be exact) who have been so faithful in commenting on every single post of mine that I would notice if they skipped one.

And then I realized - all three of them are basically on hiatus now, for exactly the reasons you've outlined: time pressure, guilt, need to reclaim control.

Maybe we need to get tough with our commenters: if anyone comments on three posts in a row, we can say, "You're on notice! No commenting here until at least two more posts have gone by!"

kittenpie said...

It's true. I have had a few weeks where I only post once or twice, not my usual three times, and definitely long periods where I start to think I will never write a decent post again, but then I remember that I like the blogging, and slacking off a bit so I can still enjoy it when I feel recharged is okay.

Kyla said...

I think you may have just hit the nail on the head...and I work very hard to keep the snowball under control. I try and keep Bloglines at a manageable level...then I have a few extra blogs I check in on when I have the time. I try to comment, but I know that I always can't. But it is so easy to get swept away in it all. This community is just so amazing, you want to be as involved as possible.

kgirl said...

You have described the evolution of (at least my) blogging perfectly. And, I was forced to take a break even though all of the reasons I began still existed. But you know what? I'm a better blogger, and mother, and friend, for having done so.

I'm no longer caught up in sitemeter, comments, subscribers or pressure to make every post a 'perfect post.' And I can go a whole weekend without even turning on the computer. Now THAT deserves an award!

Bon said...

this makes great sense, and is something i've been noticing with sadness over the past few weeks too. i feel awful when people step away from a pressure i've contributed to...loss, and empathy, and guilt all get wrapped up in one, because the truth is i never really want them to stop.

i think you punctured your own dichotomy very well...what is empowering can also be too time-consuming, too all-consuming, too much self-imposed pressure...and sometimes just a disappointment, suddenly, when one of the valleys comes along.

i think the balance is terribly hard to maintain, over time, and the need to pull away makes sense. all i hope is that people come back.

Susanne said...

I love your post on this. And the reason I am commenting to the last five posts of yours at once is that I, too, am spread a little too thin and so I read only the bloggers on whose blogs I never comment. And so reading and commenting seem like a burden. And that takes all the fun out of it. (And today I have tackled reading some of the blogs that are important enough to me that I want to write something too.)

And so I try to remember that I'm blogging for myself, and that it has to be okay when I don't have the time to keep up with bloggy friends.

And I'm just getting a little angry at all those a-list-market-your-blog-and-make-money-bloggers that tell me, "You have to post at least every day. You have to make every post the best you can."

No, I don't. I can do exactly what I want. It isn't a job and it is mine. And I'm rather prone to un-subscribe from blogs that have more than one post a day.

(Sorry, this is so long, there's a post of mine in it.)

Christine said...

This post made me sigh deeply. It is all so true--the snowball, the community, the real life vs on-line life.

"Just do what you do, and know that we'll be back because we like you. Just the way you are." this was such a freeing thing for me to read.

I am a total comment whore, too.

I want to give kgilr an award for computer free weekends--i wish I could do that!

Mimi said...

Nomo! What a fantastic post! I've been thinking about this a lot too -- and the narrative you've outlined really really speaks to me. Lordy, here I am sitting in the back row of a masterclass on computational linguistics three time zones away from home, catching up on blogs -- because I miss you all, but also because of the Snowball.

Here's to moderation.

Mary G said...

What you say is immediately and entirely true. I wish I had written it. I just about wept when I read Mad's post. I'm still trying to find a balance.
And right now, Yike!, I'm about to be late for a meeting.
(sound of feet running for the door)

Beck said...

Hey, I'm funny!
I loved this post - it was perfect. I can't find the balance, personally, between my blog-fun and my real life, but I'm very lucky to be home and able to find little otherwise-dead moments in the day to spend on the computer. So it's not a big sacrifice for me to blog - it's not coming at the expense of more important things.

Alpha DogMa said...

Amen, sistah.

NotSoSage said...

NoMo, well put. Exactly. In fact, I want to put a banner up saying, "I'll visit when I can; you do the same. No pressure."

You rock.

Bloor West Mama said...

I totally agree with you. There is not much more I can add because your post says it all. Thanks for writing about something that many of us have thought of at one time or another.

metro mama said...

You're so right. I need to relax a little (which I'm working on) and I'll enjoy blogging much more!