Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Literary Masturbation

"Do you write because you have a thing to say?"
"No."
- from Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer

I've been promising a post about blogging for several months and only now am I able to finally piece together the exact ideas I have about the hobby. Surprisingly, in the last few years (it seems to be even more recent than that) the noun "blog," the verb "to blog," and its present participle, "blogging," have become integrated into the American lexicon along with recent inductees such as the noun "Starbucks" (e.g., I'm going to go get a Starbucks), and the verb "to text." In nearly every American household, digital communication is becoming more efficient than a movie star's personal trainer.

The lack of a standard plug-in-the-wall telephone is not uncommon with the ease, availability, and cost effectiveness of cell phone service providers (indeed, I currently live in a house without a standard telephone). And even cell phones, more commonly abbreviated as simply "phones," are seamlessly integrated into the worldwide connectivity of the Internet, becoming vessels for more than merely speaking but also for text messaging (texting), "instant messaging" (are they the same thing?), e-mail (how long until we have a generation that doesn't know what the E stands for?), and browsing the internet.

And upon the Internet is where the blog can be found. Blogs for every damned thing one could think of exist somewhere within this primordial forest of binary columns and sloppy html. There are even blogs dedicated to the world of blogging and websites composed to collect and distribute the addresses of blogs. But what is a blog? That is the source of my discretion.

Unfortunately, a blog is many things, much like the word book isn't a concrete definition for the multitudes of content available in printed form. A blog could be defined as a venue to show updates made to a website, to report the news as it pertains to a website or the world, a diary, a journalistic tool, a creative outlet, and a political soapbox among many, many others.

People reveal their inner torments through their blogs as well as rant incoherently about their personal vendettas against the modern political machine; it frightens me that so much of it is being taken seriously by the general public as well as the professional media. For the former it seems that they forget that what they are writing can be viewed by every person in the world with a computer and internet access, the latter knows this and uses the arena to start a fight. So, with this in mind, the question that should arise for anyone considering starting a blog is, "how will the world see me through my blog?"

This is the most important question even though people easily retort with, "I don't care what people think of me." Even if you don't care, the people that don't like you, as well as those that do, will let you know because their digital voice can be just as loud as yours. The exploitation of this possibility (being either the positive or negative response) can cause people to shut down, suddenly making the internet into the anti-Wonderbra for world culture: even though it lowers the difficulties against worldwide communication, the anonymity allowed separates a person from the standard practices of etiquette and morality involved with normal human interaction. With the protection anonymity provides, people are able to care even less.

But we must care about something. Why? Because people still blog, and they are posting stuff that's coming straight from their guts. What's lost in the process is why we are blogging every little thing that comes into our heads. Are people just (figuratively) ejaculating their inner secrets into public view simply because it makes them feel good? Do we need to know everything about you?

The golden rule of writing taught by elementary and High School instructors seems to stand in favor of the current blogging trend, however: Write about what you know.

Well, yes, but please do so in a way that intrigues and enlightens the reader (Dan's buzzword: DULCE ET UTILE!). What will the reader learn from what you know other than another facet within you? It could be that the value of the written word may be falling as easy access to the form keeps increasing as dramatically as it has in the last few years--are people forgetting that what they are writing down is going to be recorded? What a person posts on their blog, or on their website, or in an e-book they sell on some P.O.D. site, could very well be there for a very, very long time. One might as well make it something worth keeping. So I suggest a revision to that golden rule of writing, if I could word it any better:

Write about what you want to know.

Save the flushed cheeks, box of tissues, and embarassment in the bathroom, bedroom, or wherever you like to get your rocks off--just keep it out of the public because, in the end, would you read it?