Yesterday the folks at DailyPost asked us to go into our drafts folder and finish an old post. One small problem: I only have one unpublished draft. And it’s unpublished not because it’s unfinished; it’s unpublished because it’s incredibly personal and I don’t need to roll it out.
So this morning, the why of blogging is on my mind. Rather than publish a post that was more about the writing than about the need-to-be-read, I’ll address this question as best I can.(1)
The answer is embarrassingly simple: It works. For me, it just works.
But like all simple answers, it’s deceptively complicated. Be prepared: this’ll get a bit rough.
All my life I tried to keep journals. I would succeed for somewhere between one-point-five and one-point-eight days. Then I’d forget all about it. I always had lots of notebooks lying around that were roughly two- to three-pages full. This trend – the unsuccessful journaling and the myriad notebooks(2) – has lasted to present day.
A large part of the journal-problem, honestly, is that my parents bought a computer when I was in 8th grade.(3) It didn’t take me long to begin composing digitally and I found it amazingly gratifying. I’m incredibly jealous of people who compose with pen-and-paper. It seems so organic and honest, but I just can’t do it. I revise heavily whilst I write, so my pen-and-paper compositions end up illegible for all the scratches, rewrites and marginalia. Writing on the computer lets me revise heavily and keep my copy clean.
I think that right there is what drew me to blogging. It’s a journal composed on the computer.
But of course with blogging there’s that other element: Audience. This is where things get hairy.
Sure yes I could have just kept a journal in Word, but I never did. I never kept a digital journal until there was a chance that someone else was reading. That says all kinds of things about me, some good and some I’d probably rather not countenance, but it’s the honest-to-god truth. So let’s see if I can work some of it out.
At least part of this Audience-need is, I think, due to being part of a generation raised not just with television, but raised by a generation raised with television. A large part of my childhood was filmed on 8mm by my father. Or, if not a large part in actual percentage, then a large part of the most significant events of my childhood. To put it another way: if something noteworthy were happening – a birthday, a vacation – there was a camera, an Audience, of which I was distinctly aware. Twist that around a bit and you get this: If I were aware of a camera, an Audience, something noteworthy was happening. So as a kid I had a keen interest in parts of my life being watched.The concept of being watched is HUGE in our culture, much more today because of the phenomenon of reality tv than it was even in the 80s when I grew up. Even more tellingly, watch any significant event in today’s world and you’ll see loads of people not watching the event itself but straining the event through a cell-phone- or other video-camera. The camera – the lens – has become the ultimate mediator of today’s events, culture, facts and opinions.(4)
The single most telling thing I can offer up both a) in defense of this idea and b) re: yours truly is that when I dream I don’t see the dream’s events from my own personal dream-self’s point-of-view but rather from the POV of a camera watching the dream’s events unfold.(5) Which if you think about it means that I myself am a character in my own dreams, making me – the dreaming-self – both Self and Other in that dreaming requires a passive Agent(6) and an Object which must be Other. But my dreaming-self’s Object is Self, now cast as Other, while Self – dreaming-self – is also cast as Other, viz, camera. Since both Others are both Objects the question of Subject and Self remains. The Subject, then is the dream itself, rendered seemingly significant by presence of camera-Object upon a shifting Self-Agent-Object and Other-Agent-Object.
And right there – Self-Agent-Object – is why I think blogging works for me, why blogging became a popular platform in our culture at large, why media such as Facebook and Twitter have become the juggernauts no one expected them to be, and why pretty much every web- and mobile-application these days must include some type of ‘social’ capability.
Example: I used to close a book and tell people about it through conversation. Now I can finish a book on my Kindle and post to both Facebook and Twitter that I’ve finished that book. My friends on these sites can offer (limited) commentary or simply press that culturally reductive ‘like’ button. What happens here is that I render the book as Object through ‘social’ media, but it also becomes Self in that every Facebook page is essentially a Self-ing of Other (or an Other-ing of Self – I can’t decide).(7) The comments of Others become part of a Self – but the Other is limited, allowing Others to quickly return to being Selfs.
In other words, ‘social’ media – of which blogging is a part(8) – allows every single person to be Other while never not being Self. In a disturbing reflection of my dream-self, I can and do become both Subject and Object in my blog. I write inextricably aware of Audience, rendering writer-self as Self and blog-self as Other.
Let’s say I believe that I am only what I think and what I say, that I am the words I use. If I think and say Self as Subject and Self as Object then I constantly verify that I am. And if camera-as-Object makes events significant – as borne by childhood association and the contemporary need for camera-mediator – then any and all events can be significant when Self-Agent gazes upon Self-Object.
If I am Self-Agent-Object then every single aspect of my life becomes not only significant to me but to Other-Agent-Objects, who’s investment in my Self-Agent-Object-ness serves to verify and validate their own Self-Agent-Object-ness which itself needs Other-Agent-Objects.
The camera’s lens is the focal point of a one-way interaction between Self and Other. My point here – I think I’ve gotten to it already but just in case – is that today’s ‘social’ media is a metaphorical camera, a camera for the times when the world is camera-less. If cameras render life significant, then by extension so does ‘social’ media.
Which is all a really long and disturbingly theoretical way of saying that I blog because it makes everything about my life potentially significant. And the worst thing I can possibly imagine is an insignificant life. People who commit suicide do so in part because they fear their lives are insignificant or because the significance of their lives has ceased to be positive.(9) By blogging, any simple thing – even the act of blogging, obviously – can become as important as I need it to be, if I need it to be. If I need to be Other for a while, I have the agency to step into that role while still retaining my Self-ness.
Hence the one unpublished draft, written because something seemingly small was actually hugely significant but went overlooked by everyone present save yours truly. The need to make it significant was ineluctable, and the only way I know how to do that is to allow the awareness of Audience into my mind. But the need for awareness of Audience is distinct from the need for Audience. So I wrote probably my most important – significant – post thinking I’d publish it but instead I choose not to make it Other. I choose to keep the Self in that post as part of my Self-Object-Agent-ness.
That, in 1700 words +/-(10), is why I blog.
- Bear in mind that this is for me – de mio – and may not work and/or apply to your own process. I’m being descriptive here, not prescriptive.
- Despite knowing this, whenever I start a new project I have to rush out and get a whole new – clean – notebook. Ashley has been instructed to never let me buy a notebook unless I can answer the question of do you have partially filled notebooks at home in the negatory.
- An Apple IIc. The first and only Mac I’ve ever owned, sadly.
- I want to be clear that I don’t think of the camera as an actual being, with sentience and agenda and whatnot. When I say it’s today’s mediator I mean that we allow the camera to render ourselves as passive spectators rather than active participants.
- I’ve had exactly one dream that I can recall happening from my dream-self’s POV, and in that dream the POV shifted from the “camera” to my dream-self and was the single most terrifying nightmare I’ve ever experienced.
- We can of course question the passiveness of a dreamer. A century or so of research strongly indicates that the dreamer is neither precisely passive nor precisely active, which brings a whole other level to the Agent/Object question w/r/t dreaming that for now I won’t get into if for no other reason than because I’m running out of coffee.
- Consider how Facebook reduces each of us to a collection of: what we like – most of it coming right at us from pop- or image-culture; what we do; what we say; and what Others say.
- Though it wasn’t initially, perhaps only because the term itself didn’t signify what it does now. Blogging became social media after social media became social media.
- To them. The people who commit suicide.
- Which, Wittgensteinially, is 1700 +/- aspect-proofs that I am.