Okay, so this is one of those posts where I have this STUFF inside my brain and I really don't want it in my brain anymore, so I'm just going to blog it out, and hence share it with everyone else.
I keep running across posts about this topic and honestly in some ways it relates back to the email I got a while back, but it's been on my mind off and on for a while for one reason and another... but it was only today that my brain really started to churn the ideas around and turn them into something resembling coherence... or as close to coherence as my brain gets these days.
Normally I would post links to the post or posts that inspired a particular thought pattern, "Such-a-body mentioned this on their blog" or "So-and-so commented about this on Whatshisname's post"... hell, I post vague links to anything connected with stuff I blog about, but I'm going to skip that today.
I'm not really writing this in response to specific things that other people have said, although I'll probably cover various things that have been said by others, since they're all in my brainsoup on the topic, and I'm not attacking or criticising any one person for their opinions. Like the saying goes... everyone has one. I don't have to agree with them though, but I don't want to single anyone out and I don't want it to look like I'm throwing stones at any blogger or group of bloggers.
If you recognise any of my comments about opinions or statements as your own, or whatever, that's fine, just keep it under your hat... and know that for the most part, if I'm reading your stuff I either respect your view or find you amusing or both (or else you just comment on the blog of someone who I do read, then I make no such claims).
Okay, enough with the disclaimer stuff... let's get to the point...
The stuff that is swirling around my brain is all to do with inter-blog relationships and communication and comments...
A blog is a very personal thing, I know this... hello, I'm a blogger... it's one person's thoughts, feelings, opinions, online quiz scores, movie reviews, photos and the million and one other pieces of minutiae that go into making up both a person and a blog.
But at the same time, a blog is a public forum... in both the literal sense of an online forum and the figurative one.
I used to be heavily involved with a particular fan forum a while back (actually, I think I still have more individual posts on there than any other member before or since) and in some ways I think that it got me ready for blogging and the whole blogsphere thing.
There's actually very little difference between a blog and an online forum, at least when you look at it logically... the main difference with a blog is that all the originating content comes from a single individual rather than the wider range of people on a forum. Actually, thinking through that thought, I would probably say that the blogsphere as a whole is actually very close to the way an online forum works... one idea here sparks off a whole other conversation there... someone's comment on your well thought out post on one topic might make you look at it a whole other way... and one person posts a link to a cute little online quiz and suddenly everyone has done it.
And like an online forum, squabbles and misunderstandings within the blogsphere are commonplace...
In both a blog and a forum an opinion or question or statement is posed by the original author, and then opened up to wider world. And I know that some of you will argue that the difference between the two is the intent in the posting... on a forum, the whole idea is posting something for people to comment on or debate or to give their opinion about...
A blog's intent? Well, that differs from person to person, so I guess the only way I can answer that one is to give MY answer... how much of what I blog is for me and how much of it is for you lot... and you know what... I'm actually not sure on the answer to that one...
I've been blogging at least once a day for at least a year now... and it's been part diary/journal/therapy, part random crap and part stuff I want to share with those few who read my blog. Some days it's actually been all three in one post. I won't lie... thoughts about my "audience" does factor into certain things... either in the stuff I do say or the stuff I choose not to say... and lord knows I try to be entertaining and witty and interesting (with greater and lesser degrees of success methinks)... but I honestly couldn't say whether I blog for you or for me.
My only honest answer is "both" I guess.
But I do recognise that there are people who's sole driving force on their blog is to have other people read it, and the more people the better (sometimes losing sight of the fact that their blog becomes very dull and actually not worth reading because they spend all their time trying to drum up more people to read it... a vicious circle really)... and more power to them... and at the other extreme there are people who just blog for them, and if people read it and enjoy it, then that's a happy bonus... and hey, if that works for you, go with it.
I honestly think the rest of us are very much somewhere in the middle.
But if you take your opinion or your photos or your thoughts and you post them online so that people can read them and then allow them the ability to comment on what they've read or seen, as far as I'm concerned you're either directly asking for or indirectly inviting people to give you their opinions in return. Whether you think you are or not, you asked for it. Whether you like it or loathe it, you asked for it. Whether those comments are good or bad, you asked for it.
*waits for the grumbling and the shouts of disagreement to subside*
What? You disagree?
But that proves my point, doesn't it? I've posted this online and let you read it and form an opinion and comment on it, so you can agree or disagree with me as much as you like.
It's easy enough, at least in Blogger (and I would assume most other blogging programs) to turn off the commenting function so that people can only read what's there and can't comment on it. But oddly enough, of all the blogs I've read since I started doing this, there's only been one who actually had comments turned off totally (at least that I read for any length of time). And yes, it was annoying on those rare instances when that blogger said something that I either had a helpful suggestion to add, or violently disagreed with a particular post, or just wanted to say "you're funny" or whatever. But I learned to survive.
Granted, I no longer read that particular blog, but not for that reason.
I might be biased here... or else lucky... or just vaguely clueless (or, more likely, some wonderful mixture of all three)... I've never had a comment that I considered to be so bad or offensive that I took offense to it, or that was, or even that I felt could have been, an attack on me personally or my blog or my writing in general.
Okay, there was one that springs to mind, but that was his whole purpose, and it amused me more than anything else...
Or maybe I just don't have enough people commenting on my stuff... or my stuff isn't interesting enough for people to get really fired up and over-opinionated about (and, no, for the record, I'm not fishing for compliments).
I have had a blogging related email that was something of an attack (the one I mentioned back at the beginning of this post), and that did hurt quite a lot, but there haven't been any comments in that vein. There have been the odd one or two comments that were either so far off topic, or spam, or were insulting not to me but to a couple of the guys in my Random Hotness shots that I've deleted. But me, I've been pretty much untouched.
And as I type that I'm shaking my head and screwing up my eyes and thinking to myself "well that's like going out in a thunderstorm with a tinfoil hat and jumping up and down and saying that you've never been struck by lightning..."
I also know that on occasion I post things on other people's blogs that I either say in good faith, or because I disagree with what they've said, or I've been trying to be amusing and the whole thing just falls flat and doesn't come out the way I've intended it and I end up looking and feeling like a shmuck. And sometimes I don't even realise it until later, when other people comment on what I've said, and I go back and read it and suddenly go "ah crap, why did I say anything at all"...
I've been doing that a lot lately actually... second guessing what I've been posting on people's blogs... and on occasion not posting anything at all because I don't know how people are going to take it. Or else posting something and then worrying about it for the next two hours in case it gets taken the wrong way. It's even worse when it's not a Blogger blog... at least then I can delete what I wrote... with other blogging systems you're just stuck with it and it just sits there like a big steaming pile of ripe inappropriateness, stinking up the joint.
I'm sure that there's something in one of my IPIP-NEO Personality test results that covers that... guess which one I think it might be...
I don't comment on all the blogs I read... if I did I don't know that I would ever get up out of this chair, and I already spend too much time here as it is... sometimes I don't comment because I have nothing worth saying, or the particular post doesn't seem to need a comment (actually there are whole blogs like that, that seem so self-aware and so self-contained that I don't feel like there's any point in commenting because I wouldn't have anything to add other than perhaps "yeah, me too" or whatever), or after reading other people's comments I discover that the funny and original thought that I'd had has already been posted in various permutations by four other people.
But I can tell you this, if I do comment on your blog it's for one of a couple of reasons... either I have something specific to say about some part of your post, however random it may seem, whether I agree or disagree or just have some similar story to share... or else I have some funny comment to make that I think will make you smile.
Hand on my heart, I have never blogged a comment on a single person's blog ever where my INTENTION was to insult, harass or belittle the blogger in question. Honest.
Since I've covered just about everything else in this post, if I ever made you feel bad through a comment I made on your blog, I apologise 110%, it was never my intention.
That doesn't mean I'm always going to agree with you when I comment on your blog... if fact I'm probably more likely to comment on a post if I totally disagree with it than I am if I agree with what you've written.
The way I look at it, what's the point of having a whole page of people going "oh yeah, you're so clever, you're so right, you're so funny"... okay, so the point is pretty damn obvious, it makes you feel good... but I'd much rather have somebody say "you make a good argument, but I think you're wrong because of this" or "my take on this is the total opposite to yours, and here's why" or "I see what you're saying, but have you thought about this?"...
I'd much rather have an opinionated discussion in real life too than have everyone agree with me... okay, that's a big fat lie... I would like everyone to agree with me, but we all know that's never going to happen (and thank all the appropriate gods, because what a screwed up world that would be), but I like having the discussion too. All I do ask is that you let me have my complete say, and I'll let you have yours and we can agree or disagree, I don't really care (unless your point of view is just misinformed, or illogical, or just plain stupid and wrong, then I'll argue with you forever or until you change your mind).
I do have the overwhelming ability to be able to stick my foot in my mouth at a moment's notice though, both with blog comments and just with words coming out of my mouth in real life... what can I say, it's a gift... I sometimes forget to engage my brain before I engage my mouth (or, in this case, fingers) and so stuff that comes out either isn't always worded the best possible way, or else is just the stuff that I should think rather than share.
On the plus side though, when I do engage my brain first, I sometimes surprise myself with my eloquence...
Don't get me wrong, I'm not apologising for having an opinion or for expressing it, just for not always expressing it in the best possible way.
While I'm mostly talking about me here, I'm not excusing those people who do harasss other people in blog comments, usually as an anonymous poster too, which always seems chickenshit to me, if you're going to say something, whether it's nice or controversial, at least have the cojones to own it.
I think that about covers it... I wish I had some grand point or conclusion to draw here, you know, something to sum up my position and make this less a vague and random rambling and more a well thought out essay... but alas, it's just me, rambling again.