Monday, September 11, 2006

The Dynamics of Blogging

Why do people write? What lingers in my memory is the sagely answer Mr. Krip Yuson tells us back when I was still a student: because people love telling stories. Telling stories encompasses a lot of areas, from something as mundane and light-hearted as passing on street gossip, to something as close to the heart such as a personal experience, or something obviously invented and fantastical such as an epic myth. But if that were the case, then why isn't everyone inclined to write, or aim to be a writer? Perhaps while people do indeed love telling stories, they express it in different ways. One might prefer the directness of an actual conversation, hearing all the inflections and seeing the facial expression of the person he or she is talking to. Another might be more inclined to theatrics, and perform their stories on stage, or on camera. Then there are also those who use other, sometimes abstract mediums to tell their tale: on music sheets, on canvas, on film. And then a friend the other day asks me a related question. Why do people blog?

Blogging, of course, evolved (and is still evolving!) into a creature of its own. It's not simply converting a hand-written journal to electronic ones and zeroes. It's not just a diary, although it could be. Some might even associate the same pleasures in writing email to friends with blogging. Certainly, blogging incorporates elements of those, it's not quite as simple as saying it's a hybrid containing all of those features.

I have a friend who doesn't see the point in blogging. If she wanted to tell a friend her stories, she'd dial her phone number, call her up, and tell it in her own voice. Much like writing, blogging isn't for everyone. It's merely one venue to express ourselves.

Another friend compared blogging to writing email. She uses the latter to keep in touch with friends, although the tricky thing with email is that it's usually more personal (unless it's a general email to a mailing list or something). You write to someone about your day, your experiences, your emotions, your opinions. However, if you're writing to several people, even if it's really the same account, there's pressure to alter what you've written, because you feel it should be personl and unique and different, not simply the product of a copy-paste effort. And as a recipient of such email, there's similar assumptions that one should respond in kind, usually at the same length as the original sender. Blogging, on the other hand, deals with that problem. It's not about writing to one person specifically, but blogging is about writing to several people specifically. It's personal, yet not too intimate. What one person is reading is the same as the other person is reading. I joke that it's your own personal press release, for good or for ill. And as for replying, you're not as committed as you would be in email. A person, even a stranger, can reply with something as simple as an "OK". It doesn't have to be this long narrative of what they're similarly experienced, or a long counter-argument to your ideas.

Of course we must also remember that blogging is merely a tool. It is not a factual truth, but merely a venue for people to express their own truths. There will be tales about war, for example. There will be bloggers who tell it from a different point of view, either as the oppressor or as a victim. Some would even choose to be merely spectators. I know someone who keeps a blog and it is there he tells the story of his love life. With the exception of a few vital details, it is similar to the stories my other friends tell. However, even that alteration of facts, no matter how small it may appear, changes the entire story, turning him from villain to hero. Obviously his friends who are also bloggers sympathize with him. Those who know the other story have their own opinions. I suppose that's what makes blogging very human as well. It's an extension of ourselves, of the casual stories we tell to our friends, sometimes when we think no one is looking. Sometimes, there's little concern or responsibility to what we write.

Personally though, I blog for more vain reasons. I blog because I have an immediate audience. It's a form of instant gratification. At the press of a button, you're published just like that, giving millions of people access to your writing, to your views, to your opinions. There's no need to wait for an editor to approve your work, or to look for a distributor who'll efficiently spread your document.

Blogging also means being connected. Unlike journal writing where your only audience is yourself, blogging links you to an entire community. I've mentioned before that while blogging is personal, it usually isn't as intimate as other forms of communication, whether it's email, a phone conversation, or an impromptu dialogue with a friend. Yet despite that fact, there will be intimate moments when you blog. It could be as simple as someone making a comment to your post. Or someone responding to an idea in their own blogs, quoting (and misquoting) you. Or simply knowing that people have read what you've written, and they'll form their own opinions about it.

Personally, I find myself challenging my preconceptions about blogging. At times, I blur the lines of what is meant to be kept private and what is meant to be public. And a lot of other bloggers sometimes cross this line, or intentionally blur it. It simply goes to show how amorphous and adaptative blogging really is. So far, it's not a confined entity but an evolving idea. Which is also why there's no definitive answer as to why people blog. One might use the same reason for writing fiction: because we love to tell stories. Others might reply with less ambitious reasons. But more often than not, it's usually something personal. Rather than ask why do bloggers blog, the real question should be who do bloggers blog for? First and foremost, we blog for ourselves.

No comments: