this weird thing that we do here

are you ready for another meirav-rambling-kind-of-post? get a cup of tea or a whiskey or whatever it is that you get comfortable with, we may be a while.

I’ve been thinking on and off recently about this stuff we do here – or at least, some of us do – blogging on a social networking site. It’s an interesting kind of combination and leads to some challenging situations.

You see, being a blogger means that you speak your mind, you share your thoughts openly. It’s a bit like a virtual soapbox. Which is a lot easier to do when you’re speaking to an unknown crowd.

Once you build relationships with people, you’ve got something to lose. Once someone has become a person you regard as a friend, you take a risk every time you write something that they might not like.

Most of the time it works ok, because most of the time people can cope with disagreement. If we couldn’t cope with disagreement at all, we’d either have no friends (because nobody can agree with you 100% of the time) or we’d shut up and not express our opinions. We might adopt the English custom of not bringing up anything remotely controversial at the dinner table (not a bad idea considering how some discussions might affect one’s digestion) but take it to extreme and say we never ever express an opinion on anything that people might have strong feelings about. I seem to remember someone on my page once making a comment to the effect that he believed it was never a good idea to discuss religion, and I kind of assume that’s why he removed me from his contact list – I have this habit of talking about my faith, as some of you may have noticed…

The thing with friendships though, out there in the non-virtual world, is that your friends don’t normally get to hear each and every one of your rants – there’s a kind of selection that happens, first of all because of time limitations which mean you can’t actually talk about each and every thing when you meet for a coffee or have a chat on the phone, you always have to stop at some point; and also because of this thing called tact… say you have a friend who is a staunch Republican and you’re a staunch Democrat, you’ll probably discover this at some point or other along the way, you’ll probably have a conversation or two about why each of you holds the political view that you hold, but you probably won’t keep bringing it up again and again every time you meet – you’ll talk more about the things you have in common, less about your bone of contention.

But here, on our blogs, it’s different, because we blog wholesale, to the world and his wife, or to all our contacts – we are standing on our virtual soapbox and ranting and raving about whatever it is that has stirred us to rant and rave, we’re not (usually) aiming our rant at anyone in particular, but each of our contacts (and those in our network if we didn’t limit the post to contacts only) is going to get this rant in their inbox.

So your Republican friend is going to get your anti-Republican rants each and every time. Your friend who worships the Great Spaghetti Monster will get all your anti-Spaghetti Monster rants each and every time. etc etc.

Which makes it a bit more of an effort, I guess, to keep these friendships going despite the disagreements – because the bones of contention come up a lot more often than they would in a normal friendship. I think it’s still doable, it just means that you keep having to say to yourself: yes, I know my friend Jane has this thing about the Great Spaghetti Monster but I still value her friendship despite this loopiness, she is fun and caring and was there for me when such-and-such happened and let’s face it, I knew about the GSM thing from the start and this is just the way it is. and you don’t have to read all her posts – when you see it’s going to be one of those posts that bug you, there’s this handy X in the inbox and poof, away it goes.

Because the thing is, we’ve got to allow our friends the space to rant and rave about whatever it is that gets their goat, just as we want that space for ourselves. I wouldn’t want any of my friends to censor themselves just because they don’t want to hurt my feelings.

Of course people might censor themselves not just because of a reluctance to offend a friend, but because of a fear of how that friend might react. If you have a friend who always reacts aggressively to anything that touches on a particular subject, you might find yourself thinking twice about mentioning that issue – because getting aggressive responses is tiring. It takes energy to brace yourself, to say: no, I’m not going to let this person shut me up and yes, I will still blog about whatever-it-is. I know I have not always found the strength for that.

It’s different on my Israeli blog on Tapuz, because Tapuz is not a social networking site and I’m not there to build friendships. (Yes, there are people who read it who know me, but they already know about my faith, which is the one contentious issue I blog about there.) It’s more of a pure soapbox thing than here.

Of course the only way to really have a pure soapbox kind of blog, without involving any of these relationship issues, is if you blog somewhere completely anonymously and don’t build friendships there. I did at some point set up an anonymous blog on WordPress because of that – because there was stuff I needed to express which I couldn’t share with people who know me. (Yes, I know, there are these things called notebooks which you can buy in stationery shops and yes, I do have some pens. But there’s something about sharing stuff with the rest of the world.) but it’s really difficult to keep the anonymity, I felt such a strong desire to show my blog to friends and show off the nice layout and… I wonder how spies manage, who have to hide their true identity all the time? it must be very isolating.

but I digress. so perhaps this ramble has reached its natural ending? it’s either that or just plain sleepiness.

no, I’ll add one thing: people-pleasing – that’s something I used to suffer from pretty badly, and I don’t think you can be a very good blogger if you have the need to please people. if you keep needing the pat on the head, the well done, the nods in agreement, then don’t blog – not before you go for therapy and sort out your people-pleasing tendencies… (and no, I am not aiming this at anyone in particular!) don’t start blogging until you’re ready to get the (thankfully only virtual) rotten tomatoes thrown at you. not that I’ve had many of those – but I have on the odd occasion, and am alive to tell the tale. The stickers only stick if you let them, as my favourite wemmick was told (You Are Special by Max Lucado) – people around you will try and label you as good or bad, clever or stupid, right or wrong, etc… but don’t let them, don’t accept their insults and don’t rely too much on their praise either. (If you rely on their praise for your self-esteem, then you will be very reluctant to risk their insults.)

ok, I’ll get off my soapbox now.

18 thoughts on “this weird thing that we do here

  1. Excellent blog. Yes, it does take a thick skin to blog effectively and I can say blogging has helped thicken my emotional hide. I've been thinking about starting another page (a couple actually, but one that fits this topic) where I let out my rants and raves without darkening my present Multiply page which I want to be more welcoming and more about faith and trust in God. There are some things I want to get off my chest, I think I can handle the inevitable controversy that may arise, but I want my main page to be more of a peaceful place. The upshot is we are all adults and we should be able to talk about any topic together, even if we disagree, without slinging arrows. I have lost a contact, another contact recently mentioned she has lost a contact, you say you have. I guess some folks just never learn to grow up. There is a quote by Alan Titchmarsh: Some of us remain baffled by life and far too sensitive for our own good.

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  2. I see what you mean about a separate blog where you can post stuff that just doesn't fit what you're trying to do with your blog here, I think that makes a lot of sense.As for the thick skin – to be honest, I don't think I have one and I'm not sure I'd like to. I still feel the arrows when they pierce my skin. It's just a question of learning to go away and nurse the wounds in private (or with a trusted friend or two). And to keep coming back and taking the risks, again and again.

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  3. You referred to English people not speaking about religion at the table. Well, actually, I'm sick of English bashing but I know you don't mean it that way. However, it is not just an English thing. The military in UK are not allowed to speak at meal times on religion or politics. It can lead to boring conversations. I'm glad that I'm NOT religious. Just a Christian. You just have to tell folk. It's their souls you are trying to save also a command in the Bible "Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to EVERY creature." If I had a cure for cancer and didn't tell someone with cancer they wouldn't think of me as much of a friend, would they?Bye for now.

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  4. I had to thicken up some. I was so sensitive that every time someone lambasted me I wanted to shut down my page (this was about 10 years ago when I started blogging on Yahoo 360). But in hindsight, maybe it isn't so much a thickening of the hide as it is an improved confidence in my own opinion.

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  5. you really think deeply about these things Meiav – I understand what you're getting at

    thanks, because it touches on things I have been discouraged about [and why I've been weary of blogging for a while], but been struggling to express

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  6. you see, I do not want to lose my sensitivity, or ability to 'hear' and consider other viewpoints…I think that, somehow, we need to retain being sensitive and vulnerable [or we can become numb to good as well as bad – been there, done that [in self-protectionism] – do not want to return to it :( For me, it's not the confidence in me or my opinion, which I am having to hold in balance though, as I know all too well how fallible, as a human being [as others are], I am..so for me it's needing a growing ability to lean on God when it gets too much, and confidence in [faith in] Him…but I am human, also, and stuff hurts, false accusations, misunderstandings hurt and frustrate.

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  7. yes, and as you say, to learn to lean on God more. it's not about not feeling anything when someone says hurtful things – it's about turning to God for a hug and allowing him to heal us.

    or, for those who don't know God – whatever way you deal with hurts, if you have a good friend you can pour your heart out to, or a diary, or if a walk round the block is what helps you, whatever it is that helps you deal with the hurt and get your peace of mind back.

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  8. forgive me, Joan, but I don't understand why my comment could be seen as "English-bashing" as I was simply referring to a custom which is part of English culture, the only judgement I made about it was that it might actually be a good idea for meal times!

    as to the duty of Christians to spread the Gospel – surely you have worked out by now that I am committed to that? but I don't want to get too sidelined into that issue here, this post is not specifically about blogging as a Christian, it's about blogging in general, whatever subject it is that people choose to write about.

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  9. I think you misunderstood. I had to thicken up against those who say hurtful things, not just opposing viewpoints. I can handle opposing viewpoints. I was sensitive to the ones who told me I was an idiot for saying what I did or totally dismissed me for holding the beliefs I hold. There are people who do not have the mental capacity for adult, reasoned debate and only know how to lash out with insults at anything that doesn't fit their self-imposed paradigms.

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  10. One of the way God has turned me around from the ultra-sensitive neurotic to a place of more confidence and comfort is to help me see the venomous ones with compassion. Then their arrows don't hurt so much. It's more a case of forgive them for they know not what they do.

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  11. yes, seeing them with compassion certainly takes learning…and thank you, Michael, for pointing out the distinction – we're not talking about people just having different points of view, we're talking about those comments which hurt personally, those that put you down as a person just because you have expressed an opinion they disagree with. it's the personal venom that is difficult to deal with.

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  12. that's where God steps in and lets us have the grace to stand a position of "i'm going to love you whether you like it or not, and i'll probably also pray for you in the process". it's a horribly hard step to take the first time but gets easier the more you do it. it's not possible in this virtual world but i love the times i could take a $20 bill out of my pocket and bless someone for cursing me…… it becomes hard to fight off the fit of giggles. that said, however, it was a long and very rocky road with lots of twisted ankles to get to the point where i could actually do that for the first time. and even now it is an active act of submission to do it (maybe that's where the release of the giggles comes in).

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  13. Hi Meirav,That was a wonderful blog. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I've never thought myself a blogger. When I initially started my writings on Multiply, it was more about rants and expressing myself, my opinion, my thoughts, my passion and my faith freely without fear of … any sort of reaction from the local situation. No, I wasn't here to build friendships but somehow my contact list grew and some valuable friendships were built. It's an amazing experience. A few occasion I've been tempted to share my site with non-virtual friends here. I understand the desire to show it to local friends here, but the danger is just too real. (Perhaps it was merely a perceived danger(?) but I'm not taking any chances.) I am rather vocal in my opinion when it comes to my faith, and so, the only outlet I have for such passion is writing them here. In a way, I don't find it isolating because I have some REAL friends here.10lubak.

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  14. that's wonderful, it really is. and thank you for sharing how it is for you. It didn't cross my mind when writing this post, that of course I do know someone who does just that, who posts here completely anonymously! and I fully understand your need to do that – I think in a way for you this is the opposite of isolation – you'd probably feel more isolated if you didn't have this way of communicating more of your true self with people.

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  15. Pingback: Why I’m multiplying less and dividing more « Meirav's Blog Archive

  16. Pingback: Starting over | Meirav's Soapbox

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