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.