Are there too many blogs in the world?
I'm having a bit of a crisis of confidence in my blog and the act of blogging and my part in all of this. This crisis was prompted by me actually engaging in what all good bloggers are supposed to do, which is reading other people's blogs. For the lay person, one of the tricks of getting increased exposure for your own blog is to read other blogger's blogs. I actively engaged in an act has now thrown a massive cloud of doubt over this thing that I do, occasionally, in what little spare time I have.
I started blogging two years ago as an outlet for my thoughts whilst being at home with a new baby. Now, before you start, I love my kids but I had just finished six years of University where I engaged in reasoned, evidence based debates on a daily basis. Now I was spending my day wondering if my nipples looked redder than the day before and examining the colour of Boo's poo for potential threats. They are awesome little people and bring me all the joy in the world. I find my kids utterly fascinating, I plaster my Facebook with pictures of my kids and bore the arse off of anyone I meet who will listen to me about my kids. Saying that, I am also completely aware of the fact that other people will not find my kids as fascinating as I do. I also fail to find other people's children fascinating. There are the odd exceptions but it is strange being a parent blogger who doesn't read other parent blogs!
On this blog, I write whatever comes into my head and never really think about it being read by a stranger, or by a family member or someone knowledgeable about things and universes and microcosms. I am essentially writing a thought diary and publishing it online for all the world to see and suddenly I am feeling very foolish. There is a part of me which wants people to engage with my thoughts and I want them to say "don't be so silly" or "have you considered looking at it from this angle?". There is a part of me that wants people to agree with me and to get infuriated by the things that frustrate me so we can all sit about in our dressing gowns and slippers and shake our fists at the world before switching our attention to what's on TV tonight. But there is also a bigger part of me that gets incredibly embarrassed by the rambling, incoherent thoughts that spring forth from my fingertips for the delectation of all who possess internet access.
I write on the hoof. My posts are rarely premeditated, rarely contain thoughtful deliberations nor any great insight into the world. Sometimes, I don't really care. Blogging keeps me sane, it helps me function in a world that frustrates me. Lately though, I have been caring. Lately I have become aware of the wider blogging world which I am a part of and pondering the validity of it all. I am pondering what purpose this blog has and why I bother even writing it. There are plenty of blogs that are cutesy and funny but I have yet to find any with any real research or any real depth of thought that makes me want to devour it. This week, this is worrying me. Next week, I may go back to not caring much about it but this week it is worrying me.
I baulk at the fact that when someone signs up to a weblog platform, suddenly you are given license to unleash yourself upon the world. Unleashing yourself means unleashing your thoughts, your feelings, your biases, your personality and all its defects upon an audience. I am the first in line in respecting everyones right to express themselves, but whatever happened to keeping private diaries? Put a lock on it, keep it under your pillow. Write in pen, doodle in the margins. Use lots of exclamation marks!!! Write, do it, write, til your hand aches, til your heart is empty, get it all out. Lost love, fantasies and dreams, hatreds of your parents, of the unjust global political order, of your zombie work colleagues. But keep it to yourself. I think this of other people but I am guilty of this too and perhaps here I am just feeling the guilt for those bloggers and networkers around me who really should be feeling it too.
I am a member of several online network for parents who have kids with special needs. One of the main purposes of these networks is to share experiences, give advice, share research or anything of interest to parents who are living a similar life to you. The trouble is, that like writing a blog, you give someone a keyboard and they suddenly think that they have license to write whatever they like without really considering the implications of the power of their words. I recently engaged in a debate on a network where one of it's co-ordinators who has a child with autism started banging on about the dangers of vaccinations, about how (without a shred of medical knowledge, fact or evidence) that the MMR had ruined their child and left it disabled for life. Cue 40 other women saying "yeah, the big medical companies discredited the findings so they could make millions" and so on and so forth. The whole debate spiralled and really was just the biggest pile of scaremongering nonsense I had read in a while. Whether or not this person really believed that the MMR had irreparably damaged her child, she was in a position of authority and had a duty and a responsibility for policing such nonsense on her site. She let it snowball and by the time this group of women were done, anyone watching this who even had an inkling of doubt about the vaccine were out in force with their burning torches and pitchforks. I left the network sickened by what I had just witnessed.
I am starting to feel the same about blogging. Recently, I've been reading quite a few blogs across all sorts of blogging genres. I am a sucker for a sexy byline promising me laughs, tears and the world. I'm usually left disappointed by their content, their writing and some of the unlicensed opinions put out there for all to see. To be in the game, you have to play the game and that is what all of this is reduced to, a game. One where you have to keep up the momentum of posting in order to make your stats look healthy and so the content suffers. A game where unelected representatives speak in your name. A game that gives unknown people positions of authority because they have copious amounts of time to sit on front of a computer. I have met many good, intelligent people through blogging but I have also met as many manipulative, horrible individuals who, of I were to meet them in real life, I would avoid like the plague. Being a 'parent blogger' lumps you in with those individuals who possess no skills other than those of being able to manipulate the game. Now, it's none of the people that I interact with on this blog or through Facebook so this isn't an attack. It's just a general malaise about the activity of blogging. Indeed, David Mitchell this month in the Guardian questioned the freedom of writing comments, reviews and opinions and publishing them on the web. This is especially relevant when there is no ownership attached to those comments or opinions:
When you read a bit of graffiti that says something like "Blair is a liar", you don't take it as fact. You may, independently, have concluded that it is fact. But you don't think that the graffiti has provided that information. It is merely evidence that someone, when in possession of a spray can, wished to assert their belief in the millionaire former premier's mendacity. It is unsubstantiated, anonymous opinion. We understand that instinctively. We need to start routinely applying those instincts to the web.
If you have time and you're feeling as sceptical as me about blogs then read this hilarious critique of blogging. It's an eye opener and for those days when you don't really believe that the world has a duty to read every thought that comes into your head, it speaks volumes of truth. This is particularly wonderful and indeed sums up exactly how I am feeling at the moment. The writer proposes that at least once a month every self-published blogger should write a Statement of Audience to facilitate their understanding of the universe and the importance of their writing. I would like to share this now.
I realize that nothing I say matters to anyone else on the entire planet.
My opinions are useless and unfocused. I am an expert in nothing. I know nothing. I am confused about almost everything. I cannot, as an individual, ever possibly know everything, or even enough to make editorial commentary on the vast vast majority of things that exist in my world. This is a stupid document; it is meaningless drivel that I do not expect any of the several billion people on my planet to actually read. People who do read my rambling, incoherent dumbfuckery are probably just as confused as I am, if not moreso, as they are looking to my sorry ass for an opinion when they should be outside playing Frisbee with their dog or screwing their life partner or getting a dog or getting a life partner. Anyone who actually takes the time to read my bullshit probably deserves to ingest my fucked up and obviously mistaken opinions on whatever it is that I have written about.
I'm not sure what the future for this blog might be and I'm off to have a think about it. Thank you to everyone who has read it, laughed at it and cooed at photos of my kids. I hope that just one or two of you raised a smile or learned something about autism along the way. Thank you from the bottom of my weary heart.
Wouldn't the Terminator have been a very, very different movie, if Arnie has said "I might be back..."?