Blogging: The issue of public and private self-indulgence

Lovink (Reader, page 222) also argues that: “No matter how much talk there is of community and mobs, the fact remains that blogs are primarily used as a tool to manage the self”. 

I would have to agree with Lovink’s statement, and assert that blogs are most commonly formulated as a medium from which people can indulge themselves by sharing basically any kind of information they wish to with the entire world wide web.  A prime example of this is Tumblr, a blogging site that allows users to post written entries, photos, videos, and links, all in an easy to use format. The tumblr world is an interesting one, as it is primarily inhabited by adolescent girls, all of whom want to share their angst-ridden worlds with eachother through photos and incisive posts. An interesting duality is created because everyone is searching for commonality and like-minded people to share their emotions with, but at the same time everyone is striving to stand out and be original. I suppose it’s a pretty apt online represenation of adolescense itself. Tumblr also has a ‘follow’ function, which allows users to follow other tumblrs, meaning that person’s posts will show up in their dashboard. So in this sense, Tumblr is a product of both sides of the argument in that the content is purely self-indulgent, however there is a legitimate sense of community amongst the tumblrites. Tumblr users are able to follow others, message them, and also ‘re-blog’ content that they post.

In Thomas Mallon’s A Book of One’s Own, People and Their Diaries he concludes that ‘No-one ever kept a diary for just himself…In fact, I don’t believe one can write to oneself for many words more than get used in a note tacked to the refrigerator, saying, ‘buy bread”‘.  The purpose of keeping a diary is an attempt to preserve that moment in which you are writing; the activity, the emotion, the immediacy of these feelings. We write in anticipation of reflection, that we will look back on what we have written in a month, a year, even ten years and be able to identify with ourselves at that time and understand ourselves. But while self-reflection is needed, it can sometimes be very difficult, and as humans we struggle to view ourselves entirely objectively. And thus with the advancement of technology and social networking, we are able to diarise our lives in a public sphere, we we can get feedback and interaction. ‘Blogs experiment with a public diary format’ (Lovink, 2008, 6). Lovink expresses concern over this increasingly blurred distinction between public and private sharing, situating blogging ‘between online publishing and the intimate sphere of diary keeping’, throwing into question the ‘already disturbed seperation between what is public and what is left of privacy’ (7). This is particularly relevant to Generation Y and younger, who are growing up with social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook and have a fairly skewed filter for what to make public and keep private. The amount of personal information that a large portion of teenagers make available online is staggering, and quite dangerous.  Lovink cites Yahoo! researcher Danah Boyd, who asserts ‘Teens are growing up in a constant state of surveillance’, so blogging is often a form of escape and freedom of expression. However Boyd also points out that as a result, ‘youth are pretty blase about their privacy in relation to government and corporate’. (Lovink, 2008, 7)

With the ever increasing array of online outlets from which we can blog, there are of course wildly varied types of blogs, not all primarily concerned with the writer. However, in documenting say, news or politics, with such control over the content and production it is hard for a blogger to remain impartial. I feel that no matter what the content, blogging is always going to be inherently linked to the blogger, and thus is definitely a tool to manage the self. In saying this, it doesn’t mean community isn’t a big aspect of blogging; interactivity is one of the cornerstones of Web 2.0 applications. An undeniable aspect of blogging is the feedback from other users, with most blogs having the comment option so online users can engage with eachother and share views. There are many blogging platforms that allow for insightful discussion within the online community. However, this is quite often not the case. As Lovink tactfully points out, ‘If you can’t cope with high degrees of irrelevance, blogs won’t be your cup of tea’.

References:

Lovink, G., ‘Blogging, The Nihilist Impulse’, in Zero Comments: Blogging and Critical Internet Culture, London: Routledge, 2008, pp 1-38

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