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It’s not always about you.

June 3, 2011 Leave a comment

ASSESSED POST (WEEK 7):

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 can’t help but feel that Lovink’s comment that “blogs are primarily used as a tool to manage the self” (2008:28) was highly generalised. Sure, I’m not denying there are thousands of self-absorbed bloggers out there uploading photos of their latest meal or travel destination or new pair of Manolo Blahnik’s, desperate to join the ever-increasing club of Internet Celebrity. I’ll be the first to raise my hand and say yes, I too use my Facebook to project a certain ‘cooler’ image of myself. Online narcissism- we’re all guilty of it! In that sense, I see Lovink’s point. In his own words, “the essence of a blog is not the interactivity of the medium: it is the sharing of the thoughts and opinions of the blogger” (2008:28). We don’t post these things to purely encourage the communities within these mediums; we do it to exchange information in a way that reflects ourselves- or at least, a version of ourselves.

But I’ve got to stand up for the variety out there in the big bad blogosphere. Lovink himself admits not to “just think of the American pantheon of blog heroes, or the trashy, frivolous and studiously non-serious Myspace.com if you want to get an insight into the specifics of this particular technology” (2008:3). Yes, there are the Perez Hilton’s that use their blogs to convey who-cares information with a strong underlying tone of self-promotion, but it’s stereotypical. Equally, there are so many blogs that encourage and support online communities rather than focus on managing the self. I wouldn’t go so far as to label it blogging altruism, but I believe many care more about the information and ideas they are sharing and the discussion that they trigger, rather than attempting to turn the spotlight back towards themselves. Take the successful blog ‘PostSecret’ (www.postsecret.blogspot.com), set up by Frank Warren in 2005.

This blog “community” collects and displays anonymous postcards physically mailed in to Warren by readers that are decorated with a deep, dark secret the writer would like to emotionally deal with, but not publicly face up to. In a 2007 interview, Warren stated that he began the weblog not to draw attention to his genius artistic talent, but “to create a place where people could feel free to share their private hopes, desires and fears… where the secrets they could not tell their friends and family would be treated with dignity in a non-judgmental way.”

Furthermore, Warren said he found inspiration in “how new communication technologies like blogs and virtual communities are creating the potential for new kinds of conversations.” He’s a reluctant celebrity, refusing to go on talk-shows and cash in on his weblog, but has teamed up with numerous depression and suicide prevention organisations and released three books full of these postcards solely to raise awareness of issues often mentioned in these ‘secrets’ such as anxiety disorders and domestic violence. Does this seem like a blogger regularly posting his readers’ intimate art forms to primarily manage himself? I don’t think so. Sounds a real, all-accepting online community formed through the inclusive process of discussion and networking via a blog, to me. Maybe the internet isn’t filled with self-absorbed Generation Y’ers documenting their every move. Maybe, just maybe, blogs are being used for the greater good.

Maybe I’m naïve but personally, the sentiment of ‘mob formation’ and ‘online citizenship’ in the blogosphere seems much more prominent than that of self-management and promotion. As Warren puts it, “I try to take myself out of PostSecret as much as possible… the power comes through the voices on the postcards.” (CNN, 2007). Most blogs aren’t principally for boasting and showing off. They’re for sharing passions and ideas, memories and predictions, hopes, fears, controversies, truths, and secrets with those who want to listen.

Sources:

Kawasaki, Guy (2007). ‘Ten Questions with PostSecret’s Frank Warren’, How to Change the World. http://blog.guykawasaki.com/2007/10/ten-questions-w.html#axzz1OCgrS7RH [accessed 3 June 2011]

Lovink, Geert (2008). Blogging, the Nihilist Impulse’, in Zero Comments: Blogging and Critical Internet Culture. London: Routledge.

Leopold, Todd (2007). ‘The Secrets People Reveal’, CNN Online. http://articles.cnn.com/2007-01-30/entertainment/postsecret.warren_1_postsecret-postcards-public-art-project?_s=PM:SHOWBIZ [accessed 3 June 2011]

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