Friendship and blogging

This is really an Afterthought to Unexpected Guest.
 
A variety of responses to this blog – and my broader blogging experiences over the last year – have led me to reflect on how blogging can affect friendships.  I see four possibilities:
 
1    You can discover new facets to existing friendships through blogging
I’m finding that with this blog, and I’m enjoying it.  With a few people it’s reopened the channels of communication and connection.  A blog never substitutes for face to face but, like e-mail or letters, when you live a distance away, it’s another way of sharing ideas and engaging more minds than two.  It’s great to get the different types of support people offer through their participation and their positive or constructively challenging comments on and off the blog.  It’s stimulating and that’s what I’d like to think blogging is all about.

2   You can make friends through blogging.
Sometimes, occasionally, you meet someone who has led a completely different life but their mindset and way of appreciating life intersects with your own.  You can meet them face to face or meet them through their writing, their art or their work.  For me, a blog is just another way of meeting someone.  For instance, it’s been a great pleasure to ‘meet’ Dody Jane through her blog which I continue to enjoy hugely.  And I’m very pleased she’s come on to mine.  We’ve discovered that we have a range of mutual interests – literature, music, appreciation of England etc.    I’ve also met a few other people through their blogs and felt varying degrees of connection.  It is an intriguing way to get to know someone. 

3    You can rediscover ‘old’, long-lost friends through blogging
In writing Unexpected Guest, I was reminded of a newsletter I produced when I was 10 and the two friends (brother and sister) who lived in the same apartment building and helped me with it.  They moved away the next year and while we kept in touch briefly, I then lost track of them years ago.  After writing the blog I decided to try and locate them and with only a little effort, I have.  One of them lives in Israel, the other in the US – and it’s been great to make contact after so long.  A real feeling of connectedness.  Yes, I know, I could have had the same thought without the blog, but it was the activity of writing it which reminded me of them and also gave me the energy to seek them out.  I certainly wouldn’t have thought of this as a by-product of blogging when I started.  There are also lots of you coming online here who I haven’t heard from for awhile and it feels really good to reconnect.
 
4    You can unsettle existing friendships through blogging

This is the one that’s been the greatest unforeseen consequence.  A couple of the responses I’ve received to this blog have been a little surprising to me.  There’s been a bemusement – which I can understand from people who’ve never encountered a blog before.  Yet, in these rare instances, I’ve also felt a latent judgement or criticism by which I’ve been quite taken aback.  It feels like ‘why would you ever create (or even participate in) a blog?  You must have [some kind of undefined] problems or you must be a sad individual [or….?? fill in as appropriate and do let me know!]’.  ‘Writing a blog is not making a worthwhile contribution to society.  You should be using your time in other, more constructive, more socially acceptable ways.’
 
It has occurred to me that if I said I was rereading Dickens’ oeuvre, I would get universal endorsement (someone out there is bound to disagree now!); and if I said I was watching the World Cup, I might receive an enthusiastic or weary ‘well, who isn’t?’  (I’ve struggled long and hard with telling people, ‘no I didn’t watch the England game…’  And yes, I do realise the World Cup is over!)
 
Is a blog really that strange?  Well, I don’t think so.  From another angle, it’s just another ‘delivery channel’ – a way of getting your ideas, thoughts and feelings across to an audience, in this case a group of friends – and hopefully getting some kind of response.  In that sense it’s no different than writing a review in, say, Spectrum or Private Eye or The London Review of Books or fRoots.  Take your pick, depending on who you are.
 
I like to think of this blog as being a little like a patchwork quilt (maybe more like a modern one rather than a traditional design) – pieces of different fabrics stitched together into a pleasing composite, and the outcome of many friendly exchanges. 

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10 Responses to Friendship and blogging

  1. Chris says:

    I’m sure I shall be back on other aspects of this blog but the final comment about the blog being like a patchwork quilt made me remember a remark from an unknown quilter encountered in the carvery of a hotel packed with quilt enthusiasts attending an exhibition. As we all moved around a huge buffet she said that even the process of selecting one’s dinner was like making a patchwork quilt – “There all these different dishes laid out, in a range of colours and textures, and we each go round with a plate and join the bits together to make every meal look different. But we’ve all started from the same choice of materials”.

    That in turn nudged me to note again the phenomenon whereby when you really get into the patchwork and quilting mindset you see everything as patchwork – trees, clouds, road surfaces, puddles, anything and everything breaks down into its component colours and shapes.

    Maybe one enjoyable outcome of blogging is those chance comments which drive you back into your own memories?

  2. Stephen says:

    Here we encounter the big question – so what’s the point of a blog? I’ve heard that question aimed at many things and of course ultimately there is no point and the question itself becomes pointless and not worthy of an answer.
    If it feels right, you enjoy it, it doesn’t harm others but maybe helps others then why not?

    • Chris says:

      I’ll buy that Stephen.

      I go to our local pub once a month after Parish Council meetings. It’s a very small rural pub. Half a dozen of us who know each other pretty well but aren’t necessarily close friends arrive together. If there are other customers (unlikely to be more than a few) the tiny bar space means that we merge into one group. It strikes me that it’s a bit like blogging – we are all there and can join in at any time or sit back listening. Sub-conversations spring up and may stay as one-to-one with or without attendant listeners if it’s a specialist topic. Discussions betwen farmers about details of EU rules tend to fall into this category. If a silence descends someone will start up a new topic or the landlord will throw out a question and we’re off again. If ordering of drinks or people going outside to smoke breaks up the physical positioning of people they shuffle round and a new set of sub-conversations breaks out.

      Now I’ve articulated that I feel happy about it. Blogging certainly offers much of the fluid structure of pub conversations with the opportunity to participate or not at any time or to observe and ‘listen’ and also gives the opportunity to engage in a deeper exchange on a special topic of interest for a while and then to flow back into the general conversation. And it mixes people who know each other with those who don’t. Yes – the Well House is definitely a virtual pub offering mental refreshment only.

  3. Dody Jane says:

    I have had the same reaction from some people. It is odd. I will say, these are the same people who are very slow on the uptake as far as computer technology goes (maybe they only recently started using e-mail) or they will only subscribe to basic cable because when they were kids, TV was free.

    I also find that my friends, the people who I know the BEST, ignore my blog like the proverbial elephant in the room. I used to ask my sisters and my relatives to read, but now, I just blog away. I could tell all the family secrets and they would never know!

    I love blogs. Blogs have led me to so many lovely sites and sounds and provide learning I would have never been exposed to without the blogging medium. There are many delightful personalities out there. People are really so smart and so fun.

    Now, I tend to be a ‘rose colored glasses’ sort of blog connoisseur. But, that is the beauty of the blogosphere. Your blog, Karin, is very thoughtful. I can tell I will learn a lot from your blog. You have me googling Jung. Now that’s really somthin’…

  4. Karin says:

    Yes, it is fascinating to see how different people respond, who reads and who writes, and the surprises continue. I agree, there is a whole world of insight, depth, humour and surprise out there – and I have found that you can make the most intriguing connections through blogs and also through discussion groups on areas of shared interest. I have also had a lot of people say ‘I’m just about to put up a comment on…’ and then it never appears! I think you need an unusual mix of thoughtfulness and spontaneity to comment with ease.

  5. I wish I had known about this post before. I would have linked to you! I have only experienced #2. But it certainly makes sense that 1, 3, and 4 happen.

    • Karin says:

      That’s really interesting you’ve not experienced 1, 3 and 4 with all your experience of blogging. I can’t quite believe you haven’t experienced 1 actually! You are very lucky not to have experienced 4. It all happened really quickly for me, and there have been lots of unforeseen consequences. It’s certainly interesting. Great to see you here again.

  6. renaud says:

    Dear Karin,
    I think the issue is fascinating. A blog is much more unsettling for readers and people who know you than a column for the London Review of Books, in my opinion. This is more personal stuff, and you can publish whatever you want on your blog, whereas if you published it in a journal, it would have to pass through the harsh view of an editor. And the distinction between the writer / author, which is implied when you read literature, is much less obvious when you read a blog: where and when does the writer is ‘true’, ‘real’, and when does he just impersonate a character?
    I’ve got no answer, but that may be one of the few reasons why reading a blog can be disturbing for some people, especially when you know the actual blogger.

  7. Karin says:

    Hello Renaud,

    your point about the filtering role of an editor in another type of publication is very relevant, and I had forgotten or ignored that element in the process which, as you say, makes a blog very different from other publications/delivery channels.

    I’m not sure if the content of a blog is necessarily more personal, but it is completely the decision of the writer whether they put their stuff out there or not – while an editor could say ‘this is too personal’ or ‘not personal enough’ or whatever. An editor might be sympathetic rather than harsh, and an editor can also help the writer to put their ideas and feelings forward in a way that may be accessible to a wider readership.
    It’s always helpful to test out writing on someone else before publishing.

    But the power of a blog is the immediacy of self-expression. Arguably a blog has the potential to be more creative and more of a self-expression than publishing one’s work in a defined publication with its house style, if the writer wants it to be these things.

    I am not sure I completely understand what you are saying about the writer vs potential impersonation of a character. I have come to think in recent weeks that maybe a blog can be disturbing or even angering to a reader who knows the writer, when the reader sees different aspects of the writer’s character on their blog and this unsettles the existing relationship. We all have many facets to our characters and a blog perhaps gives an opportunity to express aspects of oneself that are less able to be expressed in everyday social and working life.

    There is a dialogue about the use of ‘pennames’ on a blog currently taking place on the entry ‘The wisdom of the body’ which might also interest you, as it links with the potential for people to adopt different personas etc.

    Great to see you here and thanks for your thought-provoking comments! I would be most interested to hear about how blogs are developing and being received in France, as I see some significant differences in their use and acceptedness between the UK and US.

    Karin

  8. Pingback: Story Wednesday « creative barbwire (or the many lives of a creator)

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