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.