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A popular pastime on blogs (by which word I include LJ) is to point out what's annoying about blogs. It's a fun, not to mention a rich, topic, and one I've indulged in too. Just about everyone who has dipped their toes into the blog world has experienced a love/hate relationship with the whole deal.

For instance, last year I wrote this post, which I'll reprint here since it may be the truest thing I have ever written about LJ:

* * *
If I say I like something, people will ruin it for me by telling me why they hate it.

If I say I don't like something, people who do like it will emerge from the woodwork and demand to know what my problem is.

If I share good news, people will think I'm bragging.

If I share bad news, people will think I'm fishing for sympathy.

If I share personal news, people will think I'm an exhibitionist.

If I broach the subject of politics, people will unleash an all-out flame war.

If I treat a subject lightly, people will call me thoughtless.

If I treat a subject in depth, people will call me pedantic.

If I muse at length upon a small matter, people will think I'm babbling.

If I say I'm angry about something, people will tell me I'm overreacting.

If I share something I find funny, people will get offended.

If I put up pictures of myself, people will think I'm narcissistic and fishing for compliments.

If I share a piece of writing I've done (like this), people will think I'm narcissistic and fishing for compliments.

If I share what I did today, people will think I'm boring.

If I stay silent and don't post anything at all, people will think I'm sulking and/or neglecting them.
* * *

...And to the list I now add: "If I didn't have a blog, my publisher or agent (if I had an agent) would urge me to get one." Much to my dismay, self-promotion has become a prerequisite for being a writer, in the eyes of the industry. I play along, but I don't usually like it. Meanwhile, we fledglings are labeled self-important and boring and not "real" writers when we do self-promote on blogs, because if we were real writers we'd be writing articles and books, not blog entries. It's a chicken-or-the-egg conundrum: once you're a real writer, like Neil Gaiman, it's fine for you to have a blog, and people will devour it and think how cool it is that you can fit both books and blog entries into your writing life. But if you have a blog before you become a real writer, you're a poser and you'll never be a real writer because you're wasting your time on a blog; even though your agent or publisher says you must get a blog because you need to self-promote and "get your name out there." Damned if we do, damned if we don't. But that's an aside.

It's true: there are lots of flaws about blogs, and about LJ in particular. You can find people whose journals are sleazy, or filled with false information presented as fact, or hysterical in their hatred of something, or stupidly manic in their love of something, or packed to the brim with self-psychoanalysis that no one else could possibly care about. Furthermore, I know my journal has shown each of those traits on occasion, and some other failings. Not a shock, since I as a person have a number of failings. (I venture the bold opinion that everyone does.)

Doesn't mean, however, that by one's blog you can get a clear portrait of the blog keeper. I pick and choose what to post, yes, but not out of any attempt to be dashingly elusive. As my list above illustrates, it's hard to walk the line between revealing too much about oneself (and thus being self-indulgent or exhibitionistic) and revealing too little (and thus being overly mysterious, which in itself might be called self-indulgent). I don't expect my personality to be thoroughly diagnosed through what I write on the internet. I'm not sure *I* know or understand myself as a complete person, and I'm with me in the flesh all day; so how can you be expected to? Furthermore, even if I had the power of speech to illustrate exactly who I am...well, 1) should I, on LJ?, 2) I still couldn't guarantee that any given reader would grasp it. I can't make you understand me. You might happen to, by some stroke of luck, but that would be a fluke.

Is it worth fretting about? Decidedly not. Yep, blogs are imperfect, as am I, as are you, and as is the world. But in that sordid, misleading, spastic dramafest we call the blogosphere, I also find writers and posts who say clear things, true things, brilliantly amusing things, interesting things, and noble things; and that's why I stick around. As Hurricane Katrina has shown us, in every disaster (and we could call the internet a disaster if we were being really pessimistic) there are despicable looters, and there are shining heroes. I don't call myself a shining hero for occasionally making people laugh with a silly, shallow post; but I appreciate a laugh myself, so I still think it's worthwhile.

I better cut this short before I mention silver linings, or drinking vessels being half full. But I'll add this: to those who rant about the evils and inanities of our world, or our LiveJournals in particular, I do in fact thank you. Despite my proud exterior, I know I can only become a better person through humility checks. If I were convinced I was the coolest, smartest person on Earth, I would never try to improve my mind or behavior; and in truth I would very much like to do both.

It's hard to lie there warm in bed, feeling the ripples of my kid moving inside me, harmless and lovely as flickers of heat lightning on the mountains, and not feel both humble and optimistic.

Yes, I know that last sentence veered into schmaltz. Deal with it.


( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 8th, 2005 01:12 pm (UTC)
:-) Cheers to You!
Sep. 8th, 2005 07:39 pm (UTC)
Cheers right back at you. ;)
Sep. 8th, 2005 01:27 pm (UTC)
It's all very true. And you're right; we can never really be known or know anybody fully through this medium - but then again, it doesn't really happen in real life either. It's interesting, as I think I come across quite differently out in the "real world" than on here, but none of my "characters" are false. People are complex, innit? :)

(Yes, schmaltz, but rightly so!)
Sep. 8th, 2005 07:40 pm (UTC)
I come across quite differently out in the "real world" than on here, but none of my "characters" are false.

*nod* I've thought the same thing. For that matter, all the characters I write in fiction have some element of myself, naturally, and thus of truth. The main drawback of the net is that it's so much easier to be rude to people without remorse, I'd say...
Sep. 8th, 2005 01:28 pm (UTC)
I think Cassie Claire wrote something about this once upon a time, too. Those of you stalwart souls who staunchly brave the LJ limelight have so much more to worry about than the rest of us in terms of nasty and critical comments and so forth. Heh, lucky for me, I am virtually non-existent as far as most of the world is concerned, so I can be ego-centric and obnoxious with impunity!

I always figure that if something strikes me as funny or sad or otherwise worth writing about or even obsessing over, there's probably someone out there who feels the same way and might enjoy reading about it. This is the wonder and glory of the internet: connecting people that share the most bizarre and obscure interests. Plus, I think half the point of a writer keeping any online journal, is to keep track of the things that a) you enjoy writing about and b) people like reading about.

Also, I will just reiterate that I think you rock and I am your fangirl for life.
Sep. 8th, 2005 01:31 pm (UTC)
I apologize for any eye-twitches caused by the misbehaving commas in the preceding comment. I am notoriously much too lenient with my commas.
Sep. 8th, 2005 06:03 pm (UTC)
I have the same problem with my dashes and parentheses. My sentences get ridiculously complex. Call it a writing "style" and then flame anyone who dares to criticize it! Think Anne Rice.
Sep. 8th, 2005 07:48 pm (UTC)
Think Anne Rice.

Ahahaha. Good one.
Sep. 8th, 2005 10:16 pm (UTC)
*snerk* Yes, my completely random comma placement is all part of my avant garde style. Those whose eyes twitch at my bizarre use of punctuation are simply to mundane of mind and soul to understand my work.
Sep. 8th, 2005 07:48 pm (UTC)
Aw, heck, I ain't no Cassie Claire - and I'm glad for it! I still feel like I can relate to other users, on a normal level, without getting totally overwhelmed. (I never had to turn off email notification for comments or anything.) That's about the level of "fame" I'd like in the real world too, if any. Indeed, in most ways I prefer this journal to the MollyRingwraith one, because I get fewer random arguments from people I've never heard of.

I always figure that if something strikes me as funny or sad or otherwise worth writing about or even obsessing over, there's probably someone out there who feels the same way and might enjoy reading about it.
Exactly. That's why I bother writing anything on LJ, and was writing the same kind of stuff back when I had about 5 readers. It's my own archive of thoughts, but also open to public enjoyment, if they want it. Fun that way.

And thank you! No, I'm YOUR fangirl. :) Honestly, though I might not recognize you if we sat next to each other on the bus, I get the feeling you're one of the sanest and most likable people I've discovered on LJ lately. It gives me hope for the world in general.
Sep. 8th, 2005 06:08 pm (UTC)
This is so true. I've been worried lately because I'm posting a lot about the aftermath of the hurricane. I wonder if I'm boring people, if they're tired of hearing about it.

Then I think, well, it's my journal, and this is what I'm fascinated/horrified/obsessed with right now, and I want to document some things for the future, and they can always scroll right through if they don't like it.

And then I think, Hey, I'm not a BNF! I can write whatever I want and only tick off a few people! :)
Sep. 8th, 2005 07:52 pm (UTC)
Actually, your hurricane coverage has been very good and quite informative. It's some of the best use of LJ there is: firsthand reports of what's going on elsewhere in the world, on events of interest. I would say I doubt it's ticking anyone off, but I've discovered that anything can tick someone off on dear old LJ. I've thought of making a list of topics I've taken flack for over the years, but that would, you know, tick people off. :)

And yes, keeping it for your own records is a perfectly good reason too.
Sep. 8th, 2005 10:18 pm (UTC)
That's the wonderful thing about LJ: your journal is where you get to spin around and shriek "It all about meeeeeee!" and those who don't care, well no one's got a gun to their head.
Sep. 9th, 2005 12:52 am (UTC)
I'm getting a vibe of midget that loves playing golf from this.
Sep. 9th, 2005 08:30 am (UTC)
Is it okay if I have no idea what you're talking about? :)
Sep. 9th, 2005 08:43 am (UTC)
With all you're talk about how your livejournal doesn't fully reflect you, I was having a surreal moment imagining telling everyone the truth about what your LJ says about you and how it is true!
Sep. 9th, 2005 03:10 pm (UTC)
Ah, OK...I see now where you're going, you crazy crazy man.
Sep. 10th, 2005 08:20 pm (UTC)
This is COMPLETELY true. You hit the nail on the head.

Though I do believe I fall into a few of the categories in your second paragraph after the list ;P
Sep. 22nd, 2005 02:18 am (UTC)
Ah, well, we all do at some point; that's what makes us human!
( 19 comments — Leave a comment )