PaMaDoCoBloNaBloPoMoMo 2008, Day 17: Midterm missives & musings
Seventeen days ago, I threw myself headlong into my very first NaBloPoMo with a few specific goals in mind. First of all, I wanted to prove to myself that I could, indeed, write one blog post per day for thirty days straight.
You wouldn't know this, of course, but in an admittedly nutty I way I like staging competitions against myself. And this one seemed considerably more fun than the other battles I've waged against myself in my time, like Don't Take Your Leftovers Out Of The Microwave Until The Timer Beeps and Don't Go Out To Eat All September and Don't Buy New Clothes Until January and Don't Step On The Green Floor Tiles At The Grocery Store Or The Crocodiles Will Get You.
And so far, somehow, I've succeeded. Kind of.
I can't say my PaMaDoCoBloNaBloPoMoMo entries have been among my finest works as a writer, but hopefully all future Googlers of my name will understand-- or, at the very least, will be so bowled over by my immense acronym-crafting skills that they'll gladly ignore the mostly-uninspired tripe that has comprised these daily blog posts thus far.
Second, I really wanted to learn something about the strange world of blogging. I've personally blogged in some form or fashion since before it was even called blogging-- since before it was cool, even-- so the fact that it's become such a widespread cultural phenomenon, seemingly seeping into every corner of the Internet-using world, completely fascinates me. How individuals represent themselves and their lives online, to audiences that may or may not know them, to audiences they may or may not know even exist-- this is what I wanted to explore, my little Junior Web Sociologist plastic microscope and safari hat in tow, with PaMaDoCoBloNaBloPoMo.
Also, I just really like blogs. My Google Reader is totally out of control. I have a habit of subscribing to RSS feeds of complete strangers and following their lives for months, sometimes years, until I start creeping even myself and then unsubscribe. Or not. Mostly not. And this isn't just an Internet tendency: I have been known to shut down all conversation while out at dinner with friends just so I can listen in on the folks at the next table over. I consider the ability to easily eavesdrop one of the saving graces of airline travel and public transportation. Also, I like taking walks right at dusk when people still have their shades open and you can see to their living rooms where they're watching Friends reruns or eating dinner. In the least creepy way possible, of course.
So you'd think that keeping up with 27 or more other NaBloPoMo participants would just warm the cockles of my weird little nosy heart, wouldn't you? Wrong. It's actually been quite tedious. The bloggers I've profiled up to this point have been the most fun, smart and engaging of the bunch-- or at least the ones most easily commented upon without resorting to outright mockery-- but it's been more work than I expected to separate the wheat from the chaff.
Turns out, ordinary people are less interesting to me when they're presented in their own words, on their own terms, through a medium by which they intend to be heard, by which they can edit their thoughts and present their lives in an organized, custom-designed template, complete with photos of their kids in Halloween costumes and their favorite videos of Sarah Palin being a blustering idiot and kittens doing adorable kitten things.
It's both the self-consciousness and lack thereof that get to me: All the apparent self-editing, self-censoring, self-preserving and all the unfettered discussion of extremely personal information, family dramas, financial strife, stomach viruses.
Were I on a bus, a plane, a street corner or a coffee shop, my ears would gobble it all up like so many slices of unfiltered, everyday life. Sad stories, happy stories, boring stories told to a friend, that matter to someone but not to me, and somehow seem more beautiful for it. Read on a blog, though, the everydayness is warped by the author's intentional effort to share it with the world, by their assumption that someone cares, by their compulsion to publish and proliferate it to a potentially unlimited worldwide audience of strangers.
That's not to say personal blogging is a bad thing, that people who detail their daily lives in a public Internet forum are bad people, that they shouldn't do it, that they should be thought less of for doing it. It's just to say that it can be a little bit boring. Or, if you're slogging through a dozen or more a day as part of a somewhat poorly-planned personal blogging quest, a big bit boring.
If the Internet was a crowded bus and its passengers were talking as much as they're blogging, that would be one thing. But the Internet is a big, wide open space. You can read what you like. You can skip over what you don't like. And if you're left reading blogs you detest, well, that's your fault. (Or it's your job.) You can't blame the bloggers themselves. I'm certainly not.
This begs another question, though: What impulse drove all of these ordinary people want to blog about their ordinary lives on a daily basis for an entire month? I can't say for sure, but I bet a lot of them used to skip over those green tiles at the supermarket, too.
(Yesterday, my daily post was a List of the Day roundup of artful gig poster designers. Tomorrow, I resume my trip down NaBloPoMo's alphabetical blogroll.)