Monday, November 06, 2006

Heavy Thinking for a Chilly Monday

Vanx wrote a post about blogging and why we feel compelled to do it. Before you go any further with me, go on over to Vanx’s and read what he said. He got me thinking (as he usually does) and here's my take on this, for what it's worth...

I think Vanx is pretty close to the mark about loneliness being a major motivating factor for blogging, but I don't think it's the "gee, there's no one around and I'm bored" kind of loneliness we're talking about here; I think it's more of an existential kind of isolation- a feeling that, even with masses of humanity teeming around us, we're still dangerously alone.

I've been musing (and writing on my own blogs) about empathy for quite some time now: about how we don't have enough of it, about how we don't seem to value it as a human trait, about how we don't foster it enough in ourselves, about how we don't teach our children to practice it. The need to reach out to others - to make ourselves heard and to listen as others respond to what we say - is, I think, as strong a need as breathing in and out. The web offers us another opportunity to do this, and some of us are taking it up as a means of extending our proverbial village.

I've done a small bit of serious thinking about why I blog - the topic comes up now and then as my husband expresses his discomfort with the idea that I share snapshots of my life with any number of random strangers - and it’s in those times of reflection that I try to get at the heart of why *I* feel compelled to put fingers to keys and reveal bits of myself to the world.

For me, the desire to blog is manifold. Part of it, certainly, is the desire for attention. It’s gratifying to know that others are reading what I write and participating, in some small way, in my experience of the world. I also write, particularly in my “work” blog, to gain the insight and ideas of others. If I know nothing else, I know that my own experience is insufficient to get me satisfactorily through this existence - I just can’t learn enough on my own. I am meta enough to know that I often can’t see beyond my own little life, and getting the input of other people - hearing what they think, understanding their opinions or experiences, working through my own thinking as I defend against a contrary view - makes me a better, smarter, more complete human (and, I’m certain of it, a better teacher). Through the people who come to my sites and comment on my entries, I get to stretch my thinking in ways that I would otherwise never have considered. This is the main reason I blog.

When I go back to Vanx’s musings, though, I come back to the idea that it’s not really a “collective solipsism,” as he so eloquently put it (I LOVE that turn of phrase, by the way. Poetry in two words, that!), but rather an instinctual need to be part of a larger whole. I haven’t quite reached clarity on this point yet - and I may never actually get there - but I’m still struggling with the idea that singularity is not our default position. We were never intended to live as isolated units, confined to a small and static group of family and friends and destined to live within the boundaries of those same influences for all our lives.

I think, really, that we were intended to live as tribal beings; that we need the company of a vast collection of “others” (if such a distinction can be made, but that’s fodder for another post) who can fill in the missing bits of us, can teach us things so that we don’t HAVE to stumble over the lessons ourselves (though many of us still insist on doing so), and challenge us to think in ways that increase our being. Along those lines, we want the validation of being accepted as a member of that tribe, of knowing that our own thoughts and lessons and thinking are valid and valued.

In the end - for me, at least - it all comes down to an investigatory exercise of oneself. I’m relatively certain that the impulse to blog is a shade different in everyone, and that one blogger can have different motivations for posting every different entry that gets published. Sometimes, I want to vent; sometimes, I want to release a bit of creativity into the world; sometimes, I want an answer or an opinion or just to know that someone’s out there listening. The overriding need, though, is to belong. To belong to a vast collection of “others” who have something to offer me - and I to them.


Blogger gerry rosser said...

Actually, I don't consider myself a snowbird, since I spend more time in Florida than PRCC, so I guess I'm a "sunbird."
Thoughtful post on why we blog. I'll buy into the "existential loneliness" take on it. I have very little social interaction outside my family, and this helps make up for it.
My signicficant other also shudders that I share snippets of my private life and thoughts with the world.

3:21 PM  
Blogger Mrs.Chili said...

I suppose I can understand why this whole blogging thing makes many people uncomfortable. My beloved is concerned about the vulnerability of blogging and the ever-present risk of psycho stalkers and identity thieves, but these concerns don't seem to weigh as heavily on me. I'm the more outgoing of we two, and I find that this is just as acceptable a forum for finding new friends as any.

4:22 PM  
Blogger Kizz said...

I've been thinking about a post on what led me to the blogosphere and I think I may do a 2 parter, one with that story and another on why I blog inspired by you and Vanx. If I were to respond here or at verb-ops I'd be just like you and write a whole entry in comments. Both of you have made me feel a lot less freakish about my love of the blogging today, though.

4:52 PM  
Blogger vanx said...

You're on to something big here. You'll note that I don't fully go for the collective solipsism explanation, or addiction, or loneliness. They are all facets of it, I guess. How about the idea of technology transcending our biology not on the level of the physical, but of the emotional and the social? There must be emotional and social biology, right? Could this advance to the point where we are totally open to all comers emotionally and socially? Would that be a good thing? Would it be good short term, bad long term?

Imagine if Harvey Pekar ends up being the first ultraman~,:^{/=

5:04 PM  
Blogger Todd said...

this is a great posting, I stayed up too late reading it. For some reason I started thinking about Robert Putnam's book, "Bowling Alone."

10:34 PM  
Blogger lolololo said...

I write my blog (The Anonymous Truth) partially as an outlet for my frustrations. No one IRL knows I write it and no one in Blogland knows who I really am so I'm free to write my story and freely say what's going on.
I agree though about the loneliness factor.
Writing is my energy builder. When I write I feel more whole.

11:41 PM  

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