Equivocating, Voyeurism and Cathartic Blogging

canstockphoto2809730Sometimes the blogging world seems rather insular, self-referential and cliquish. Sometimes I forget that I’m a writer who blogs and not the other way round. As I enter my third year of blogging, nay, writing online, I come with a warped perspective of this virtual life. Lately, there has been the rumblings of a scandal regarding a popular blogger and angry words are flying from every direction in my WordPress Reader.

I don’t try to be intentionally obtuse or ignore reading about other people’s unpleasant interactions, but I eschew bandwagons and unprocessed hostility. Perhaps that is what reminds me that I’m a writer. I feel compelled to craft whatever tale I have to tell, even if it’s just about a health issue or quitting martial arts or about a socially awkward day.

I once wrote a post regarding an unhappy interaction with another blogger, but even as I posted it, it felt wrong. It was a raw post and the inherent nature of raw posts, is that it becomes a rallying cry for the sympathetic among us. It becomes a dog pile of sympathy and emoticons and whatever that thing is that people type to indicate hugs.

There are people who enjoy, need and appreciate that kind of response. I can appreciate the intent, but regard it as uncomfortably superfluous since, in general, I only write about subjects which are resolved for me. Between my dislike of hugs and emoticons and Valentine’s day and any other kind of artifice marked as sentimental and this particular post, you might be inclined to assume I’m chillingly unfriendly or distant.

I’ve “met” people through their blogs who are funny and intelligent and interesting. They may be total plods offline, as may I, but I enjoy them in the context of their writing and our exchanges in the comment sections of our blogs. Thus far, we haven’t asked each other for hugs, money or therapeutic support. And that’s about where I’d like to be with blog familiarity – enough to share a laugh or an interesting conversation, but as far away from contempt as possible.

The reasons for blogging are different for each individual. Many people are dealing with mental illnesses, physical illnesses, grief, PTSD, challenged as they care for the special needs of others, recovery from substance abuse or physical and sexual abuse. Blogging can serve as an outlet, the practice of not keeping secrets, a place where they can find people who have had similar experiences, a place where many seek catharsis and epiphany.

For those of us just trying to get some writing chops, a little courage to write out loud, it can feel like entering the land of the walking wounded. It’s hard not to be drawn in and captivated by stories. Until you say the wrong thing or follow the wrong blogger and as a consequence, stumble into raw pain and drama. Then it feels like staring in your neighbor’s windows.

After reading several blog postings of unfettered anger, I went out to shovel the driveway and to think about integrity and civility. It’s easy to lose both in an ether world that seems completely made up half the time, and the other half, comprised of gut wrenching stories of horrible truths.

One’s moral outrage and indignation meter gets out of whack, to the point where the indicator barely moves or shoots straight into the red. The drama unfolds before you and with cold objectivity, you are no longer a reader, but a voyeur. Perhaps this is the nature of exposure to a constant stream of information, stories, outrages. Over time, we become desensitized.

I’ve read through several outraged posts and comments about the blogger’s behavior, on and off the court. Rather than opening a door to constructive conversation, the posts make me want to tiptoe away, in the hopes that no one will notice I was there. The rage is unmitigated and palpable and feels like it will strike out at passersby. No one wants to be part of the collateral damage in this war of words.

It’s a personal reminder to turn back to writing and to remain committed to the idea that online integrity and civility can canstockphoto15167767coexist. Only a week or two ago, I was concerned about whether I was being edgy enough as a writer. My concern was misplaced. I am not that writer, nor that person. What I do believe is that in the long run, good boundaries make good bloggers and even better writers.


Filed under Blogging, Personal, Uncategorized

61 responses to “Equivocating, Voyeurism and Cathartic Blogging

  1. Michelle, thank you for posting this. I recently had an insecure moment regarding my lack of friends made via blogging, as it seems that is ALL I hear about anymore: this blogger that fell in love with another blogger and now they are BFF’s forever, and because I hadn’t, I was somehow inferior. Your post reminded me of WHY I started blogging – it wasn’t to make friends. It was so I could share my story and hope that someone who was really, really scared to try something new (like me), because they were clumsy (like me), or out of shape (like me), or just needed someone to say, “Hey, I did it and you can too,” would actually stumble upon my story and feel a connection. Then, and only then, would I hope an organic connection would be created – not because I felt forced to comment on their blog and/or seek their acceptance, but because there was a common interest and respect. Honestly, sometimes it kinda feels like the blogging world is like high school all over again and I find myself wondering if the popular kids will like me. You post reminded me that I didn’t give a damn – then or now. Great job, and thank you!

    • Thanks, Jess. I like that phrase “organic connection”. And you’re not the first person to compare blogging to being in high school. It’s very hard to not see the bloggy cliques and groupies and then wonder, what’s wrong with me? I’ve been through that thought process several times. I was somewhat envious of the popular blog which has now been pillaged and burned beyond recognition. I was unaware of all the drama – mostly because I don’t do Facebook and I am rarely able to keep up with all the posts on each blog I follow. I am ever more grateful for the fewer, but lovely connections I’ve made here.
      It took me the entire day of going back and forth on this blog post, trying to figure out what I wanted to say, but your comment likely said it better!

      • Oh, how funny… I would have never been able to compose my opinion on this topic without your inspiration, as I was just sitting here trying to organize my thoughts about anything so I could publish a post. Great minds, Michelle. Great minds…

  2. Thank you for addressing this issue. I have few followers compared to some bloggers, and that’s fine with me. I started my blogs for varied reasons, and I’m mostly writing for me. The fact that what I’m writing might help someone else is lagniappe. I follow blogs that interest me, and I have actually stopped following a few who lost my interest. That isn’t to say they are bad blogs or that the writing is bad; it just isn’t my cup of tea. And I haven’t seen any of the brouhaha you refer to in this post, so maybe I’m just not in the right groups! And that, too, is okay with me.

    • I have a fairly irreverent sense of humor so I was following some edgy bloggers that seem to run in a pack, which is why I caught wind of this latest blog storm. It was rather exhausting to read about, so be glad it wasn’t on your radar. I didn’t bother linking to the blogs or being specific since I’d rather not be part of the mob and pitchfork crew. I think, too, there was a lot of crossover from Facebook activity, of which I am blissfully unaware. It is one of the more discouraging aspects of blogging for many writers – the sense that they’re in a popularity contest. The envy I had for rock star bloggers completely died this week. I’m very happy to be here, still writing and interacting sans drama.

  3. Miriam

    Now there is a part of me that is very curious about what is happening… I’ve been blogging on and off for several years now but I’m not part of any blogging in-crowd (although I’ve stumbled upon enough blogs that share something in common to see that it exists).
    Anyway, this all reminds me of my own milieu- the homeschooling world. It’s the same thing here- you start out just wanting to educate your kids without school, and yet the community takes on a life of it’s own, with plenty of drama and infighting and cliques and all that stuff.
    So I think it must be human nature, and what naturally happens as people come together over some shared experience or interest. I don’t even see it so critically any more- I think it’s the price we pay to have relationships with other people. Of course, we can then choose our own path, how we want to interact with others.

    • I agree that it’s human nature. It seems that when it happens online it gets ugly very quickly, because people have a false sense of anonymity or mob moral outrage. I’m not trying to be vague out of any sense of protection for the parties involved, but I felt I couldn’t very well write about integrity and civility and then direct readers to an oasis of profanity and blogger blasting.

      Maybe I wrote this as a way of clarifying my own path, because every time I’m on the sidelines and see something like this happen, it makes me think about the nature of online interactions and relationships.

  4. Perhaps this is one time when ignorance is bliss. I like your blogging boundaries.

    • Indeed. It was a tad stunning to see blogs closed and vitriolic posts of deeds done wrong. It all had a huge shade of icky to it. Boundaries, I think, are necessary in a world with so many people and sensibilities. The trick is navigating those boundaries except if, you know, someone writes them down.

  5. I liked this. You know how much I stink at comments, but I at least needed to let you know that I read it– I understood it– and I read it to my husband (which is the highest compliment I can give) because I felt it was so necessary of a message to be heard. To purpose, integrity and civility! Cheers! (And just for you, I’ll leave off my emoticons, ha!)

    • Thanks, Rara. You’ve probably had some experiences that make this post relevant, unfortunately. There seems to be a cost associated with high profile blogging. Like quite a few readers here, I was blissfully unaware of the behaviors among some bloggers until a blog closure was announced and vitriolic posts showed up in my reader. It made me step back and wonder about my intent and integrity.
      It was also a reminder that we really don’t know each other and that online connections have their limitations. And it’s fine – blogging can still be an enjoyable, engaging experience without everyone being besties or mean girls.

  6. It seems out of the loop is the best place for me too. I really like what you said about integrity and civility.

    • I think ignorance is indeed bliss this time around. I’ve been thinking about online integrity for awhile, especially when I was floundering about, trying to decide whether or not to continue blogging at the end of the year. To become a popular kid in the blogging world seems to have a similar price offline – you have to lose a bit of yourself, your values and personal boundaries, to gain something that could very easily disappear overnight.

  7. Michelle, you are one of my favorite writers–who happens to blog. You are honest, you put thought into every single post, you stick to your convictions and you are polite without being distant to your readers.

    While I don’t always comment, especially lately with a recent hiatus and new projects, I wanted to say thank you for this post and for your class. You are one of my blogging mentors, and I learn a lot from you simply by watching.

    I started blogging for one set of reasons, but like any growth process, my motivations have changed and evolved too. I blog to write–to hone and practice a craft as you eloquently stated.

    In nearly two years, I’ve made quite a few friends along the way, and I’m grateful for that. But I’ve also been around long enough to see bloggers simply vanish. Sometimes they return, sometimes they don’t. And since many of my readers and fellow bloggers are in recovery, it’s easy to assume they vanished because of relapse. But truth is, usually we never know for sure. It’s taught me to not cling to other bloggers (or anyone really), to not jump to conclusions, to not join mobs or gossip parties–it’s just seasons changing. And it will happen whether I engage with it or not.

    Granted, I do believe in speaking up when something needs to be said. But sometimes that speaking up is simply to say it’s okay to be quiet and on the fringes, it’s okay to watch, to read, and then, ultimately, to write.

    I thank you.

    I’d like to either reblog or mention your post on my RoS site this week. I hope that would be okay?
    – Christy

    • Thanks for your kind words, Christy. Blogging is a constantly shifting world, so I find that I am often checking the ground I’m standing on – why am I doing this? What are my expectations?
      I’ve thought a lot about this belief “speaking up when something needs to be said”. Since I was not personally involved, nor had any firsthand knowledge of the behavior, it would be merely a need for drama or to fit in, if I were to engage in the moral outrage. And sometimes, when everyone else is talking, no one is listening.
      Needless to say, it’s a good reminder to check one’s own footing, hence the compulsion to write about it. You are welcome to reference this post or re-blog – thanks for the compliment!

  8. I, too, have no idea where all this heat and carnage is happening–which is just fine by me. There are a couple of “super-star” bloggers that I follow, but skip through any of the cliquish comments and the occasional in-crowd post. I don’t need to feel like the smelly kid on the sidelines at recess.

    This is the second time (I think) you’ve written about bad manners and spewing in Blogland. Yipes! Honestly, I’ve never encountered that, but I guess I’m not surprised. Folks go public for all kinds of reasons. And if you’re not doing your own work (one way or the other), anything can be a trigger. I’ve dropped several blogs for that reason. Raw pain expressed is cathartic, but if it’s going public, then, in my opinion, it needs to be processed and illuminated.

    • Sandy, I can always count on you to bring up a facet or perspective I’ve been unable to enunciate. I never knew what a “trigger warning” was until I started blogging. Now I know it means “some awful shit is coming up”. I am fortunate that all it does is depress me for a day or three. I couldn’t figure out what it was about it, but you nailed it – it’s pain without illumination. That does make me feel like a voyeur, but not the powerful, predatory kind. More like the hand wringing neurotic mom who just wants to make it all better.

      I tend to agree with you about raw pain – that’s the role that journal writing served for me. It was a way of processing and working with those feelings. I’m not sure that process should be live, but I also wonder at the human inclination to want happy conclusions and that might be where my own discomfort lies. On a personal level, I don’t understand very vulnerable people opening themselves up to public scrutiny. It’s tough enough for those of us who have reached a level of personal awareness and acceptance.

  9. …and this is why I blog. “Good boundaries make good bloggers…” I like that. I’ll try to keep that in mind. =>

    • Sometimes I think I’m a bit unfeeling when I see the love fests between bloggers, but this last week, there was an example of how very wrong and ugly that can get. It may not be a love fest at The Green Study, but it feels like a very nice place to blog and converse.

      • Conversations here in your place is rare to find nowadays. That’s what makes The Green Study so different, without meaning to be! Conversations here just happen in a very sensible way! I’m glad I haven’t been exposed to that blog ‘nasty’ you’ve been exposed to — yet. lol.

  10. After experiencing some hurt feelings and demands that I apologize for a post I recently wrote (and then deleted), I stepped away and finally did make a 2014 resolution. I resolved to avoid sarcastic humor about, and denigration of, groups of individuals. It’s just not worth trying to explain to people what my original intent was. You can’t expect understanding and you can never assume readers will “get you.” Communication online is miserably inefficient at best and downright hazardous at its worst. If I do decide to use a post to mock someone or a group of individuals, I’ll either have to include a ton of disclaimers or be very, very careful. But this is the thing about blogging – do you get attached to your readers and fellow bloggers and write for them or do you write for yourself? I don’t have an answer.

    • I’ll be the first to admit I’m a very cautious writer, often thinking about what will offend. I don’t know that it makes me a good writer. On the other hand, people can choose to be offended by nearly everything, so what’s the balance? Your integrity as a writer and person, against the myriad of offenses you can be accused of or the interpretations of random readers? It’s a tough call.
      I would hate for that lesson to teach you fear in your writing, but your experience is clearly still smarting. Maybe, given time, that fear will mellow into an entirely different lesson and you can move beyond it to be an even better blogger. Either way, take heart, many of us are learning blogging lessons the hard way!

  11. Thanks for writing this. I often wonder about the wisdom of the on-line rant and railing against the wrongs that have been done to us. Granted, my blog has morphed into more of a scrapbook of our family life, so in that sense, it is not a place for me to air my opinion of anyone else. The blogs that I follow and the people that follow me are very fluid – the lists seem to change continuously. Lately I have done very little writing or reading, but I do enjoy when I do take the time to read the writings of others. Yours is one of the ones that I enjoy stopping in to read.

    • Thanks, Heidi. I was thinking (why do so many of my sentences start like this?) that this post itself was a bit self-referential. On occasion, when I witness a train wreck on the internet, I feel compelled to re-visit my own online values, to ensure they align with my offline beliefs. It’s easy to get confused because you can witness so many perspectives and so many types of behavior.

      The online world is very fluid, as you point out, which is another reason that learning to stay your personal course becomes all the more important.

  12. Thank you for pointing me over here, love the thought of good boundaries. Because I often blog about politics I also have to closely monitor, I don’t mind a good debate but civility is a must. Thus far, I have been fortunate.

  13. So well said. Thank you. I share a lot of these feelings.

    And after reading Jean’s comment above, it does bring me back to the main question (for me anyway) Just who am I blogging for? Am I blogging to rack up empty stats and become ‘popular’? Or am I blogging for myself? I’ve been doing this for almost 4 years and I have struggled with this question (like most bloggers} but have always come around to the one thing that’s the most important to me: writing. That’s it. I love to write. I want to share my writing with others and make a connection, maybe share a laugh or two. That’s the only reason I blog. Once that reason fades away, I’m certain my blog will too.

    • Your reasons for blogging are similar to mine and likely to many other writers as well. Writing can be quite an isolating venture and I think blogging nicely fills that need for sharing and interacting.
      But entering the blogging world reminds me of the first (and last) garage sale I participated in – it’s a culture I had no idea existed. I didn’t realize people would park on the street 2 hours before the sale, would haggle over a quarter or would try to return items. Much the same with blogging – all facets of human nature are on display in wonderful and grotesque ways. It’s so easy to get sucked into blog mania, that only personal integrity and purpose can inoculate a writer against its pitfalls.
      Thanks so much for reading and commenting – I’ve read and enjoyed your blog off and on over the last year (a tribute to my inability to keep up, not your blog).

      • So true, it is a culture all its own. One that can be easily drama-filled and cliquey. We’re only humans after all. But I think when popularity becomes more important it quickly goes to a blogger’s head and motives can become less genuine. (I’m speaking in general terms here)

        I try to make sure to treat my readers and all other bloggers with respect at all times. I was very content in the beginning when I had two followers, I liked writing just for me and my relatives — my intentions have never changed in all these years. It sounds so simple, but once I stop having fun blogging, there is no point in doing it anymore.

        And I am happy to have found your blog and had a chance today to read your stuff. One thing about blogging, there truly are many good bloggers out there to connect with, it’s a shame to let any negativity bring us down.

  14. I don’t know. Once we start putting up walls, or boundaries, I think our writing suffers. I encourage everyone to explore their writing boundaries, to go where they have not gone before and see what’s there.

    Boundaries in our writing are different from boundaries in our personal lives. Vulnerable people get taken advantage of everywhere–it doesn’t happen just on blogs.

    • I do see online writing as a different creative endeavor than offline writing. That’s just my personal boundary. Much like I view a movie based on a book as an entirely different medium from the book itself. If I’m really lucky, people will say my book was much better than the blog!
      Your point is taken on boundaries for writing being different than in our personal lives, but there’s evidence that people are confusing them online – not to say this isn’t perfectly fine. For them. I just don’t have the interest in walking on virtual eggshells or adding graffiti to the mix.

  15. If I’m going to be honest, I have to admit that blogging anonymity does provide a personal safety net of sorts but in no way do I take it as a license to slander. I don’t know the specifics (and don’t need or want to know) of the blogger(s) you speak of but if there is a legitimate grievance than it should be handled off-line. I’m so cynical about stuff like this, that I’m also wondering if this smear campaign is intentional…you know, to drive the “almighty stats” higher. Yet, there is also truth to the notion that the more popular we are, the more open we are to scrutiny and negative criticism.

    • I do think that anonymity can encourage writers or bloggers who might not otherwise write out loud and perhaps allows a safe space for people to tell their stories. But I still know it’s me writing, and it’s not a special license for me to cater to my worst proclivities or to join in mob rule. This is simply my opinion, my personal set of guidelines and not expectations I have of others. Plus, I don’t do outrage well. I simmer until I’ve found a clear thought somewhere in the emotional fog.
      I’m cynical as well, but this was pretty ugly, even for a stunt. Both the accuser’s and accused’s blogs have disappeared from WordPress, but things will ramble on as before – all of us writing what we write and interacting as we do.

  16. When I started my blog, my chief focus was to share stories and poems and humor with my readers, if I had any. On my About page I have promised that my blog is not there for me to blow off steam. If I can’t find a humorous or satirical approach to something that is bugging the heck out of me, I don’t post it. There have been a couple of times when I came close to breaking that rule. As soon as I realized that I was using the blog to blow off steam, I pulled it.

    My rule of thumb is that if you don’t like my posts, don’t read the blog. I am not for everybody. Seems the same holds true for the blogs I read. Once it gets into blowing off steam or being rude, I am out of there. I don’t have the time or the energy. I’ve also found the same is true with Facebook. There’s a lot of political name calling from both the left and the right. The moment we quit listening to each, that is the moment tyranny arises.

    For me, blogging is like joining a conversation. But if I don’t want to carry on a dialogue with someone, it’s okay. There are way too many out there who something to say that I want to hear. Another way of saying this is what Forest Gump said, “Stupid is as stupid does.”

    • I think that’s a pretty straightforward policy to have. I left Facebook and Twitter last year, as I found it was too much work to sort what I wanted to read from all the pointless noise and chest-thumping. And it’s a preference of format. Blogging suits my writing temperament – longer form, more thoughtful responses, etc. I tend to shy away not so much from controversy, but from mindless steam blowing and name calling.
      This latest blog experience, watching bloggers engage in scorched earth policy, was a reminder that it’s a very human endeavor and we should be mindful in both our anger and our admiration of people that we truly don’t know.

  17. I’m with you. Generally, I try and be friendly an supportive where I can, or at the least, just polite.
    Sadly, I did get caught up in this, and after doing what research I could, posted.
    I don’t wish I hadn’t, and I wouldn’t take down the post. I don’t even think I’d have changed the language.
    That particular issue (not the people, but the issue) that I wrote about is the one thing that sets me off and makes me see red.

    It’s quite possible that makes me no better than the people involved. I’ll have to think about that for a bit.
    Mostly, all I want to do is trade stories and keep writing for my own amusement. Hope I can get back to that.

    • Yes, yours was one of the posts I read. We each have our hot button issues and things that can really enrage us. It’s a choice how we process and cope with those feelings. I am on a slow train, which is my personal preference. Plus, adrenalin really messes with my writing ability. I also like to know where my anger comes from, what it’s motivated by and if it has a lesson. That takes time – maybe too much time for the internet, but that’s my comfort level.
      With the involved blogs now extinct, there seems little else to say except carry on. You’ll find your way.

  18. Wow. I have no clear idea what’s going on because I don’t belong to any of the correct inner circles, but based on what I know of the various WordPress users I do follow, I was shocked that I knew enough to pinpoint the epicenter on my first guess. I still know nothing about anything, except that if I’d been a contributor to one of those freshly vaporized sites, I’d be furious.

    I’m lousy at networking with other, more popular bloggers (in 21 months I’ve done one guest post, which seems to be light-years below the average racked up by those within said circles), and drama like this makes me think I might be right to remain an eccentric isolationist and focus on my writing instead of my social networking…

    • I was on the periphery of this train wreck, as I had been a guest poster on one of the blogs and had some limited interaction with one of the bloggers. Needless to say, I’d never seen anything like it – this very public mess played out across numerous blogs. I don’t particularly care about losing the post. It was about Facebook and I could write about that phenomenon until the cows come home, so I’m not upset about losing the post. I do have a copy should I ever need to see if my writing skills have progressed.

      That is the challenge of being a blogging writer – balancing writing against the social aspects and trying very hard to keep the two things separate. I like the social aspect, but I have very strong boundaries in terms of online interaction, which I think make for a more respectful and amenable environment. It turns out being popular online is very much like trying to be popular offline – it comes at a cost – more scrutiny, more trolls, more assumptions by readers. I have suddenly started to appreciate flying under the radar. It’s not a bad place to be!

  19. I appreciate your post and thoughtfulness (as always), and if I hadn’t been on the periphery of both these blogs, I’d wholeheartedly agree. However, having watched certain things evolve over the past couple years, and having a few comparatively mild, yet triggering social media interactions of my own, I couldn’t help but feel validated that my hunches were correct. Yes, it’s sickening. Yes, there are boundary issues involved—all around. Yes, it’s definitely a train-wreck. But for me, it was also like a mystery had been solved. Which is terrible–because these are all real people, not a mystery novel.

    I began blogging for the joy of writing, to create, to tell stories, and to stimulate myself intellectually during an isolated time of my life. I became aware, quickly, of the ‘epicenter’ and tried to stay away from it. Yet it was there, like a vortex, sucking me in. There were red flags for me, patterns I recognized from my personal life, and I did my best to stay away, to not care, to not be involved, to not seek the recognition of being in that inner clique. But I’d heard bits and pieces about people being drawn in, then rejected and hurt, people I respect and whose writing I enjoy. I think a lot of people had pent up feelings, shame, experiences they’d kept secret, misgivings… and this episode gave them an opportunity to finally unburden themselves of the shame and hurt. Maybe I haven’t read everything, but I didn’t think of it as a mob. I thought of it as a support group, maybe. As a way for people to express the relief, that: Yes! They weren’t imagining things! What happened to them was wrong! They aren’t alone! To corroborate what was shared.

    There is so much pressure on victims to keep silent, to protect their abuser, their predator. And that allows others to be victimized. And I see what happened as somebody finally standing up and saying, no. She received so many private emails about similar abuse, that the stress became so much that she deleted her site. I was already following her and was familiar with her style, and maybe I have a high tolerance for rawness and anger, or maybe I’m too cynical and not much surprises me anymore, but I think she did a brave thing that will prevent more people from being hurt. Sure, she may have done it in a way many writers wouldn’t, but that’s her choice.

    It’s all a good reminder to stay thoughtful, civil, and careful–exactly how you expressed.

    • Thank you for reading and commenting, Kylie. I do not have firsthand knowledge of any of the people or behavior involved in this exchange of hostilities. As such, I really can’t comment on the facts of the matter, since I don’t know them.

      I just find the current atmosphere of constant outrage, support and awareness for most issues to be incredibly noisy, ineffective and ofttimes extraordinarily self-serving. You see the mob mentality at work when people launch into diatribes, knowing little about the facts, just riding the wave of whatever emotion is available at the moment.

      It is my personal preference to pick my battles, avoid drama and be thoughtful as I work through ideas and issues. This post was not a statement on how I would run the internet, merely observations of my own feelings and beliefs. Of course, you know, if I did run the internet, using an emoticon would make your hard drive melt down. Personal preferences…

  20. fransiweinstein

    Not to mention better humans . I have never been a fan of airing dirty laundry in public but social media seems to have become such an outlet. I can’t believe what people are comfortable sharing on Facebook, in particular.

    • I understand the cycle that so often victims and the abused are trapped in silence and that social media has changed that dynamic. My level of discomfort comes from the rabid behavior it often incurs. There is an unexpected cost to all parties involved.

      The thing I really loathe about Facebook is that all things become equal very quickly. One minute somebody is discussing a great restaurant they ate at last night and the next you’ve got a plea from an 8 year old that needs a kidney. The human brain doesn’t seem particularly good at prioritizing a constant and steady mixture of the trivial and the serious.

      Ah well, this has all been discussed to death. Onto non-blog world writing. Thanks for commenting, Fransi and have a good Monday!

  21. Hi Michelle. I have enjoyed your blog. I’m very new to blogging and currently flopping around trying to find my groove, to remember my intentions (truth-telling, sense-making, head-chatter-silencing) for writing while negotiating my desire to be read with my fear of being read. It’s lovely to find myself in such good company, and some inspiration, to boot.

    • Thank you for the kind words. The beginning is always a challenge, but the question of finding one’s groove has arisen for me multiple times over the last couple of years. I don’t know if that question entirely ever goes away. Your blog title really is a nice to key to it all – whether you’re just starting out or trying to get back on course. I fear being read nearly each and every time I post. I’m a bit of a scaredy-cat that way. But my writing has gotten stronger by forcing myself through this process over and over. Yours will, too. Welcome and enjoy your journey!

  22. Good fences really do make good neighbors. We all need to know what our boundaries are and defend them. But as you make clear, there are in the ether, just as in the real world, bullies, jerks, and incivil or crude, mean or petty, insecure, ungracious, rude, ignorant, self-centered, vituperative, or just flat-out hateful and evil people lurking. Anonymity can bring out the worst pretty easily, I guess, but it’s astonishing to me in my insular little happy-world that anyone would feel they have a need, let alone the right, to behave so abominably.

    I’m grateful beyond words that I’ve never seen, let alone been the unhappy recipient of, any such crassness. Granted, my blog has little content that could be considered controversial, and I have no interest in inviting conflict (a thing I avoid at all costs anyway), but I’m mighty pleased not to be familiar with this ugly side of human nature in Bloglandia.

    May you continue to write UNencumbered by the stupid and cruel intrusions of baddies, my friend. You are worth so much more. Thanks for being here!

  23. Pingback: Say Anything, Begin Anywhere (What Matters to You?) | Running On Sober

  24. What a good discussion you initiated with this great post! I always tiptoe away when I encounter bad/uncivil behaviors. I have observed a lot during my 18 months in this very special world. It’s almost like with the “slush press” – many people are drawn to drama and controversy and it can get ugly quickly under the imagined umbrellas of anonymity. We all had different reasons for starting a blog, as you point out. Mine was just to become a better writer, learn from good writers like you and others that I’ve found.

    • I always remember that the writing is why I started, but it’s easy to get distracted with the social interaction. As much as I enjoy “conversing” with people, you’re right about drama and controversy having its draw. It’s hard not to trip over sometimes, with people taking sides and losing their minds. I don’t view the online world as make believe, but I do know we can only reveal parts of ourselves online and in writing, so to take sides or get embroiled seems to respond when not having all the information. Sometimes it’s with a sigh of relief when I get back into my boring old offline world!

  25. “I just find the current atmosphere of constant outrage, support and awareness for most issues to be incredibly noisy, ineffective and ofttimes extraordinarily self-serving. You see the mob mentality at work when people launch into diatribes, knowing little about the facts, just riding the wave of whatever emotion is available at the moment.”

    As always — a really interesting convo.

    A few thoughts…Sandy Sue said it very well; without some illumination, it’s just a howl into the wind.

    I think some people have a tremendous/pathological need for attention/drama/emotion that (?) is absent in their own lives, whether professionally or socially, and so they find an outlet for that online where, sadly, there really are no boundaries at all, as law enforcement is also starting to realize and grapple with.

    For a variety of reasons, I loathe drama and the second I get a whiff of it, in real life on online, I’m fleeing as fast as possible. I find it wearying, self-indulgent and just weird. I got completely shredded a few years ago by a mob at Open Salon after some of my posts there, and it got so ugly I went to my local police and had the blogger kicked out of OS for making personal threats against me. But his threats were less weird than the pitchforks-and-lanterns howling mob that started piling on there, egged on by some resident/popular bullies, and saying the most astonishingly nasty and personal things, like (?) making fun of my resume. Excuse me?

    I blog to “meet” smart, thoughtful, curious people — and was so happy when you and I met in Minneapolis.

    • It’s good to hear from someone who has been on the other end of the pitch fork, although I’m sorry that you’ve experienced that. I think pathology is good way to describe all this ineffectual outrage. I do believe there are worthy things to be angry about, but I question whether much of the noise serves any point.
      Being online, for some, allows them to cater to their most base thoughts and instincts with no filter at all. I’m even more amazed by the Facebook comments that show up on news sites – people using their full names and still being complete jerks. Everybody goes on about not shaming this or that, but can’t we shame the assholes just a bit?

      Caitlin, I admire your brass and am glad that we got to meet as well. I’m not always sure why I blog, but I’ll keep doing it as long as there is pleasure to be found in it.

      • I blog for a variety of reasons, some now blatantly commercial, and I’m fine with that — as I head into five (!) years of it, and 1,550+ posts. Having provided a ton of free entertainment and convo’s, I need to make some money and if I can find some students for my webinars among my followers, great.

        The online world is weird. I use it primarily (and happily) for two things: sources for my writing and staying in touch with friends. After that, it’s whenever I have time or energy.

        My work is increasingly draining, so I severely limit additional drama elsewhere. Let others waste their lives on it.

  26. pinklightsabre

    It’s a testament to you and your writing that you garner this kind of animated response to your posts Michelle…I’m glad to be a part of it too. Seems we flicker in and out of different realities through blogging, off-line writing, blogging about blogging…but it’s all good, and I’m glad to have gotten to know you here. Thanks! – Bill

    • Thanks, Bill. I have been very fortunate to have some erudite and interesting commenters on this blog. I always pick up something new from the conversation. I’m flickering in and out a lot this week. I don’t have any particular reality well within my grasp in terms of writing. I’m sure I’ll be writing about that soon, if only to find sense and order. Take care and thanks for being such a warm blogger, despite my prickly lack of huggishness…it’s on the inside, my friend.

  27. Wow. Drama! Who knew? Okay, so: (1) Grownups are mean. As a misanthrope and biological social misfit (Aspie), I knew that. (2) Most people aren’t to be trusted, so keep your distance online, and don’t make REAL friends.

    I don’t agree with that one. Just like offline–what’s the diff. Since (1) is true, on- or offline, and it’s damned hard to make new true friends as an adult, you should explore every opportunity–with caution. Sure, you’ll be burned. But if you take things slowly, what are the risks? You DON’T make a new friend? Oooo!

    Now, if you mean “Don’t share confidences” and certainly “not in writing”–yup. I’ll agree with you there. Not unless or until you’ve met or become blood sisters/brothers, or known each other for a few years, and then only over the phone, ’cause (1) is still true.

    • I wonder if it is easier, as an Aspie, to view all relationship mediums as equal(on or offline). It takes me a long time to develop a friendship, but it does seem easier if I am able to see facial expressions, hear tone of voice, read those social cues. You’re right, though, all developing relationships, regardless of the venue, carry risk. What I don’t like is that online, the fallout from not maintaining boundaries gets played out in public forums. As you said, explore with caution.

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