Friday, April 28, 2006

Bloggers Anonymous

There is a popular fallacy in the blogosphere that 'we' share some great set of beliefs or attitudes. No, 'we' share a technology, and have nothing more in common than those who produce works on paper, or in any other medium. Indeed, the absence of critical oversight means that opinions of all sorts can be voiced. My experience of blog surfing is that you are only two clicks away from a loony. Bloggers blog for a range of reasons and make different choices about how they deal with the tension between the freedom to say anything online and the possibility that they will at some point have to answer for these statements to real people. It is a well-known phenomenon that people who started out anonymously, and wild in their indiscretions, often find themselves hemmed in by finding that some of their subjects are starting to read it.

In general I'd say this is hardly an issue that concerns me, partly because my writing aspirations are not confined to cyberspace, and therefore true anonymity was hardly an option (anyone interested enough could unmask me on Google in about two seconds, and I have been actively advertising my blog to my family on the principle of hiding in plain sight). Instead, I have merely used a mild screen to create a little distance between my professional/real identity and what I write here, in order to allow me to be more frivolous and controversial than if I were continually on record. Paradoxically, my writing (of all sorts) tends to be light on personal information: my poetry, for example, ranges far and wide in subject matter, but rarely gets close to my family or my work. But then, this blog is much closer in spirit to print than many I read: I would not, under any concievable circumstances, write an entry about what I had for breakfast (yawn), or how bad the rush hour traffic is (shock!), or whether I should commit because it's been like three weeks and I think he's ready but I'm not sure (zzz). Those that do obviously have a different idea of what they are blogging for. In a few cases, anonymity and the freedom to create a distinctive informal voice from nowhere creates a gossipy diary which may well be largely fictional (like the Sarcastrix and the Hot Librarian), but the vast majority stick to dreary candour, recording things that you wouldn't bother telling someone over the breakfast table, let alone setting down for posterity.

Which explains another common feature of blogs: they die. They die because their authors stop caring, because after the initial buzz of creating Web content wears off, they realise that the sort of fame where everyone is famous isn't in fact the fame they seek.

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