Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Social media: What's the point?

Have you ever tried explaining blogging (or, God help me, twitter) to someone who just doesn't get it? I did it yesterday, and it was like trying to explain yellow to someone who is colorblind.

"What's the point of typing all that stuff out?" For some reason, the word "typing" really bothered me there. As if we're all those monkeys chained to machines, hoping to randomly hit on something worthwhile. I noticed myself getting really defensive, really quick. Why did I feel the need to update my twitter status every few hours? Why would anyone want to read the stuff I write here?

It was an interesting question, though. For me, the blogs give me a place to stretch out my ideas and sometimes have an audience for them. Have you ever noticed how hard it is to have a serious conversation with anyone lately? None of us have the attention span to listen to someone else long enough to find out what they're thinking about, or what their daydreams are, or why they are frustrated with their favorite politician. Sad but true, it seems like people (me included) can only tolerate about a minute of serious conversation before there is the desperate need to insert a joke to lighten things up.

I try not to be boring when I blog but if I am, people can just skip ahead to the next thing in their RSS reader or click on a link. It doesn't seem as deadly as being boring in conversation. I also have more time to wind through my thoughts and figure out what I really mean, why something really bothers me, why I'm really feeling so happy.

When I was a teenager, I kept a journal, and felt really seriously hurt and angry when my father confronted me about something in there. I had actually never considered that someone might read it. I thought that my right to privacy was so sacred that it couldn't be questioned, but he thought that he had the right to read my journal and my mail and anything else he wanted if he was concerned about me and wanted to find out what was up. I understand why he did it, now, but I still would like to think I wouldn't do that to my daughter, if I had one. I wouldn't have ever started journaling if I had realized that what I was doing was creating a public record of my most private thoughts. I have never wanted to keep a journal since then, because I don't want someone somewhere to read it and misunderstand.

This is different because I know there is an audience, and I write with the understanding that these thoughts will be read. I like it when someone takes the time to comment (unless it's someone selling diet pills) and it's interesting to see which posts get reactions and which ones don't.

I do find blogs and twitter useful -- it's interesting to see what people share and I feel very connected to the people whose tweets and posts I read, sometimes more than to friends and family in real life. I'm still not sure I can make my friend understand what this stuff is all about, but at least I know why I bother with it, even if he doesn't.


  1. Interesting blog! I've gotten similar reactions from people about (offline) journalling and even sometimes READING! What the heck? I don't knit, but I don't ask people what the point of knitting is.

  2. I started blogging to keep in touch with family, but it has turned into one of the only place I can say what I want, because of what you mentioned - people's increasingly short attention spans. What is that all about anyway? Sometimes I feel like no one, except my husband (and sometimes not even him) is listening to me in real life.

    So I try to keep it real by blogging, because it makes me feel better. But I've found myself becoming more and more self-conscious of it lately, as I find out family/friends are reading. I hate it when people feel like they... know you because they read a post you wrote. It's not that easy.

  3. HI!

    I just started blogging but it seems to be an outlet for emotions and I agree with you about having real conversations with people.. it keeps getting harder!

  4. Good luck on your running Jen. I appreciate your stopping by and offering support. I've been reading your blog for quite some time now, probably over a year, and always appreciate your insight (even if I haven't sold you on Beck yet - ha! ha!). Anyway, regarding your post today, I think I would really miss my blog if I stopped. I'm not sure who I am writing to but I do know it fills some sort of need within me. I guess it's like a good friend. Gee, that's kind of sad in some ways isn't it? Oh well, Blog On!

  5. OMG why do parents do that. My parents, read my diary at 15 and my mother cried. I burnt it but later on, continued keeping a diary. I started blogging cause i wanted 2 be accountable 2 somebody. A few friends read and ask on progress or just come 2 understand me better. But i am finding more and more that putting stuff out there keeps me centered and part of a community.

  6. I know I started censoring what I blog about after I learned certain people (in my day to day life) were reading it. Somehhow it was easier to bare my true self to strangers.

    I was so upset when I got punished for things I wrote in my diary as a young teen. My mother was furious that I called her a "witch" but isn't that just what you would call someone who would read your personal diary?

  7. I get you. The few people IRL who know that I blog seem to think it's a "weird little thing" I do, but they have no idea how important it has become to me. I have been blogging for a little over a year, and in that time I finally feel like I know who I am and who I want to be.

    I really enjoy your blog and will check back often!

  8. It came as a surprise to me to discover that people actually read my blog - I knew it was public but never really thought anyone would bother to read it, so I mostly just wrote for me. I still do.

    Twitter is much harder to explain to people but I really love the community that I'm part of there. It's like a big cocktail party with really smart people sharing bits and pieces that seem random until you look at the picture over time and realize what you know of them and they of you.

    Contrary to what my mother thinks, my online friends from blogs, Twitter and Facebook are real people and I cherish the connections we have. Some, like you, I actually know IRL, too :)


"Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bulls**t." -- Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07