A Long Day’s Journey Into Silence

9 March, 2009 at 1:17 pm (clerical)

Well, it’s been forever since I’ve posted anything. And since I’d prefer to say something instead of just chronicling every Batman-related news story that crosses my field of vision, I find that my blog is dwindling again. Despite my previous plan to jot down some quick notes and links, and throw them — gelatinous and unformed — into Blogger’s gaping maw, I find myself reluctant to clack out anything that I haven’t thought about, mulled like fine cider, and weighed in the palm of my hand, to get a small measure of its relevance and universality. Unfortunately, this means that I usually find it lacking, particularly as my internal Bureau of Weights and Measures is as slow and bureaucratic as its civic counterpart, which removes much chance of any relevancy right from the offset.

One might think that microblogging would be the answer, then. And, as you can see, I have incorporated a Twitter feed into the sidebar, publishing my running list of songs that have gotten stuck in my head long enough for me to do something about it. But I’m not convinced that Twitter or, say, Tumblr would provide me with the answer. It’s become clear to me that blogging really is about comments, about a call and response relationship with the void. I’ve long held that, for me, this is supposed to be more like a column, a collection of aggregated observations that should amuse, but should stand on their own. It should not rely on knowledge of me, nor be designed to shine a light into my personal life and internal workings. However, I have largely failed in that last aspect: the column has become more of a diary, more of a LiveJournal as time has withered on. In part this is because I have lost my trust in my ability to be universal, in my ability to write openly without an intended audience. I would write with more surety, and therefore more frequently, if this had a focus, a topic, a row to hoe. But since it doesn’t, since it is just a feature for my peregrinatory whims, it really has to be simply about me, and therefore simply be a journal after all.

I heard about a study recently (not sure where… I assumed in the Sci/Tech news I accumulate in my RSS subscriptions, but a series of searches reveals nothing, so now I’m guessing it was a one-line item in Wait, Wait… Don’t Tell Me) that indicates that blogging makes one happy. Researchers claim that individuals who blog feel

“a sense of greater social integration, which is how connected we feel to society and our own community of friends and others; an increase in social bonding (our tightly knit, intimate relationships); and social bridging — increasing our connectedness with people who might be from outside of our typical social network.”

The article I link to above claims, if I’m reading this right, that this comes about because of an internal sense of satisfaction that comes from journaling about one’s internal feelings, and the increased sense of self-acceptance that comes with the external articulation of this. What is not said is whether this greater sense of self is dependent upon external reinforcement from comments, hits, or other exchanges. Is the writing sufficient unto itself, or does it really need to be “blogging”, with the subsequent back-and-forth that seems to be a requisite part of the definition.

Also, does microblogging bring micro-satisfaction? How much happiness can be spun and how much self-concept can be reinforced in 140 characters? If anything, I wonder if the micro-format, being such a virtual amuse-bouche, leaves both the reader and the writer impatient for and anxious about more. For every person who wonders why someone would even join Twitter anyway, I wager, there’s someone using the service in anguish over what to say say next, in order to always have one’s account fresh and new and interesting. And I do not envy this hypothetical (read: straw?) person’s regular bouts of status panic.

One last note on Twitter. A few people in conversation have sought out my editorial on the whole phenomenon, and one of the points I like to drive home about its appeal is the celebrity aspect of the whole thing — there is a potent allure in providing a service that encourages the illusory notion that one is connected with someone famous. I fully understand why creative types like singer/songwriters have been firmly embracing the web, as it allows them to use technology to regularly reinforce their audience, and in the fractured commerce that is the music business, a core of devotées is acutely necessary. I’m less sure why, say, an actress like Kat Dennings needs a homepage, a YouTube channel, and a Twitter account. That is to say, I understand why she would want or need them as a person — after all, I have all these same things — but not so much as a celebrity. If one uses the singer/songwriter lens above, to have all these one-way outlets for communication feels like brand-building, and I find it hard to believe that either Ms. Dennings or her publicity staff would feel that she needs to be a brand. Even in the mayfly world of starlets.

The flip-side of this is the fake Twitter-account, which is almost invariably associated with a celebrity. I’m not sure I understand the appeal of pretending to be a celebrity… is there really a frisson that comes from having thousands of followers when they’re not really interested in you at all? How is it that the fake Zooey Deschanel has thousands of followers and no posts, while the real one has but a pittance? (EDIT, 10 Aug 2009: actually, both seem to have been fakes, and have been summarily deleted. Ms. Deschanel can be found here.) My favourite spambot/spoof, however, is the rather baffling “StephenFryJohnCleese“, who apparently decided that pretending to be one famous British comedian wasn’t enough, and so he’d grab more followers by being two! Or something…

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