Friday, May 23, 2008

Are bloggers narcissists blabbering on about nothing?

You would think so reading the feedback to this controversial article in the upcoming Sunday New York Times. It's the cover story of the magazine section.

Now maybe the article is too long or perhaps a former editor of GAWKER is not the best person to talk about privacy issues in the age of Facebook/Myspace etc. However, some of the comments are fascinating. Many people seem to take issue with the fact that the Times would do a story like this period. I wonder if these people are older without children. Ms. Gould is 24. Her generation has a completely different relationship with new media than even people only 10 years older. I thought the article did bring up some interesting issues.

Also not all bloggers are people who don't interact with real humans by hiding behind a keyboard. Most the bloggers I know are actually very smart, curious and outgoing. That could be because of the blogs I'm drawn to but to dismiss the medium out right is strange. There are millions of blogs out there some are worth reading some are not.

Those who say it's ONLY a waste of time, clearly don't read any blogs. You could waste time or you could read Field Negro's blog for a great POV on race, politics, pop culture and the American way. You could read David Lebovitz's Paris blog and learn how to make some amazing desserts. Or Apartment Therapy for some home decorating tips. Cathy Horn's Fashion Blog for the New York Times is brilliant. The successful screenwriter John August has a blog that is helpful and entertaining. The possibilities are endless.

The hottest screenwriter in Hollywood right now is Diablo Cody. No blog, no JUNO. She is writing/exec producing a Showtime series that Steven Spielberg personally chose her to write and her new movie. JENNIFER'S BODY is shooting right now. Most writers are lucky if one of their screenplays ever gets made, three in a year and a half...that is rare. A manager named Mason Novick came across her blog and liked her writing. He encouraged her to finish a script. That script was JUNO. Say what you want about her, the movie, etc. simple fact the blog was an outlet for her writing. I'm sure at the time there was no way she would have imagined that typing her thoughts at a Walmart/Starbucks in the mid-west where she had NO hollywood connections would lead to her walking across the stage this year with the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.

The first time I heard of blogging I was wonder why anyone did it. I have always had a journal but that is different. Nobody read that. Of course I had not read any at that point. Some friends kept telling me I should start one. I was skeptical. Who the heck cares what I have to say and I'm too freaking busy.

I realize blogging helped me get out of the insular world of my Hollywood life. The blogs I tend to follow are usually the expats in Italy group, politics/social commentary, food, film/books, fashion, home decor/design, photography or a combination. Some of the political/social commentary ones (which also sometimes discuss pop culture and how it's connected) really give me food for thought.

Now with the move to Rome my blog has maybe become a little more focused but I like that one day I could talk about the Clintons and their role in the Democrat Party and another day post a "rap" video from WHAM! There are times when I talk about more personal things. I feel like I did that more often in Los Angeles. I was going through a very tough time and I really think blogging was a more constructive way to channel my thoughts then doing the usual Hollywood thing. You know drugs, drinking too much, becoming a sex addict or getting a facelift.

As a first generation American who spent half my childhood in NYC and the other half in suburbia I have been exposed to very different cultures. I am curious about a lot of things and blogging is a way to feed those interests. It's not a replacement for human interaction and it will never be. I think that would be sad. I don't really understand Ms. Gould's need to "overshare" all the time. Again that might be a generational thing. She wanted to be famous.

I ask my fellow bloggers what made you decide to start a blog? What do you think about the privacy of the people in your life that you write about? Do they know you have a blog? How do they feel about it?


Romerican said...

I read that article too, intense... Not so sure I would go as far as revealing intimate life details on a blog, it's not my style.
But the whole advent of the Internet has drastically changed social interactions. I mean nowadays there are even loads of books & articles about the "new" phenomenon of online betrayal/flirting!! Like anything, it should be used in moderation in my opinion..

joanne at frutto della passione said...

Wow, what an article, still reeling not sure how I feel about it, but I can tell you how I handle my privacy issues. First of all I protect my family's privacy like a lioness. No names, no pictures. All I do is refer to them as my sister, or my husband etc. I started blogging because I truly enjoyed and appreciated the blogs I was reading - I had been reading several blogs for almost a year before I started blogging myself. I saw it as a way of sharing my thoughts about a subject that I care about but that does not leave the gates open to getting too personal. Sometimes I reveal a little too much of my personal opinions, but always about the subject. I also turn off for the whole weekend or when I am not well. I can stay away from the Internet because my first life is quite nice if I do say so myself. The bottom line is that I blog because it's fun and free and I learn something new everyday!

Beatriz' suitcase contents said...

What a long article, and quite repetitive, but interesting read. I am older (41) than the blogger who wrote the article, and I think blogging for me is not an essential part of my life. I started blogging without ever having read a blog before, and I did it because we moved and I wanted my family and friends to keep up with us. I then discovered many layers to blogging, and I enjoy reading other blogs. I can say that I limit my choices to what is of interest to me. As far as my blog goes, my audience is me. I write about the things that I like, I write to remember our experience here, and I write because it gives me perspective. If nobody read my blog, I would still keep it. LONG comment, sorry.

glamah16 said...

I read that article. I recognized a lot of her personal issues even with me and my little food blog. The boyfriends need for privacy, etc. I have been blogging for 2 years and find bloggin more about foodeasier for me than my previous Diary of a Shopgirl. Its hard not to have conflicts with work, relationships, etc in your blog and I use nicknames and no photos of us.My profile picture is fuzzed out,etc. Its amazing this whole blogging explosion and what it could lead to. But at the end of the day I just do it for me .

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

romerican - yes moderation is key. I wonder what will be the long term effects will be for some members of the younger generation who feel the need to live their life in public. There have been news stories about people being Googled by potential employers who are not happy to see crazy photos on the interviewee's myspace page.

joanne - I don't have a boyfriend but if I did I'm not how I would or wouldn't talk about that part of my life. I too usually take the weekends off.

beatriz - no need to apology. I too am older than the writer of the article and would keep blogging even if no one read it. I totally relate to what you wrote about perspective and recording your move here.

glahmah 16 - I think these issues are going to get more complicated. Are employers going to start firing people who post about their jobs. Is it considered slander if it's something unflattering? Or is it freedom of speech since it's your own personal page and not the New York Times?

gibber said...

Interesting topic. I google/facebook/myspace any new employee I might hire. Hey, it's 2008, and that's how things are now a-days. How you conduct yourself online shows what kind of judgment you have, and if you're one of those people who has the drunken hookup pictures all over your site, I'm not sure I want to hire you, because that shows POOR judgment. You're not in college anymore, grow up.

I write funny things on my facebook page...i curse, i vent, but there is NOTHING on there I wouldn't want my bosses to see. In fact, some of my hire ups are my friends on facebook (scary!).

That said, I think there is a healthy balance between blogging/online social networking and living live outside of cyberspace. I can thank facebook for connecting me to an old high school friend whom for some stupid reason, I haven't talked to her in 14 years. I think there is good that comes out of this "new medium" but, as with food an alcohol, moderation is always key.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

I'm with Gibber on this - I don't tend to blog about things that I'd have issues with other people reading. My trade off is that I don't write as "honestly" or passionately as I could. OTOH, if I did, I might hurt people I love, offend folks I work with, etc. That's not my goal.

Why do I blog? To share a little of my corner of the world and to learn from others. Since cross-culturalism has been such a huge part of my life, blogging has been great for gaining other perspectives. And I'd much rather read a kick-butt recipe from Glamah or someone else I "know" than from the current Food Network guy or gal. It's much more fun.

Ms. Violetta said...

Most of the blogs I read share my love and interest in Italy. I have found out more "real" information on life there and feel a bit more educated because of it. I never feel that anyone is exploiting themselves or indulging too much personal information. However, I do value the personal opinions and reflections of each writer.
This is how I look at it too - these are writers perfecting their craft by blogging.

Claudia said...

and yet, she continues to reveal so much in that article. hmmm....I started my blog so that my friends/family could see how I was doing. As far as I know, only a couple of people still see how I'm doing via my blog. The rest are people that I've "met" through blogging. I try to respect others' privacy, and even if I occasionally write about them, the blog is primarily about my life-as if I'm writing or talking to a friend about what's happening.

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

gibber - wow you really check? I guess that makes sense. You are right it does show judgement.

jen - It is more fun than get a recipe from Rachel or someone you have no "connection" to. I agree there is a trade off. It's great that some people go all out but I wonder what is the cost to their relationships.

ms. violetta - the expat blogs were invaluable to me as I tried to decide whether or not to move. I felt there was a lot more insight reading their stories than from a guidebook.

claudia - I think the author just can't help herself. I feel the same friends and family are so spread out and this is one way to stay in touch. I

erin said...

You blogged very well about blogging :) I think there are so many reasons...and mine have evolved. I love that I've met so many people, shared experiences, kept in touch with family/friends, and been able to better solidify and express my thoughts for myself as well!

Anonymous said...

The author clearly had a lot of problems that were reflected in how she chose to handle blogging. Her description was articulate, but she has her own issues with relationships, which is why her set of problems make a good magazine article I guess.

As for me, I write specifically for my family and friends, and send them updates when a topic might interest them. They generally don't leave any comment on the blog -- we exchange emails about it. Happily, I've also picked up a few readers that I've never met.

I read that article without making any connection to myself or my choices of subject matter or for that matter, without making much connection to other blogs I choose to follow. Shows how much variety is in it.

Blogger won't accept my id which is

Tracie B. said...

i started blogging after having sent a few too many silly mass emails, and getting a good response from a lot of people i hadn't heard from in years. honestly, i was pretty bored and had no social life, so the blog quickly became a way to reach to others and communicate. it was, i have to say, very fulfilling. i looked so forward to comments that i took (past tense!) care of that thing like a baby.

anyway, i think a lot of us find joy in the interaction. what the hell's wrong with that?

ninety9 said...

i concur with anonymous, ms. gould has some relationship issues and chose to air them out for the world to see, instead of talking to the people in her life that matter. and as for the nytimes article, while decently written, it provides only one aspect of blogging. this makes for a good article that would garner a lot of comments (they knew exactly what they were doing when they placed it as the lead article in the Sunday magazine).

i don't blog but i do read a number of them and as we all know, blogs are so diverse (although i'm not sure most of the nytimes readers know that. i agree with you ragazza, i think the average age of times readers are a little older, well, at least the ones who chose to comment, i think). what i personally get from blogs is to see the world through different eyes and share my opinions with others on a number of different topics. of course, it's no substitute for real relationships but i don't know, it kind of makes the world a little smaller and more familiar to me. long live blogs (at least well written, articulate, non self-indulgent ones)!

Kataroma said...

Great blog post!

I started my blog like Tracie B pretty much because I'd felt kind of lonely and needed a place to vent about living in Italy. I'm much happier now but I still enjoy blogging. Maybe I'm just a narcissist. :)

As Gibber said, I think it's really, really important not to put anything unprofessional or potentially embarassing online. I never mention my job, for example, on my blog and would never discuss relationship details. As the author of that article mentions, people love gossip and I imagine you could get a lot of readers by airing your own or someone else's dirty laundry - but that's a really, really bad idea.

I didn't read the whole article - it seemed rather repetitive - but I'm amazed at the kind of stuff she was willing to publish in the NYT let alone on her blog! I would be so embarassed if I were her!

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

erin - grazie! My reasons have evolved as well.

maetravels - thanks for stopping by. I agree the author def. has some issues regarding relationships. So glad I wasn't blogging in my early 20s or a couple jobs ago. ha.

tracie b. - I agree. Your blog was one of the first I started reading. I still think about that pizza in Naples. :)

ninety9 - That article did focus on a very narrow part of the blogging world. I do wonder what will happen as Ms. Gould gets older. Will she have more regrets about keeping nothing private. You can't delete things once they're on Google.

kataroma - thanks. No you are not a narcissist. Ha!!
I hear you about the article. It was almost like a public therapy session.

Los Angelista said...

I'm so glad you blog and that I came across yours somehow!

Four years ago I began my blog because 1) I'd been reading Rance and found it insanely entertaining 2) I had two small children and worked insane hours so I had no social life and 3) I wasn't writing at all and blogging was an easy way to ease back into writing, even if it wasn't fiction.

I was much more open with my identity back then but now I try to be more private. My family didn't know about my blog till last year. My mom hasn't been too thrilled about a couple of things I've written, namely around my bro's suicide, but hey, it is what it is.

I would never add a boss as a friend on Facebook though. We aren't friends, no matter what they say!

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

los angelista - I feel the same way about you! We may have "met" through Christopher's Nat Turner Blog or Afrobella.

My siblings read my blog but my parents don't even have a computer. I know my mom would have an issue with me putting any "of my business out on the street." Ha

bleeding espresso said...

I went and watched the Kimmel interview. Ouch.

I started blogging for a variety of reasons (writing practice, keeping in touch with family and friends, "social" benefits for someone without many English speakers around), but I'll admit that I love comments and knowing that people are reading what I'm writing. I think most writers enjoy that feeling, as much as it sometimes scares us at the same time.

Would I continue with the blog if NO ONE was reading? Honestly? Probably not in the same format at least. It'd most likely be more personal, more raw, more like a journal. But I already have a journal for that. Part of why I blog now is to provide information (about Calabria, Italy, cooking, etc.), start dialogues, share photos...without people reading, the whole dynamic would change for me.

I definitely have a line between what I'll write about and what I won't, but it's not easily definable other than to say if I wouldn't want my mom, dad, or brother to read it online, I won't write about it. But that's kind of how I am in everyday life as well; only *really* close friends know intimate details, and I'd say only P knows just about everything.

I have to say though, I would sincerely miss my online friends if this all went POOF! tomorrow...and I'm not ashamed to say it. Sometimes people seem to wear their ability to "live in the real world" as opposed to communicating through blogs as if it's so obviously more advisable (and as if those of us who enjoy blogging friendships somehow don't live in the real world).

Friendship is friendship to me; I'll go where I find it (like here!) :)

And geez, I just wrote a blog post here ;)

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

bleeding - that is okay!

I agree with you that blogging does not = cutting yourself off from the "real world". I think of all the people I have met and the things I have learned from other bloggers. It has actually opened up my world view.

BigCNYC said...

Ragazza, I'm a little late responding but the reason I blog is because of you. I had my blogspot domain saved for about two months before I met you, but after hearing you had written a book, were taking italian, working in Hollywood and (!) blogging, I thought, I should get off my ass and write too. At work, while I write/edit for others, it's never for me. It was starting to frustrate me. My blog is where I'm the editor-in-chief and I don't have to worry about if my content speaks to Black women who live in the southeast. If I wanna post about a Ft. Greene cafe where folks only come in with headwraps and drink green tea, I can. When I've wanted talk about things superpersonal I tend to pause on the chance my big momma decides to visit my page. I might be 35 but I still feel like she would whup me if I said something out of line.

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

bigcnyc - awwh, I am touched. :)

I enjoy reading your blog. It must be a great outlet for you since you are not blogging for the publication.
Regarding your mom, wouldn't matter if you were 55, I know what you mean. ha