The Blog Phenomenon

So you know I've run out of writing material when I post about blogging! :)

But to be completely honest, I have been thinking a lot about this whole blog phenomenon. A year ago, I wasn't even aware of blogs. Now, I have my own and get stressed if I haven't updated it in a while.  Nearly all of my friends have blogs, and I spend HOURS reading them. Magazines, TV shows, and newspapers have blogs in addition to their websites.  Blogs are becoming as prevalent and popular as emails and Facebook pages.  So here are my observations on this growing trend.

Top 10 Positive Aspects of Blogs:
1. Updates: It's a great way to keep up with friends and family by sharing pictures, stories, thoughts, and even prayer requests. With my parents living several states away, the blog posts are their closest thing to personal visits.
2.  Reconnecting: I have found (and been found by) friends with whom I had lost communication over the years. High school friends, sorority sisters, college classmates... 
3. Insightful: When you only have the opportunity to talk or visit with someone periodically, it's difficult to get past the superficial questions and get to the heart of their life.  Blogs allow you to read one's deeper thoughts, learn of stories and milestones, view pictures, and reconnect at a greater depth than phone conversations or public run-ins allow. 
4. Therapeutic: For me, writing is an outlet. It helps me organize the many thoughts that crowd my mind. Once I sort through those thoughts or feelings on "paper," I often feel a burden lifted. I relish the experience of recollection, revelation, release, and renewal that accompanies the process of putting my thoughts into words.
5. Entertainment: There are many blogs that serve as a source of entertainment! Stuff Christians Like is one my favorites. It's hilarious and yet thought-provoking at the same time. 
6. Education: I have gained some parenting tips from other moms' experiences and advice that has proven very helpful with Carter. I have also learned how to make hairbows and outfits (thanks Darby!), acquired new recipes, found new books to read, and received great suggestions in response to my Laundry and Lullabies and MIA posts. 
7. Record of Memories: By posting Carter's pictures and milestones, I am not only keeping family updated, but I am also recording details and memories. When he turns one, I will order a book from Blurb.com and keep it as his baby book!
8. Ministry: Many women have ministered to me through simply sharing their lives on their blogs. I have also enjoyed Beth Moore's blog. My church (MBCC) even began a blog to update everyone on its mission trips while teams are en route so we can truly glimpse the work being accomplished and the conditions of the location.
9. New Friends: What a great way to connect with new people who share similar passions, interests, and perhaps even trials and challenges.
10. Vulnerability: In a culture that focuses so much attention on outward appearances, personal accomplishments, and "having it all together," it's great to see people offering personal reflections, sharing struggles and burdens, and generally exercising vulnerability.  I think transparency is healthy for personal growth and beneficial in encouraging others. I know that I have personally been challenged and inspired by Boothe's and the Giffens' blogs because of the honesty and vulnerability in their posts.

Top 10 Negative Aspects of Blogs:
1. Pressure: Pressure to update. Pressure to read others' updates. Since blogging has become many people's central way of communicating news, I feel like I am really out of the loop if I get behind on reading posts!
2. Blog Envy: I can't help but sometimes envy the beautiful writing, great stories, and even life experiences conveyed. Sometimes it's hard not to get caught up in comparisons. 
3. "Blog Stalkers":  People jokingly use this term to mean that they continually visit blogs of people they don't know. Maybe because the writing is good. Maybe because the stories are funny or inspiring. Maybe because the pictures are fun to look at.  To be honest, I  would be flattered for someone to find my blog entertaining enough to merit repeat visits even when they don't know me personally.  I suppose there is the fear that someone might really "stalk" you (or your children) through your blog. I think the chances are slim, but sitemeter is a great tool to keep an eye out for people who visit at an abnormal frequency. (Here is a blog that I blogstalked for a while...well, I kind of know Abby from Auburn so it wasn't completely stalkerish. :) But I owned up to being a frequenter and now occasionally comment on her posts. Check her blog out...her writing is fantastic!)
4. Money drain: This probably isn't a factor for everyone, but since reading about projects and looking at pictures on other blogs, I now have many new items I would like to purchase. :) A sewing machine, "professional" camera, and the entire Gilmore Girls series on DVD are just a few things on my wish list. :)
5. Anonymous Comments: I don't mind anonymous comments, even ones with opinions contrary to mine, as long as they're tactful and respectful. Unfortunately, many of my friends have received hurtful comments that were completely unnecessary. On the first post in which I made myself somewhat vulnerable, I received an anonymous comment that seemed a little harsh. I felt like they missed the whole point of the post, and I was on the verge of tears for the whole afternoon! Then I realized that, if I want to be a writer, I need to develop a tough skin. But I still think someone should not post an unnecessarily critical comment unless they're willing to step up and post their name. After all, my blog is my personal site. No one HAS to read it.
6. Brag Forum: Blogs have the potential to be a brag board - a place to advertise one's "perfect life." But as far as I can recall, I haven't read a blog where the person toots her horn too much.  And one shouldn't be afraid to post milestones, celebrations, and happy moments, as they serve as reminders of the joys and triumphs of life. Sometimes we need that glimpse of hope. 
7. Time-Consumer: I have spent some of Carter's entire naps reading blogs!! It's really easy to spend large amounts of time jumping from blog to blog. And the more you discover, and the more blogs you find of "lost" friends, the more you evolve into a bloggie. (I think I just made that word up. It means "a blog-obsessed online surfer.") 
8. Out in the open:  Unless your blog is private, your life is out there for the world (literally) to see.  In some ways, that's a little creepy. But I think most of the positive aspects already mentioned outweigh this negative.
9. Hard to respond:  I have to say that it's frustrating to receive a comment and not be able to respond back like  you can via email. If they have a blog, you can go post a comment on one of their posts, but the response comes across as really random. If they don't have a blog, and you don't have their email, you can respond by posting a comment under theirs. But how do you know that they'll go back and read it??
10. Blog etiquette: Just as we have had to develop etiquette for emails and cell phones, I suppose there will evolve a system of rules/suggestions for bloggers.  For example, I think you should ask a mother's permission to post pictures in which her child appears (particularly if she doesn't have a blog herself). I am trying to be careful about that. Also, if someone lists a link to your blog on their blog, I guess it would be good etiquette to put their link on your list as well? But then will we eventually all have hundreds of links on our sites?? :) 

Well, I guess I've thoroughly dissected blogging. Now my mind can rest. :) Blog on, my dear bloggers!

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Beth Goff said...

I have to say I LOVED your post!! I totally agree that blogging can take up a LOT of time. For me, since I live in CA, blogging has really made me feel like I am not "missing out" on watching my friends kids grow up! I am glad we "found" each other again too! :)

Prentices said...

If you get the GG series, you won't be able to kick me out of your house! Didn't know you were a fan - see, blogs really are educational!

Kelley Brown said...

Haha! I am not a fan yet...but my friend Melissa has talked me into becoming one! Maybe we can split the dvds! :) (Go to the Richies' blog to read her post on Gilmore Girls.)

The Hoppers said...

I get stressed out too when my blog is not updated!!!!! There is so much going on with Lawson and I need to keep up! Although, collages on SnapFish are my new obsession!