Monday, December 25, 2006

Why do we blog?

I know this is an old topic, an oft-discussed topic. Why do we blog? Why are we here?

I was thinking through it, and I believe I have reached an answer.

We are all human. And to some extent, we all need something. We need friends when we are down, comfort when we despair, someone to tell us to straighten up and accept responsibility for our mistakes. We need approbation, condemnation and flattery. We need all these things in different amounts. We need a community.

Blogging simulates this relationship in the community. It is, therefore, a tool.

Even those blogs which distance themselves from personal relations, instead choosing to give over certain developed stances or information, rely upon their having an audience. There is no actor without an audience, no player without a play. We are nobody without one another. We live in a void, and tell ourselves that we like it there, but we know we don't.

The problem is, in the real community, the physical community of flesh and blood, we can't let down our guard. We cannot be so honest. We cannot admit mistakes. We have our pride, our stature and status, our children, our families. Oftentimes, we refuse to grow- in public.

So here we create these private worlds. You would not know me if I did not choose to let you know me. I am the one in control, and that makes me comfortable. If anything becomes too intense, if something pushes me out of my comfort zone, then I stop. I can close the computer screen, I can think about it, talk about it with others. And I learn how to express myself. Learn what I think, those principles that are essential to my survival, and the ones I can learn to release, the ones I can give up and change based on what I now see.

There are different stages to blogs and to their meaning for us. We begin with whatever we need most at the time. I began (most truly) with Silvergleam. That was my secular blog. I had the approval, warm regard and kindness of others. It was a place to feel safe. I had people who would force me to think, but did so in a truly kind manner. I knew not to feel threatened. I knew we were all friends.

But then I ventured into the Jewish blog-world. That was after the destruction of ModBlog, of my old place, of all the writings I had posted there. Things are not safe here. Tempers run high. People yell, scream, shout. People disagree, and they are disagreeing about the most important things- ideas. They are disagreeing about ideas, values, priorities, outlooks on life. We are not discussing stories here. This is not my alternate escape-world. We are discussing personal values, ideas that matter to us. Letting them go means recreating ourselves.

At first, I was angry. At the very first, all my thoughts were expressed in anger. I was anti-this, anti-that. I was very negative. I hated everything. I mocked those who didn't agree with me.

And then I received some sharp criticism, which I didn't take very well. But better, I began to think. I met those people I needed to meet, the ones who could guide me while allowing me to think I was choosing all that I chose on my own. These were the people who led me to the paths I wanted to take, but did not force me on them.

And I began to realize- at the same time that I began to appreciate North Shore for what it was- that I was not merely anti-Templars. I did not merely define myself by what I hated and disliked. I was pro-something. I had a vision, a vision of the world as it could be, as we should be. I had things I aspired to, beliefs I wanted to share with others. There was good to be found in everything, in everyone, and I had to learn to search for it. Not merely to see the negatives, the negatives that blinded me, but to look beyond. To see what people hid behind their angry faces and upset comments. To realize that what I believed I meant and what was truly conveyed were not the same.

I learned that there are some things I cannot change. I learned there are certain things that set me off, that I cannot be a part of. There are certain things that make my mind whirl, that bring me back to a time I cannot forgive. And so I cannot be around those people, those things.

I learned, too, that there are some things I can change. I see it as I myself change. I am still negative, this I do not deny. But not to the extent I was. I do not define myself by what I am not, but by what I am. What I mean to do. Who I mean to be. We are looking for the good; we are the truth-seekers. We are uplifted by our search.

That is why not all of us are here for the same length of time. Some of us need to blog because it is a way to release our problems to a kind and supportive community. Some of us need to blog because it gives us the power kick we never had as children, when we were loners, hated, rejected. That is not a healthy kind of blogging. It is not being part of the community, but drawing away from it. People learn that, or they receive comments they feel are hurtful, respond in kind, and descend into the maelstrom. Cycles never work very well.

Some of us blog because our supposedly real lives are different from the people we are in truth. We are the orthoprax, perhaps. Or the skeptics. And we need support; we need support-groups. We need others to confirm that we exist. And we need the strength, perhaps, one day, to be ourselves as we truly are.

We are here for as long as we need to be here, for as long as we still grow. Alternatively, we are here because we are part of the whirlpool, caught in an ugly cycle that will not let us go.

We are here as flawed individuals. We are honest. We put ourselves forward without masks. Oh, perhaps we wear them initially, but after a time we let them go. It is scary to do this. No one knows what others will think of you. Perhaps they will hate you. Perhaps they will be cruel, make hurtful comments, see you as you truly are and laugh in disdain.

And we do it anyway.

We are brave. We learn to be brave. We learn to tear off the masks, the attempts to be other people. We start that way, perhaps. I know I did, with a different blog, at a different time. I was discovered, and told to act as I truly was, to be who I was, not to lie or pretend, even for the sake of a joke. I took that advice after initially acting in a fashion I don't like to remember. And I have grown from it.

What you see is what you get.


I'm Chana.

This is who I am. To the best of my knowledge, I am the same on this blog and in person. There are no lies, no mysteries, masks, pretenses. Oh, it's scary to be so honest. But the rewards are far greater. Because imagine- people like you as you are. People like you, your real self, not the falsities you devise. People like you with your flaws and your good traits, like you for all that you are. If they do not like you, then at least they respect you.

When you stop hiding.

So come out of hiding, folks. We're ready for the game.

Bring it on.


Anonymous said...

I'm glad you have learned to accept others opinions because that's really what life is all about.
Writing, by the way, is a great tool to let out emotions, however not all people are able to use this method.

Sarah Likes Green said...

thanks for sharing your blogging journey.

i began my blog for a certain reason, i guess i needed something at the time and the blog filled that. but then it grew and changed and i found a community as well. but, like you, i think that through what you see on my blog is what you with me in real life. or even more real because i can let my guard down a bit more.

it'd make an interesting psychological study!

Ezzie said...

A very good post.

It's *very* interesting that the two times where you substantially changed were when people were unusually harsh with you: The commenter who told you to be yourself, and the person who gave you sharp criticism. While most of the time, we grow through our own realizations, every once in a while we need a bit of a shock to do the same. It would be best if we never needed such shocks, but we do.

SJ said...

Wow, Chana, somehow you make even blogging sound like a dramatic fantasy story. I've never before felt the blog world to be so stark and almost creepy! :)

Even though I'm new to blogging,
(and I don't think I've been totally sucked into mine yet), I hear the truth in your words. It's amazing that blogging has had such a huge impact on your personal development.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Hi Chana.

I think there are different categories of bloggers.

Some people blog as themselves -- to express themselves and showcase their ideas for themselves.

Some live vicariously through the blogs of others.

Others blog to be the Walter Mitty's of the Blogosphere; Unfortunately, some of those have sinister intentions.

I guess one needs to be wary in our jblogosphere online community; with the same vigilance we need to have in real life.

Anonymous said...

Templars?...what have you been reading? or is that a typo?...

Chana said...

Templars is the name I use to refer to my first high school (since the very inception of this blog.) It comes from the Knights Templars of Ivanhoe, specifically Sir Brian de Bois-Guilbert. I find quite a lot of similarities between his attempt to possess Rebecca and her defiance of him and my high school.

Anonymous said...

For real?

I've always thought your high school was REALLY called Templars! I always thought that was an odd name...

Jack Steiner said...

Good post. I have written about this several times and always enjoy reading others thoughts.

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