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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Blogging or Voyeurism?

It was an article to be read on a leisurely Sunday, and tossed aside while lounging on the couch. But, somehow, Kristen A. Graham’s article on blogging in the Inquirer has me wondering if blogging is just a modern version of voyeurism.

Blogger Rachel Mosteller has learned much more than she ever expected from her online journal, "The Sarcastic Journalist."

As in: Don't blog about how much you hate your coworkers. It could get you canned. Also, watch what you write about your relatives. They may get huffy about having their lives revealed online.

Mosteller, 26, who now lives outside Houston, was fired from her job as a reporter in North Carolina in 2004 for her deliciously snarky, anonymous dispatches about colleagues she dubbed "Book Hoarder" and "Fumbly Boss."

"And I've learned the hard way not to write about my family," she said.

In the no-holds-barred world of blogging, salacious secrets - your sister's sex life, your coworker's clandestine desire to ditch her job - that in a more refined era might otherwise be kept locked in a diary, are broadcast for the world to read. The result is "too much information," otherwise known as TMI, and it can change what others think of you.

. . . Rebecca Blood, author of The Weblog Handbook and www.rebeccablood.com, said "people forget they are publishing when they are blogging. It feels personal, it feels like a conversation - but it's not."

In today's TMI age, it's a given that that new boyfriend or girlfriend, that recruiter for the job you desperately want, is going to Google you, she said. Then they'll find out that you've written about how you keep multiple sex partners and play endless rounds of Minesweep on company time.

"Whoever you don't want to read your blog - your mom, your boss - will probably find it. Keep that in mind," she advised.


The article goes on to describe a few more overly personal blogs. Putting aside the annoying habit of those deemed experts in their corner of the world to speak for all of us — mom’s not reading your blog, TMI (referred to throughout the column) does not qualify as some chic new phrase, and only the geeks are Googling that new boyfriend — these people sound like idiots.

Bloggers forget they are publishing? Wrong. It’s the reason bloggers like this get so personal. It’s titillating to put other people’s personal idiosyncrasies (or their own) online; they get off on it.

The story reports, “About 70,000 new blogs pop up every day, according to Technorati.” Fine. How many have one or two posts, and never see another sign of life? How many decided to dip their toe in the ocean, say something they don’t have the nerve to say without hiding behind a blog, and disappeared?

I guess this bothers me because as a writer I see blogging as a chance to do what I love to do, and maybe, possibly, capture an audience. If I were ever lucky enough to have it be a stepping stone to a career as a writer, that would be all I could hope for from blogging.

To see a story offering this side of blogging as the crux of the medium is sad. The fact that a reporter was dumb enough to post things that could lead to her dismissal makes me wonder about what I see as the potential power of blogs, and fear that they are being reduced to a teeny-bopper fad.

I don’t mean to try to position myself as some expert or stuffed-shirt judging other bloggers. Read my other posts, and I think you’ll see the casual part of my moniker fits quite well. But if this story offered a true picture of blogs, we’ll all be little more than something to read on a leisurely Sunday.

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