I've been reading Sherry Turkle's Reclaiming Conversation, which presents a hopeful view for more responsibly incorporating technology into our lives and relationships.
In the book, Turkle talks about how people now rely on social media instead of older, more private ways of reflecting. For example, some people consider Facebook or a blog their journal. However, Turkle points out that it’s different to write for an audience than it is to just be writing for oneself. She writes,
"In theory, you know the difference between yourself and your Facebook self. But the lines blur and it can be hard to keep them straight. It's like telling very small lies over time. You forget the truth because it is so close to the lies."
I've been thinking about how blog posts fit into this concept. We all have an online persona, but how could I make sure that my real life and online life match up in an appropriate way. More importantly, how does blogging about something change the way I think about it and therefore the way I act?
There are several reasons I like blogging.
I blog to write our family story—so often I read back through previous posts and love the glimpse into forgotten aspects of our family life. But I make a family album each year that does a much better job of the memory-keeping and is more private.
I blog to record what I’m learning—to capture the insights I gather from the books I read and the people I talk to. But I write privately when I need to really grapple.
I blog to share--to have a place where others can read, hopefully relate, and comment. But of course, there are good in-person conversations in my life, too.
So what’s the benefit of posting to a blog? Why does it make me feel like I’ve accomplished something? Why do I find it so helpful?
I think the answer lies in the process/product concept of writing. Through the actual process of writing, we gain as humans. We learn as we write because it helps us think and clarify. This process is as important as what we finally create. But we also learn through the final product, not only sharing it but the response that it encourages from others.
I think there are three reasons I find blogging beneficial for me:
1. I blog because I need to finish. I need to complete the thoughts that run around in my head. I often have ten post ideas going at once because I can’t stop thinking about certain things. Sometimes I have to take a break from public writing to turn this off.
But more often than not, a blog post is what finally stops the ceaseless bouncing around in my head (and the obsessive conversations with my husband and friends). I get it out on paper and try to find some closure for the thought--at least for now.. Why does it need to be blogged? The blog gives me the incentive to polish it, to complete it because I’ll be sharing it. Not every thought is ready for this completion, but some are. I close one line of thought and open myself up to new ideas on the topic.
2. I also love finishing posts because it gives some form of accountability. When I finally write a post on rest or dealing with tantrums, I have come face to face with what’s going on. I am more aware of my behavior and line of thought afterwards.
3. The last thing I really love is that blogging often gives me some measure of optimism. Though there are plenty of incomplete things in my life and a number of truly hard things, when I finally write about something for a public space, I end up being more optimistic (I started writing my thoughts as prayers instead of "Dear Diary" journaling during high school for this very reason).
Hope is an important part of who I am as a Christian, and though I may be temporarily in a hard spot, I know that I am called to be joyful even in affliction and to place my hope in God.
Again, not every idea or situation is ready for a public space. But I do think that blogging has value.
It does change my story though. Once I’ve written about not criticizing my husband or our attempts to preschool—I feel more determined to keep these up. Sometimes I’m fearful that I’ll close a line of thought too soon—that I’ll try to tie up something with a neat bow that isn't ready. But I try to find a balance of finding mini-closure while leaving myself open to new ideas.
Online writing and sharing is important. I think it can even be beneficial. But I also think I have to be clear with myself about what I share and why and how it might change the way I think or act. Unlike the conversations I have in real life, there's no instant feedback to each sentence I say. But I think there's value in working through an idea, finishing it (for now), and then sharing it in its entirety. I benefit when others do this, too.
What do you think about the value of blogging? Do you find that posting (or reading) a blog post changes the way you think/act?