Posted by: DD | February 12, 2008

no. 597 – In My Not So Necessarily Humble Opinion

A couple of months ago I agreed to be interviewed by Suz of Within the Woods. Of the five questions, I’ve only got around to addressing the one about living in Nebraska (which for the life of me I cannot find).

Another of her questions seem to fit very nicely into something that I’ve wanted to address, so I get the two-birds-with-one-stone thing going for me.

How do you feel that your blogging voice has changed over the time that you’ve been blogging, or has it?

It’s hard to be objective about your own work without it either coming off with self-effacement or a braggart, but I’m going to try because I want to hit on a few things.

I told myself when I started blogging, I was doing it for me. I wasn’t going to censor myself. I wasn’t going to hold back on my feelings, blah, blah, blah, when in fact, I discovered I’m not doing this all just for me, and I do censor myself – a lot.

Recently I had an email exchange with someone who has been thinking about getting a blog:

Sometimes I feel like people see bloggers are narcissistic and voyeuristic. I’m not one of those people, not in the least, but sometimes I feel like the things I want to say aren’t worthy enough of a blog. Or that someone else is already doing ideas that I’ve had, I stumble upon them, and then it’ll look like I’ve jacked an idea from someone. . . . And I don’t have a specific reason to blog, such as secondary infertility. *sigh*, Such is life I suppose. What do you think? Should people start blogs with no goals in mind?

My response?

Well, since I’m both narcissistic and a voyeur, I don’t know what to tell you…
Everyone always says, "blog for you", but you and I both know, from both sides of the screen, that that is not true. I use to think I was doing this for me, but now I know it’s  just as much therapeutic for  me as it is informative for someone else who may be new to it all; plus add in a little entertainment . . .
It’s a community thing, simply put. If you find your real life community either stifling or lacking, like I do, blogging is wonderful. I once read through Schmutzie, who linked to a blog about how to blog, that someone somewhere has written what you are thinking in a much better way. However, that should never keep you from doing it if you enjoy it.
I enjoy it, I really do. I’ve learned a lot about others and about myself, but I know that there are still some cards I hold very close to my chest.
If you feel what you have to say is meaningful to you and at least one other person, then why not blog? No one is going to come at you with virtual pitchforks and torches and demand you delete your blog.

That way of thinking is practically a 180 from how I believed I felt when I first started blogging. Now whether that’s good or bad is beside the point. Who cares?

I’ve only really found one thing that bothers me about blogging, specifically those who blog "publicly" and who allow comments and that is when a difference of opinion results in flaming or pissing matches.

For example, a few months ago, a blogger I really enjoyed for her frankness and intelligence was discussing how her young preschooler’s separation anxiety was a result of the child being adopted (as a newborn with an on-going open relationship with the biological mother). I thought I offered up my opinion, which was that maybe the child was simply pre-disposed to have separation anxiety, which is common for that age and certainly at the beginning of the school season, in a very non-confrontational way.

Her response was basically that I had no idea of what I was talking about because she’s the one who adopted the child and knows that the anxiety is related solely to the child’s adoption. In short, she said I was wrong.

I was unable to respond any further out of hurt and embarrassment.

If you’re going to submit your opinions publicly, then you should be willing to have others submit theirs in response, even if they are in opposition, without feeling as if you are going to be callously rebuked. I made it quite clear that my opinion was my opinion and offered the disclaimer that since I have not adopted, I really couldn’t do more than offer the opinion.

It’s no different than if I invited you into my home and asked you what you thought of my paint color choices, and you suggested that maybe I should have painted the bedroom a light blue instead of light green to which I respond by throwing you from my second story deck.

I don’t look for conflict and if I’m going to play the devil’s advocate, I try to tread lightly. Another example of that more recently is a post from Karriew at Mom Voyage. She mentioned how a pub in Boston put up a sign banning strollers. I was surprised how many parenting commenters took offense to this and said the pub was "anti-baby" and "anti-family" and even so far as "how else are children supposed to learn to act in public if we are not allowed to take them in public?" (I’m paraphrasing here for a more dramatic effect).

My comment was basically there are lots of other places that are both more family-friendly and family-appropriate than a Boston pub. A commenter responded to my comment by saying that I don’t ". . . have the right to tell every other parent where they may or may not take their children based on what you personally consider to be a “wholesome” environment. "

Whoa, sister! My opinion was that there are better places to take your kids, that’s all. I’m not the Kid Appropriate Police (but if I was, a pub or bar that serves alcohol and is open only in the late afternoons till closing is not a place for children, whether your child is 2 or 20). Plus, the ban was on strollers, and I don’t know anyone who hasn’t had a beef with a frickin stroller at one time or another.

So my "blogging voice" has changed in that I no longer try to convince myself that I’m doing this all solely for me, and I don’t know anyone who does 100%.

But what has also changed for me is that I’m a little less vocal about going against the general tone of either the blog post or comments. Too many times I’ve seen it become personal when it should just be accepted as a difference of opinion, and to me knowing that we aren’t all a bunch of "OMG, we must be sisters separated at birth!" kind of bloggers is another reason why I love blogging on the whole.

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Responses

  1. It’s hard to blog, but also fun. I started, like you, thinking “I’m going to post what I want, when I want it!” Being found IRL is probably the thing that changed it the most but since the people IRL who know about it are mostly infertiles, it doesn’t necessarily change a lot. If my family found it, it would drastically change (more likely disappear). Sometimes I post once a week, sometimes I post every day. I’m more careful with how I say things now than I used to be, and I’m less likely to post a comment that goes against an opinion if it’s obvious that the poster isn’t really looking for opinions but for a pat on the back and an “I agree!”

    Blogging voices change. Sometimes they’re happy. Sometimes they’re depressed. Sometimes they’re angry. Sometimes they’re careful. And while all of them (hopefully) reflect the blogger’s feelings, we often forget that the voice doesn’t always reflect EVERYTHING that the blogger feels.

  2. So true. I can’t imagine blogging ONLY for myself anymore. Which I suppose makes me narcissistic and voyeuristic too, eh?

    The whole disagreement thing IS a sticky subject – I have a hard time deciding sometimes to leave a comment at all if I disagree with the blogger. Because a lot of times it gets a lot more personal than I expect it should. So I end up clicking away, rather than starting WW III.

    However, I really do welcome respectful disagreements on my own blog. I like the perspective. I like knowing that the community is full of intelligent and diverse people, instead a bunch of people who all allegedly think alike.

    The caveat, of course, is that it has to be done in a respectful manner. Anonymous commenters? Not so much.

  3. I hate that people are afraid to respectfully disagree with an opinion expressed for fear of being attacked. I find it sad…but it is a function of the computers allowing us to be somewhat anonymous and therefore people don’t always check their behavior.

    I don’t mind a little dissension on my blog – as long as everyone is respectful. The adoption blog world is so nice to each other that it rarely happens so I get a false sense of security that everyone is nice and warm and fuzzy.

  4. I can barely say I blog yet given I’ve managed about 2 posts in 12 weeks! So I can’t really comment on why I blog although my motivation in starting was to work through some stuff in writing in the hope that it helped. Pity I haven’t followed through – yet.

    I do find it slightly frustrating when some blogs’ comments zone become like message boards where everyone has to be super supportive and dissent when a question is asked or opinions requested is regarded as personal abuse against the blogger. Diagreeing with something doesn’t necessarily mean you are abusing the person with the opposite opinion. I just don’t bother saying anything in those situations. I think it is a shame though when debate gets stifled but as I argue for a living maybe I have a twisted take on dissent.

  5. My least favorite part of the whole blogging thing is when arguments do arise, folks get sneaky and don’t face the issue head on. The blogosphere is no more immune to the “middle school” mentality than the real life world. I hate that folks will make assumptions and then turn their backs on friends for no good reason other than these baseless assumptions. I know that has changed my own blogging voice more than anything.

  6. I often find it hard to comment in a way that is not in line with the tone of the post, too. Most of the time it’s because I’m afraid of things being taken the wrong way. And, like you said, sometimes the blogger doesn’t give you a chance to elaborate on what you said and people just end up with hurt feelings on both sides. So unless I know the blogger well and I know they will give me the benefit of the doubt, it gets hard to say something you think the blogger may not want to hear.

    It’s a shame, really, because so many times I learn much more from those who express an opinion different than mine.

    That being said, tone is such a hard thing to judge with the written word. Sometimes a blogger will write a post because they want the support and not because they want different opinions. Other times, just the opposite. I know I often ask myself before I comment whether the blogger needs the support or a different point of view. If it’s support and I don’t necessarily feel like I can give it, then I just stay silent.

  7. You are right of course, as why would I say otherwise? Heh.

    Ages ago I wrote an extraordinarily vague post about how I hated the gang mentality of certain blog circles – one person dissents and all of a sudden 20 are there to defend them. It’s no wonder most comments are agreeable. You’re never disagreeing with one person, but all the people who jump to their defense. That’s even if you’re being reasonable and untroll-like.

  8. you mean that you are going to go against the trend of only allowing those opinions that match everybody else’s opinions?

    But if we do that, how are we to ever acheive an online utopian society?

    Where is our electric Nirvana if people insist upon individuality?

    I mean…for real!

  9. It’s also really hard to express opinions on some of the more volatile and or complex type things in a way that will not be misunderstood. You don’t want to write a book in someone’s comments but keeping it short also leaves big holes that lead to misunderstandings. It can be frustrating on that level. Sometimes I want to go back and say “but that is not what I meant or how I meant it” but usually I just don’t have the energy.

    (There and now you have a short novella by moi!)

  10. To me, it’s a post-by-post and blog-by-blog issue.

    I hate it when bloggers legitimately solicit opinions (“What do you think?” “What would you do?” “What did you do in my situation?”) and then get their virtual underpants up in a wad when people actually…um…give their opinion.

    On the other hand, I’m also not fond of the reverse, when a blogger says “Well, this is what’s happening in my life right now,” and suddenly the hills are alive with The Sound of Assvice: “OMG, you’re doing it wrong!” “What you SHOULD do is…” “Let me give you unsolicited and unqualified medical advice based on what my cousin’s best friend’s doctor did…”

    Both situations are kind of annoying.

    I have a couple of really old posts that still gather comments like tumbleweeds because they show up pretty high on searches, and I keep them up and open because based on the comments, people are still getting something out of them (which is squee! supercool and gives me a warm fuzzy feeling in my swimsuit area and whatnot).

    On the other hand, I have gotten some really obnoxious “Your doctors are wronnnnng and you’re doing it wrong and don’t you care at all about your BABIES?” comments that just piss me right off, which is…eh, kind of rude, especially when one is not actually soliciting advice.

    It’s a mixed bag.

  11. To tie it into the paint color analogy, for me it’s the difference between answering honestly when a friend says “What do you think of these paint chips?” (“Nice, but I would have picked a lighter yellow”) and telling someone, out of the blue, that the color they painted the guest bathroom is just awful, and what were they THINKING?

  12. When I started my blog I was fairly sure that nobody but me would ever see it. I started it because I had to have one to leave a comment somewhere and thus it began. What I don’t understand is why people don’t get that you don’t have to feel the same way as another blogger any more than you do your best friend. People ARE allowed to be different. The ones that drive me crazy are the ones that refuse to believe that anyone can have an opinion that varies from theirs. I enjoy reading peoples blogs for variety, some witty, some nitwitty but a great diversion to actually doing any work.

  13. Well everyone has written what I would’ve said, so I guess I’ll just add that some blogs are worse than others for this, and really the IF/Loss community is pretty good for being sensitive to others.

    The political bloggers I read? Now, that’s a nightmare of fighting. And the ones that are the worst, are the ones where the blogger themselves are attempting to make something more controversial and are pumping up the rhetoric accordingly, then feed the trolls themselves in the comments.

    It is possible to state a personal opinion without starting a war. Most bloggers know that and act accordingly, others throw gas on the fire.

  14. “Kumbayah my lord, kumbayah”

    Sometimes I also worry that I am pandering a little – well… okay, maybe not.

    DinoD

  15. One of the reasons my blog has lost steam is because it doesn’t get the same readership it used to. I mean the main reason I don’t blog is because of severe sleep deprivation and the lost brain cells that go with it. But when I do get the energy to write a post, its disappointing that I get so few comments, or that people I thought were reading aren’t anymore. C’est la vie, I suppose.

  16. I know what you mean, but I must add that I was very offended when you said you didn’t like cheezburger and lolcats. That’s troll bait if I’ve ever seen it.

    ok, you know I’m kidding right?

  17. Like someone said before, I actually started a blog because I wanted to leave a comment one someone’s else page and they didn’t allow anon comments. Then, I had all these grand ideas for topics. Problem was, instead of getting constructive dialogue and new ideas to think about, I got dead silence or rude detractors. Maybe it’s just that I can’t write? I still find myself wanting to post ideas/feelings about various topics but the vulnerability is often too much. It’s not that I want the world to agree with me, but it’s nice to have some validation that my ideas are worthy and not just pointless to the outside world. I’ve written several times about my frustration in blogland vs. IRL. In my daily travels, people generally seek me out and valuable my insight / contributions. I can’t say the same for my virtual travels. Katrina was right when she mentioned the “middle school” aspect of blogging. I find the clique-ish mentality too much to handle most of the time. I’ve pretty much retreated to the roll of a voyeuristic bystander.

  18. For one thing, a blog about how to blog is just fucking retarded (how’s that for being opinionated) because there is no right or wrong way to blog. If you’re paying the hosting bills, then what you say and how you say it is your business. Like the book “Nobody cares what you had for lunch” on blogging subjects. That’s great and all, and yeah, banal blogging annoys me too. I don’t care if you emptied the dishwasher and THEN had a sandwich, and sometimes I wonder why you’re even bothering, but then who the hell am I to tell someone what to blog about or that it’s bad? Maybe they’re keeping in touch with family (I draw the line at blogs that only post Meme’s, because really why bother? Me? Opinionated?).

    Blogging has been around long enough that nothing is original anymore. And there have been times where people have told me that “[insert famous blogger here] did it.” But it shouldn’t stop you from talking about it anyway. Everyone has a different perspective.

    It’s funny, I really and truly do blog for me, but of course, everyone blogs for the attention to some extent. I like getting comments (dur) but I don’t go begging for them. I think that’s tacky.
    I definitely censor myself, but I’m a really private person. I choose my content wisely. Things always have a way of biting you in the ass, and quite frankly, I don’t think people need to know that much.

  19. I kind of like it when people disagree with me in the comments. But probably that’s just another way in which I am, how do you say it? — a freak.

  20. I like it when the disagreement is to present a different way of viewing the situation. Because that, for me, is one of the reasons the comment section exists–to have a back and forth and a virtual conversation. I expect the same thing from my face-to-face friends, that they’re going to say, “but what about…” and challenge something I’ve said so it expands my understanding or makes me clarify my thoughts.

    But I’m not a fan of those who leave comments without it related to expanding the idea. That would be like someone coming into your house and commenting on the paint without you asking the question. If people don’t like the fact that I have a bright orange bathroom (commonly referred to by all who enter my house as “the peeing on the sun” room), they can urinate elsewhere. And if people don’t like my posts, they can read elsewhere. Of course, it’s a different thing if I ask, “do you like my writing.” But barring that, the whole, “this is stupid” line of commenting doesn’t make a lot of sense.

    Great post, Ms. DD.

  21. Aside from the odd very personal attack–I had a doozy Friday left on an older post– I enjoy the debates and discussions that erupt in my comments. I usually blog when I’m bored, so discussion and respectful disagreements are welcome. But when someone starts in about me being a ________ or my son being a _______ then they can fuck off. 🙂

    The pub I blogged about was actually in Brooklyn and mentioned in a NYT piece. There was some fall out afterwards, so I was curious how others felt.


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