Monday, June 22, 2009

Obligatory Blog Entry

"You're welcome, Internet!" - Whitest Kids U'Know

I used to be on MySpace. I canceled my account about a year ago for a number of reasons. The biggest: Spam. I'm over it; I'm on Facebook and Twitter - and now I'm a blogger, apparently. MySpace became both redundant and annoying. I did have one MySpace friend, though (I want to note, she was my Real Life friend, first. Just sayin'.), who was almost enough to keep me plugged into that particular online social networking scene. You see, in RL conversation, she has the kind of smart, quick-witted cleverness that leaves one with the impression that she's got someone writing her dialogue for her (someone more like Tina Fey than David Spade). But, where I think she truly shines is on the Internet. That might sound like a dig: it's not meant that way. What I mean is that she's a wonderful writer. Her wit and humor combined with the kind of self-reflective and other-critical irony that characterize her writing style just play so well in an online setting. And while I always loved reading anything she put out there, I was always slightly jealous.

Case-in-point: The very first blog entry she wrote on MySpace was entitled "Obligatory First Entry Where I Defend My Presence On MySpace." I don't actually remember any of this "defense," but the title resonated with me. Especially when it comes to online writing, I frequently feel a strange burden to justify my presence. So, here it is. This is my obligatory blog entry. It's not the first one, but I tend to be bad at doing things in order.

In ten, brief words, my witty friend was able to both exemplify and mock one of the inherent paradoxical problems of the Internet. I may take several steps to explain it, so stick with me. First, there's the innate human desire believe that whatever it is that you have to say is actually worth reading. Second, there's the Internet, an outlet in which everyone can publish whatever they want for everyone to see with the oft-mentioned "click of the mouse." Third, there's the opportunity (and it would seem, the compulsion) for friends, family, and strangers alike to "comment" on anything you put out there, regardless of whether they happen to agree with you. And finally, there's the strange cultural belief that "there's no such thing as bad press." Somehow, even when we get negative responses to the things that we say, we end up strangely affirmed in our own, original (unchallenged) ideas. What we have here, my friends, is the perfect storm for a vicious cycle.

As such, the participation in online social networking media (blogs included) has become a hip, convenient, borderline necessary way to communicate with everyone in your life. Paradoxically, though, our sense of self-importance is pretty dependent on the idea that we are special and unique snowflakes. Thus, participating in these very same online social networking websites has simultaneously become cliche. In order for your avatar to stand out in this 6 billion strong crowd, you must demonstrate that what you have to say is unique. Like, really unique.

Pressure's on.

So, in the face of all this, why am I here? On Blogger.com, the home of "Push-Button Publishing"? Because I wanna try. I have a few goals that I would like to accomplish by blogging. Here they are:
  1. I would like to improve my writing. This is goal numero uno. Top Dog. I'm actually a pretty confident writer. But I know that there's always going to be a lot for me to learn. I mean, all the best writers are known to have been frequent journal-ers, as well. I've never been into the idea of writing in a journal or diary, and I think that I'm missing out on some important practice.
  2. I would like to promote discourse. This is a very close second priority. Despite the seemingly problematic contradiction discussed above, I still think that the Internet is a really nifty thing! It creates a venue for complex and necessary conversations that would otherwise be somewhere between difficult and impossible. This matters to me. For a better explanation of this principle, watch this video when you have a chance. It's worth it. You'll see what I mean.
  3. I'm up for the challenge. I want to challenge myself to maintain that tenuous line between the significant and the cliche. In order to even rationalize blogging, I have made myself the following promise: I will only ever publish something if I feel that it's something no one else could write. This will be the hardest part. I'll probably fail, in some ways. But it's worth a shot, right? Worst case scenario: no one reads it anyway.
Recently, someone whose opinion really matters to me, told me that he liked the writing that I had produced on this blog so far. So, I think I'm gonna keep trying - See? This is the cycle I was talking about. There's something especially powerful, though, in the opinion of those whose writing you truly respect.

Here I am, Internet: Marj, the blogger. Enjoy.

1 comment:

Catherine said...

*blush*

Also, my creative writing teacher at Augustana (and perhaps still my favorite professor ever) required us to write every day. Something. Anything. Even a grocery list, because practice makes perfect.

In the early days of my rapidly-declining diaryland blog, I wrote 3 times a week, if not more, and I'm still pretty proud of a lot of those entries. I also had a personal diary (for angst not appropriate for public) and a prayer journal. I wrote All The Goddamn Time, and I think it helped.

It looks like you're doing a good job keeping up with this thing. So keep on keepin' on, my equally-smart and witty friend.

<3CMart