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different pictures

I got bored with the old theme.  I’m not thrilled with the layout of this one, but it’s pretty good.  Page links are up top now, for those who use them.

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Blogging and the distance factor

Went and had lunch with Kristopher and Laura from the department today.  We got onto the conversation of blogs, and I wound up having to defend my reasoning for never giving out the web address of my blog to people who are in my active circle of friends (by which I mean, people who are currently in the vicinity whom I spend time with).  It seems like a topic which I should talk about here, firstly because it’s worth remembering, an secondly because the blog has become a bit personal again in recent days.

Blogs are, quite frankly, detrimental to effective communication.  Much like the “Dear John” break-up letter, a blog is a way to filter conversation that allows you to have physical distance from emotional topics.  Therefore, when local friends read blogs, they tend to become a place where ‘real’ conversations about ‘real’ feelings and emotions and criticisms get played out.  The appeal of blogging, when compared to the difficulty of arguing or criticizing someone to their face, is that blogs allow complete freedom.  One can say anything that they feel on a blog regardless of consequences.  Just because two-hours later (and virtually every moment until the people involved respond to what you’ve said) you wind up in a hell of ‘what do they think,’ that doesn’t make it any less appealing.  Blogs, when used for local communication, are an element of avoidance – a type of ‘active avoidance’ in which one can do nothing about one’s feelings but feel like one has done something.  And avoidance is something that is, by its very nature, unconcerned with future ramifications.  It’s a crutch and a quick fix.

The result of which is, much agonizing on the part of the writer (who is now divorced from instant feedback and left to ponder the worst possible responses), and the probability that the issues will be blown out of proportion or misunderstood (because blogs, by being impersonal, lend themselves quite strongly to ranting).  Blogging is, for local interactions, an encouragement of bad behavior and isolationism.  At least for myself.  It’s a means to try to make life into a utopia, where all is fun and games, while the difficult things get pushed off into a different sphere.

For example, the last couple of posts have dealt with the things I’ve felt for Kristopher’s friend Helen.  Feelings which I do not particularly understand (how can you miss somebody that you don’t even know?) and of which I am somewhat concerned (will people think I’m emotionally bizarre and/or stalker-ish for having such strong attractions to someone who should, by all rights, be a total stranger?; how will people react to the impression that I believe that you can ‘just know’ that someone is deeply appealing on many levels from the way they carry themselves, talk, and interact with you?)   These are subjects which are not part of regular discussion in my life (or most men’s lives) and feel awkward and borderline inappropriate.  (It makes no difference that I ‘know’ that this is untrue; impressions of social acceptability are more powerful than logic and reason.)

Had Kristopher had access to the blog, it’s likely that I would have avoided discussing the situation with him on any level.  It would’ve been easier not to.  Discussing relationships with him in general is a bit difficult, and it’s made more so by the fact that he’s known her for ten years.  But having no recourse to ‘active avoidance,’ I have at least broached the subject.  (Though, to be fair, I don’t really believe that Kristopher would understand my approach to attraction.  We’re different in the way we view relationships.  But that is a different conversation for a different situation.)  I did take the initiative to talk about it on a level which I felt was acceptable, which probably would not have happened had I thought he might read about it here.

Likewise, had Laura had access to this, I would certainly not have spoken to her about it today.  I’d have simply waited for her to respond to a blog post.  It’s a personally detrimental form of ‘kindness.’  A conversation implies that the listener must offer advice; a random post implies that one can respond if they so choose.  Blogs, therefore, seem the most ‘polite.’  Instead, I’ve had a valuable (though brief) discussion about it which was beneficial.

I would’ve allowed the blog to take those two conversations from me, had the possibility been open to me.

(For those who are curious, it turns out that Helen was to leave today.  That’s what prompted the earlier depression and the discussions I’ve had about my attraction to her.  Cupid is a perverse little fucker, that’s all I’m saying…  Four days…  You ass, Cupid…)

This is not to say that blogging is bad in and of itself.  This is where the distance comes in.  When the only people who are reading your blog are far away and removed from the characters about whom you are speaking, a certain amount of critical thinking enters into the conversation.  If I really wanted advice on the situation from my friends from far away, I’d have to explain things in a bit of detail.  This necessarily turns the blog into a form of therapist.  After all, a counselor is really just someone who gets you to talk until you work things out for yourself, most of the time.  So a blog post intended for people who are distant becomes a form of valuable self reflection.

Granted, sometimes blog posts, even in this circumstance, are simply depressed or angry ranting.  That comes with the territory.  But, when the depressed and angry ranting doesn’t directly involve any of the people that are reading it, the possibility that it will negatively impact or even destroy friendships is remote.  At worst, you’ll wind up looking like a jack-ass for five minutes.  Which, quite frankly, you probably deserved if you were depressed or ranting.

So blogs, I have found, are a tool which works wonders for keeping distant friends as an active part of your life, but positively decimates close friendships in proximity to you.

This is a good thing to be aware of when blogging.

A blog is not a place to write out how you feel and then show the person involved.  It doesn’t work that way no matter how much we may want it to.  Because reducing things to words on a page requires an element of concreteness – a level of conviction.  Words on a page feel, both to the writer and the reader, different from words in a conversation.  An ‘observation’ can seem to be an ‘accusation.’  A ‘feeling’ can appear to be a ‘drive.’  Discussions that can be the life and death of an active relationship need physical presence and intonation to be comprehensible.

Being letters on a screen, blogs are not so great at this.

Blogs don’t work in spatially close friend groups.  They feel like problem solvers (avoidance) and wind up being problem creators (miscommunication or incommunication).

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