Sunday, December 05, 2004

through the looking glass

"blog" is the word of the year, according to webster's. it's quite appropriate. blogs, live journals, all that stuff, are like having an infinite number of channels on the cosmic tv set, a odd RW perpetuation of the "south park" gag notion that earth is one big intergalactic reality show (...whose ratings are slipping). the blogosphere is definitely a multiverse, with your journalistic and quasi-journalistic blogs being closest to more traditional media (or to their online counterparts) and getting perhaps the most attention, what with all this analysis of the blog influence on the election, politics, news, etc. but places like LJ occupy a different layer of the blogosphere. they tend more toward straight-up diaries, with a strong communal flavor thanks to "friending," i.e., adding people to your "friends" list ... which can give everyone their very own version of six degrees of kevin bacon.

i visit a number of blogs, including places like l.a. observed, a compendium of local l.a. media and writers, as well as the awesome dangerousmeta (see link along the side), and the absolutely evil group hug: anonymous online confessions. these supplement my steady diet of yahoo! links and visits to the websites of the BBC, guardian u.k., new york times, CNN, and other news joints. i can restlessly follow random links 'til the cows come home, but sometimes i stumble across more personal places that are in many ways more interesting than the quasi-news and commentary blogs. sometimes i become a fan and join the ranks of the regular lurkers, like with belle de jour when that blog was still active (looking forward to her book). other times i visit a personal blog for a specific purpose, like when someone sends me a link to a particularly interesting post, and then end up hooked on the person writing it.

reading the innermost thoughts of total strangers -- a process at once intensely personal and oddly impersonal -- is a voyeur's dream. sure, it can be fascinating in general, when the writer is describing interesting circumstances, or is just plain interesting. but another fascinating thing is watching the sociological whirl on such sites. sometimes the divide b/w personal and impersonal is very close, and that fine line allows others to confuse someone's persona with their actual person.

i read a blog that is basically full of the author's rants. this person rants well, and has a lot of good points to make amid some often scattershot and occasionally difficult to follow spewing. i enjoy it for a variety of reasons, although more than once i've read something, frowned, and thought, "i don't agree with that." but whatev. yes, live journals are technically public, but the main purpose of these more diaristic blogs is to give their owners a space in which to express themselves freely. so, why argue with someone over something they are (a) clearly blowing off steam about, and (b) doing so within the confines of a blog whose stated purpose is to let the writer blow off steam?

well, a controversy arose recently on this LJ over something the writer said. a voluminous shitstorm ensued that went far beyond anything that needed to happen. the writer was taken to task and fought back; it got ugly fast. she was clearly enraged and pained to be ganged up on, on her own turf, by people ... some of whom didn't normally even read the LJ. and even taken to task by some who do. she felt she had defined quite clearly her intentions in having the LJ, stating flat-out that she ranted, and that if you didn't like it, you could leave. yet people simply disregarded this and cast her in the light in which they chose to see her, then attempted to engage the discussion as if their outrage somehow overrode her own rules of play. that is, instead of just leaving, they tried to change the parameters ... which she wasn't going for at all, to put it mildly.

i can see many sides of the different arguments that ensued, although mainly i feel that the writer's "ownership" of her space trumps any whining about how she disregarded the sensitivities of this or that group. a lot of people simply cannot deal with anger -- which is just as legitmate a human emotion as sorrow or joy -- and these days it seems like everybody wants to be the exception to the rule. which is why this writer had people loudly protesting that their metaphorical toes had been trod upon, rather than simply shaking their heads in disgust and clicking off to some other sector of the vast WWW. it's like, if you can't rant without reproach in your own LJ, where CAN you vent unmolested? yeah, sure, people can still WRITE in a PAPER journal -- i do -- or keep a computer diary without posting it on the web or at least without letting anyone who drops by have access to reading it. but i find it curious that a lot of these people who protested her post seemed determined to disallow her control of her own space.

but what's relevant to this particular rumination is how the above situation ended up sucking me deeper into the LJ-verse. during the course of reading this threaded drama, i became interested in the statements another person made, b/c i've seen their username on another site i visit. idly curious, i followed the link to this person's LJ and began reading. it immediately became apparent that this person was going through some crappy shit, and seemed somewhat generally unbalanced as well. although i felt like i was intruding, i couldn't stop reading this tale of woe. it led me to still other people's LJs, as different individuals felt compelled to comment or explain something about the situation from their viewpoint. it was all quite mundane stuff, as life often is, but clearly painful, and also these people seemed to be very hung up on talking about their issues and malfunctions and need to adjust their meds and take the long way home and whatnot. i felt sorry for them. they seemed like young people, very sold on the stupid pharmaculture of this nation. it's just one among countless ways america is "over" -- overweight, overarrogant, overmedicated...

the wreckage of strangers' lives -- it's like a drug. i pulled myself away with a great effort. i felt a little woozy afterward. maybe even slightly ... soiled. after that, i resolved to make my voyeuristic tendencies a little more like sport. and blogger has the perfect solution for those of us who like to look, but can't respect ourselves in the morning: the "next blog" button in the toolbar. click it. c'mon, go ahead. (except, wait ... finish reading this post first.) you will find an endless cornucopia of humanity in two dimensions, and many languages. you can blog-surf all night and day -- woo-hoo! some were started yesterday, some last week, some a year or more ago. some are thriving, others are just too confessional, and many don't have much to offer -- one or two posts, then nothing ... like so many abandoned lots.

and "next blog" is a changeable thing. it's not linear. each time i click that button on my own blog or any blog i regularly visit, it's a different "next" blog. which means there are always new adventures to be had, even if you're just stepping out your own virtual front door. hmmm, it's just like bilbo baggins said. the road goes ever on and on, indeed.

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