Monday, June 19, 2006

Meta Who?

Lately, in terms of non-photographic material, I’m floundering a bit in a very full sea of purposeful blogs, as mine, as I feared it might, seems to lack that cohesive “angle”. Having no sense of readership, apart from a few loyal friends, I either don’t know my audience, or know them too well to get my act together and amount to anything more than an occasional poster of pictures and a life updater.

A couple of months ago, after a particularly wordy post, I got an email from a friend which I initially interpreted as blatantly critical. Already a little doubtful about my little blog’s raison d'être, it immersed me in a cloud of self-doubt, and I almost withdrew my last post, which had included allusions to my job, and to a somewhat personal physical condition.

Instead, after a dialogue with said critic, I offer you a big old taste of meta-discretion by posting the whole conversation, with permission, of course, and omitting irrelevent (to you) banter.

I met Alex in November, 2004, in Viterbo, Italy, while I was living in Florence. He was raised in Brussels to an English mum and an Italian dad. As a preface, I may have fallen a wee bit out of touch leading up to this exchange…

He says:

Has modernity reared its ugly head once again to further dilute our contact with one another? Just when we sang its praises for letting us stay in contact to-the-second via email technology...

I have beef with your blog. I'm saddened that I have been reduced to learning about your life through what feels like a voyeuristic fashion! I might have an inflated ego of myself... that’s not entirely false… I do unapologetically classify myself as a narcissist for good reason.

But, the fact remains that it’s crap to catch up with my ol' friend Jessie on her webpage, like she's become so famous and I have to go to a secondary source.... (yes, I know you write the blog, but it’s a sensation - its not the same as receiving mail, I love that sensation, don’t you?)

Now, about your blog specifically, firstly I would like to say I did like most of your stories, and the twists, and how you managed to draw general conclusions from them rather than leave them as a report of events. Furthermore it’s clear you know what you are doing as you tie up all the events to make a point which always forces a smile in the reader near the end. Especially that one of the online message thing - missed connection - I thought that was great. Ooh, and the retail therapy article was very poignant, and true.

I'm in fact writing a piece about Hi5, Facebook, MySpace, blogs and all that - the way we pimp ourselves off online, sending people to our MSN space with shitloads of photos they can browse, and a profile to read so as to see if we are someone they'd like to know....but also how you can set the groundwork online - do all the stuff that used to be face to face or letter written, was made easier by SMS and which has now been sped up by photo albums - self-descriptions and emails or MSN......even friends of friends adding themselves or chicks/guys seen around campus poking each other virtually to attract attention, something they would never have had the balls to do in person.

However, one thing that strikes me with your blog is how, well, is how open, honest and maybe American it all is!!

Let me elaborate: When we go to a restaurant here [England] and we've booked a table, it says "Reserved" on the table... it’s specific to English people, cos we are uptight and prude you see.

Jokes aside - Unlike, oh my dear god, your last installment... granted I really enjoyed it and I thought it was very thoughtfully written. But the whole 'sharing' thing, sharing everything with everyone... I guess it might be my own personal ego that is hurt - I ain’t outruling it - but objectively, it’s a lot to tell to everyone. I am NOT telling you what’s appropriate content, but I might be hurt that none of the content is solely destined to me and I am definitely sad that I don’t get mail from you anymore.

I do sometimes feel like nothing is taboo anymore.

I am having trouble explaining this last bit, and it was the most important bit . . . I've been writing this mail for like ages now. Let me know if I can clarify anything, I hope you'll get it first time, I'll try again with mo examples if not.

I'd love to hear from you, I'd also love it if you wrote about the things I pointed out, I know I will after my "Online Pimping is Upon Us" article which is stewing for my blog.

Still looking forward to seeing you in May,

Ale

PS. Dear Jessie, I hope you can appreciate the up and down, angry, sad, come sarcastic tone of this email... I mean, it would be fair enough if you didn’t... it’s a bit like your hormones, its all over the place (sorry, could not resist, see what I mean about the blog - YOU'RE out there! We English can’t handle that... I mean , not that I cant handle you being out there, just that personally I would not put all those things about me up there...

But the point I never got to was that MSN Daily told me 60% of emails were interpreted badly - resulting in business downturn - so the phone in the end was vital to business. I don’t want you to get the wrong idea. This email is
a) supposed to show I care
b) supposed to get your attention :p
c) supposed to raise what I deem to be an extremely valid point
d) To highlight some quirky cultural differences
and...
e) to make you laugh I hope.

Now, try and misinterpret that!!!!

Here’s my response:

Dear Alex,

Thank you so much for your email. I've been thinking about it a lot ever since I read it yesterday. It's incredibly valid, and honest, and it brings to light many issues about blogging/contact/openness that, for now, I'd just been sweeping under the rug for sake of experimentation. However, spurred by your email, I think it's time to re-evaluate some things.

Let me first apologize sincerely for dropping out of touch... it's funny, I hold people to rather high standards about that kind of thing, so it's really hypocritical when I myself fall below those standards. I've thought of you often and have no real excuse other than often feeling overwhelmed and without enough time, and I wanted to do a good job, so kept putting it off, which is stupid. In a way, you're right - a blog is as bad as a mass-email, if that's your target audience (your friends). No excuse.

But that's the bigger question, isn't it? Who becomes the audience when you become an under-the-radar, unpromoted "blogger"? That's the question I'd been avoiding. Let me back up: I started the blog because a) for a long time I've wanted a professional-looking website for hosting my photography and music, and although one is in the works, I wanted something a little more immediate that was easily update-able and user-friendly (unlike Dreamweaver, which I'm learning for my other site, which I find much more complex), b) I needed some writing "exercise", you know? Some little incentive to string words together in an interesting way, or post photos I'm proud of, or think about my life, for someone (some vague, anonymous someone) to see. And c), it was one of the means of distraction after I found out about X’s news (ironically, I stumbled onto that news on a MySpace page), like buying my camera and starting a class. I vaguely thought about my audience, and why I was writing, but got too hung-up on those questions, so decided to just push on and see what came out. And there you have it.

Of course, when you actually think about who does end up reading the blog - close friends, not so close friends, friends-of-friends, strangers, old lovers, current lovers, siblings, hopefully not parents but there's always a possibility when something's on the internet - you've got to think about what you're putting out there. As for what I've written about so far (and I think it's less shocking than you do, obviously), I think I'm relatively okay with all of those aforementioned people reading it. You're right - maybe I'm more open with "personal-health" issues than some, but I always have been... whether other people want to read about it is a different story, but I find that, in my realm of friends anyway, it's an open dialogue. While I can be private with my emotions, especially pain, I'm an open book about other details. And there you have that nothing-is-taboo reality. You're right. Not much is. Or at least nothing is taboo enough not to warrent discussion.

You definitely made me a little self-conscious... after some thought, and for the sake of anti-censorship, I'm not going to edit any of it, but it will make me think harder about the truths that I share, and how they'll impact/affect/impress upon other people. Blogs are inherently self-serving and ego-centric ("like she's become so famous..."). If they're popular (which mine is not, and I have no intentions for it to become so) they can really be a means of promoting or crushing other people, publicly. They can be really snide or underhanded or back-stabbing. I don't want to be any of those things. I'd never write about a conflict I was having with a friend. In fact, the thing I doubt the most is bitching about work, even though I wasn't person-specific (and trust me, it's tempting to be). I guess I just want to share musings and observations, some quirks, some stories, and, yes, I want it to be a means of "what-I've-been-up-to", even though it's not personal in nature. It's a weird phenomenon, being able to check up on people online, but I don't think it's entirely negative. It's just different than how it used to be. It means people have to come up with other things to talk about than "what have you been up to?" when they actually do talk.

( . . . )

Love,
Jessie

...

I kept a journal steadily from around 12 to 14. All starts after that were false, and my shelf is misleadingly full of 1/3-full blank books (and some completely empty ones, gifts too ugly and wrong to put to use). I willfully pretended to chart my philosophical ventures and overwraught social plights, but in truth the soliloquy was just as much for some unborn progeny many generations down the road.

The romance was somewhere in the idea of their being able to hold it, smell it, visualize their weird and tortured great-great-whoever writing it. Writing online, or even creating web traffic, for my adoring future offspring (or even having those future offspring) has never even occured to me. (Okay, well, the penultimate paranthetical isn't entirely true. I just have my doubts.)

I'll probably return to the pretty pictures. They're exempt from my self-consciousness, at least more so than words.

1 comment:

Fred said...

Jess,

I love that you do this sort of soul-searching publicly. I don't have the strength of character to do that sort of thing, so I think even if it's a bit much for some people it's a good idicator of who you are and that's a good thing. Sometimes we forget to be open because it's scary but I think that's sad. I agree with points that both you and your Brit made. Blogging is a bit impersonal in terms of keeping in touch which is why I try to only post photos with descriptions; so I remember to call people. That said, as you know, I never call people. It's nice to be able to check up on you when I'm at work and know that you're still out there being Jessie. It remeinds me that we're friends, even if there's no actual communication. Also, having found and lost so many good friends in my life, I like that it's almost impossible to lose touch with most people my age or younger 'cuz they're just a Google away. Just figured I'd add my two cents. Blah, blah, miss you. Love,

Fred.