To blog or not to blog, that is the question. I had a personal blog for ten years. I wrote more than 1500 blog posts, totaling close to a hundred thousand words. The blog chronicled my child’s growth and my own as a parent. It stored my thoughts of the day on a variety of topics – politics, science, technology, work, books, movies and of course child rearing. It was a wonderful pastime, it honed my thinking and presentation skills and helped me save thoughts and memories for posterity. It afforded interesting job opportunities. It introduced me to interesting bloggers. I even made a couple of good friends. Then, one day in January, I pressed the delete button, and when WordPress asked me if I was sure I wanted to lose all the gems that fell out of my brain for nearly a decade, I nodded assent.
I refused to think about it for four months but now I am ready to talk about it. Why did I delete my blog? Here are four reasons:
When I started the blog, it was a journal of my child’s growing-up years, so that her aunts and uncles who lived in different countries could, even if virtually, be part of her life. Very soon, the blog mutated into a veritable bragfest, and in the process morphed the child’s life into something worth “putting out there”. The warning bells came during a carpool ride to school; the kid’s friends hushed her just as she was going to say something funny, and whispered “don’t, she’ll put it in her blog”. Despite not using any real names in the blog, I was clearly invading their private space.
While it is true that the internet has given parents a public voice to discuss parenting, the risk lies in compromising on the child’s right to privacy. “Blog parenting” is not very different from the now well-known “Facebook parenting” in that it creates an online personality for children before they develop real ones. Worse still, if the real personality that the child develops over time is different from the online personality that the parent has created for her, the child may be conflicted and believe that she does not meet the expectations of the parent.
Seeing parents post and share personal information and photos about themselves could make children lax about privacy when they have their own internet presence. Another matter of concern is that the content on the Internet is timeless, and blog posts about the child’s funny actions could be less than humorous when read by the child herself or her potential employers or teachers or friends at a later stage. Putting out photos, names and whereabouts could compromise on the safety of children as well. Trolls don’t always live under the bridge.
Is there a solution to this conundrum? One could post anonymously, or use pseudonyms for all concerned, but there would still be a handful of people, including the child herself, who would know the identity of the muse of posts, and this could raise some of the problems discussed above.
2. Need for Approval
My erstwhile blog, which housed, apart from parenting posts, news, views, opinions and everything in between, was (in my opinion) funny and engaging and had thirty-two followers and about a hundred visitors every time I posted. I was thrilled when someone “liked” my post, over the moon when someone commented, and catatonic when the stats counter hit the three-digit mark. I visited other blogs and registered my presence with likes and funny comments, if only to leave bread crumb trails to my own.
The more I blog-hopped to other blogs like my own, the more disillusioning it became. Why does so-and-so who writes exactly like me (but with more typos) have 48 followers and I, only 32? Why do people comment on so-and-so’s blog, while they don’t even bother hopping to mine, despite the charming comment I left? Thus, I tweaked my blog posts, added emotional tug lines, added controversial topics and became a pretentious little prick, just to see if the stat counter soared with my manipulations. Ironically, the more distant the blog veered from my honest self, the less the stat-counter registered; lesson learnt: the reader is more perceptive than a conceited blogger believes.
Tapping into our need to be accepted, if not desired, weblog (and indeed any social media tool) could go a long way in shaping our self-identity; thus self-identity is no longer derived from the “self”, but projected on us by what we write and show out on the net. When one’s self-worth becomes intimately connected to the height of the bar graph of visitors, it becomes imperative to re-evaluate one’s blogging life.
3. Ephemerality of Opinions
The absence of an external censor or review process makes the blog platform an unrestricted medium. The human mind and moods are ephemeral – what appears serious one day may not on the next. When a blog post is written based on a passing mood, it becomes outdated and even inappropriate at a later date. An emotional outburst spilt over in the blog could become a source of embarrassment for the rest of one’s life. Even if the offending, controversial or embarrassing post is deleted, people who have read the post, cannot be made to un-read it.
4. Lack of Focus
A personal blog is invariably a cornucopia of seemingly unconnected thoughts, ideas, themes and topics. While the whole idea of having a personal blog is the presence of a platform to present yourself wearing the proverbial heart on the sleeve, the very generality of the blog renders it out-of-focus. The result is that there are no dedicated readers (barring your friends and relatives, who may stick on for the sake of loyalty), the absence of dedicated readers shows on the stats count, which makes you play the manipulation game, which makes the blog more general, in addition to pretentious, and the vicious and complicated cycle continues until one day you realize that your blog has become an Augean stable and taken over your life.
No, don’t get me wrong. There are benefits to blogging. If you aspire to be a writer, it serves as a good practice field to test your writing (as long as you don’t fall victim to using internet lingo and sms-ese in writing). It can help build a social network (although not as much as applications such as FB). Blogging can give you catharsis from real-life sufferings. It can sharpen your creativity if used well. However, before embarking on the journey of blogging, it helps to be aware of the pitfalls and cons of personal blogging. Above all, it helps to remember that blogging is an activity, not life itself. It is best to live life and blog about it if inspiration strikes, rather than live life just to blog about.