Blogging: a ticket to trouble
August 16, 2006
I don’t think I’m buying this whole “blog” thing.When I was in school at Boulder, there was this guy who would stand in the courtyard at the student union day in and day out, giving grandiose speeches about this-and-that, politics, mostly. He was in his late 30s and wore thick-rimmed glasses and cable knit sweaters with scarves wrapped around his neck. He was a little paunchy, sort of like all those tenured professors who had the luxury of no longer having to hide their alcoholism. Word on the streets was he was a law school dropout from Berkeley.This guy’s right to exercise free speech, standing there ranting and raving like a half-crazed lunatic, is kind of like blogging. From what I can tell, blogs are nothing more than websites created from readily available software that allows any idiot to set up a relatively dynamic, interactive site in five minutes or less. Help me out here: I’m not really seeing the difference between a website and a blog. It seems like someone just came up with a new word for something that already existed. Blog is the worst because we use it as a noun (blog, blogger) and a verb (blogging). But like most things in our unimaginative postmodern world, it’s really just a regurgitated version of something that was already there, sort of like vomit.Call it free speech, call it an open forum, or even “a soapbox placed smack in the middle of the public square from whence any and all can be heard,” but what is it really other than a McWebsite?Easy-to-use blog sites like Squarespace and Blogspot offer ready-made colors, fonts, and design templates to customize your site (oh sorry, your blog). You can give it a name (I called mine “Aspen Princess Wide Open”) and post a copyright mark on the bottom of each page. There’s also a built-in URL and hosting, so all you have to do is throw it in the microwave for a minute or two and you’re ready to go.As soon as I set up my blog, I immediately fell into the freedom of speech trap, of putting it all out there, uncensored by editors with rules about profanity. I thought, “Oh, this will be a great opportunity to write what I want and not worry so much about what people think.” I figured I’d use it as a tool to gauge reader response, but also to experiment with how it feels to write about whatever I might be too scared to see published in the paper (erotica, anyone?).I immediately upset two of my closest friends playing with my new free speech toy. (Don’t think I can’t see you rolling your eyes at me, dissenters! I know exactly who you are!) It was like the first time I tried cocaine and talked for like four hours straight, thinking every word I had to say was so totally fascinating. The filter is gone and whatever waste is floating around in my brain comes flying out like baby spit-up.When I write for the paper, I have at least some degree of accountability via my editors and publishers who are ultimately liable for what I write (though just to be fair, I am known to file my columns like five minutes before the paper goes to press). Even though it’s not bulletproof, at least there are other people involved. There’s also the whole getting hired thing, which insinuates that I am qualified, as well as the getting-paid thing, which also confers some degree of professionalism. It’s true that as a columnist, I am given a lot more leeway than a reporter, but my work is contextualized within the Op/Ed pages where the “opinion” aspect is clearly spelled out.What’s dangerous about the ol’ blog (cringe) is the slick-looking context that makes the text more official-looking in appearance than, say, the ragged, dog-eared journal that sits on my nightstand. But once the millions of people who have access to the Internet look at my journal online (which they now can) it suddenly has more power than it does when no one else can see it. All’s I’m saying is the power of the written word should never be underestimated.So what happens when any yahoo with access to a computer can leak information and pass it off as news? The way I see it, the flow of information on the Internet is kind of like the sexual revolution of the ’70s. It’s a flipping free-for-all – it’s all fun and games until someone’s genitals fall off.One of the big trends of blogging is linking to news stories on other sites. Didn’t your mommy ever tell you not to put that sugar cube in your mouth unless you know exactly what’s in it? It’s fine if a blog wants to link to a published story, but what really bothers me is when they throw their own headline and graphic on the item they’ve decided to “post” so it kinda makes it look like it’s their story. Not to mention headlines and graphics have a way of throwing a little editorial spin on things.They say it’s great for us writers because it “broadens our exposure.” Exposure-exshmosure: I’ve got four words for you: SHOW ME THE MONEY! It’s this little thing called syndication. If my work can be infinitely recycled, what does that suggest about my financial future as a writer?I know! I’m going to create this new thing where I write a column about whatever trivial crap I want and just rant and rave without a care in the world. Maybe I’ll call it a clog or a rantog or a ravog. Oh, wait – I already have that. So why not call a spade a spade? I’ll go first: I’m just a little girl with a very big mouth.The Princess has really been enjoying writing lately. Email your love to email@example.com.
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