Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Long time no see...

Warning: Long, navel gazing, meta post about posting ahead.

So, I've largely been lurking on other people's blogs for the last year or so, and, in the process, I've been seriously neglecting this little corner of the intertubes. I've been meaning to update or write about a million different things at different times, and I just can't seem to get around to it, which is actually a meme that has cropped up in different areas of my personal life, too. But that's for another post.

The reasons I've largely stopped commenting and writing are myriad, and probably uninteresting to anyone but me, but I'm going for openness here. One major thing that I've learned about myself is that I find the internet really exhausting. I find it emotionally and mentally draining. I really started noticing this about a year and a half ago. I spend way too much time online and I spend most of that time reading and responding to blogs and participating in forum discussions, and I realized "Holy shit, this is really starting to take a toll on me." I just felt like I didn't have the energy to keep at it, in some ways. Honestly, I don't know how people do it. Some people post almost every day, about serious topics, providing real analysis and engaging with commenters (how is that not a "real" word yet?). And they do it while holding full time jobs, social lives, school, and the like. I really don't know how they do it, because it was really burning me out, and making me a hostile and unhappy person. I found myself increasingly sarcastic, increasingly bitter, and just really miserable.

Despite this, I'm really attracted to blogging, and I think that the internet does provide a really great opportunity to converse with people that you wouldn't normally get to meet.

So, right now I'm in the process of thinking about what I want to do differently with my second go-round with this little space. I'd really like to cultivate this space, but I want to avoid falling into the same routines that were burning me out before. If it's true that you can sort of build your own spaces on the internet, then I'd like to carve out something a little different here. At least, different from what it's been. If there's anyone still around, you're part of this little experiment too. After all, if you're still checking here despite my posting, like, eight times in twelve months, then you must have some interest in what I've got to say, right? So, what is it that you're looking for when you check back here, despite the utter lack of real substantive updates in, like... forever? What kinds of things do you find really great about blogs that you think should be pursued? What do you hate?

My own perspective: I think that my writing became really too focused on negativity. I think that I need to make sure that I'm posting about positive things sometimes. I need to do so in order to prevent myself from sinking into emotional pits. And, quite frankly, I think that the positive doesn't get enough press anyway. Just like in the evening news, it's a reality that bad news is blog business. People--myself included--love to get a good outrage on. But, I'm not sure that it's emotionally healthy to spend so much of my time swimming in piss and shit. I think that there are times when I really want to get excited about good things. Obviously, I'm not going to spend all of my time pretending that the world is nothing but sunshine and rainbows and happy unicorns, but I don't have the energy or desire to spend 90% of my time being angry and shouting down people anymore.

I think that another thing that I want--and this post, as meandering as it is, is a part of this--is to have a much clearer idea of what this space is. I don't necessarily mean that it needs to have a narrow focus--although, maybe it does? But, I think that I need to have a very clear idea what this space is supposed to be, and treat it like that. Is this my personal blog? Is this a blog about feminism? Activism in general? About a male perspective on feminism? Is it just about my life?

So, I've already decided that on a few things. First of all, I think that I need to make it clearer that I don't see myself as The Voice of anything. I don't want to be The Voice of anything, except myself. If I say something smart and people like it, that's cool, but, ultimately, I'm just a no-longer-twenty-something guy who likes to argue with smart people, and who would like to see people treat each other better. I'd like to discuss my relationship to the world a more, and some people have, in the past, said that they were hoping I'd talk more about (and I'm paraphrasing here) what it's like to be a guy, and I think that's not a bad idea. I won't pretend to speak for every guy or that my personal experiences are anything more than anecdote, but I can, and I think should, write about what I know.

Second, I don't think that I want to write about other people's blogs unless I have something nice to say. I'm not suggesting that other people shouldn't do so, but for me, it's just really fucking toxic. I don't feel good about it, and I don't feel good about the ways that it's easier for me to say really horrible things about people or to make really mean assumptions about other people on the web. It's like, someone says something that I strongly disagree with, and suddenly their entire body of work and their entire history is assumed from that post? I think that, in some ways, this is unavoidable online. I don't think that the internet makes us completely anonymous in the way that some people will argue, but I think ti does make things really impersonal in some ways. You can't really see the sincerity in a person's actions, or read the emotion in their words the way you can when you talk face-to-face (not that those interactions always go well, either).

It's Paradox of the Personal on the internet, for me. Because I feel strongly about the things that I'm writing about, I'm more likely to feel the slings and arrows personally, but because of the anonymity of the internet, I'm less likely to recognize the personal investment other people have in their work.

Which is just... well... shitty.

So, as of right now, I'm thinking:

  • More positive posts.

  • More posts about my direct personal experiences.

  • Less/no posting angry missives about other people's blogs/posts.

I think that what I'd really like to see is more of a conversation happening, in some ways. I think that the posts that tend to be the best, from my perspective, are not the ones where I go off on something in great detail and tear it down with sarcasm and snark, but the posts where I post about something that I've found really interesting and have questions about, and I can engage with other people and learn from them.

So, consider this a transition and a work in progress. I expect that, given that I'm in grad school, there will be posts about books and things I'm reading for my studies, and I'd definitely like to post more discussions about movies and video games.

Anyway, this is s ridiculously long winded post just to say "I might be back, and I'm thinking of changing things up a bit".

Sorry if you actually read all that.
Next post?
Probably thoughts about what kind of commenting policy I should have. Feel free to offer suggestions. My general policy, thus far, has been to only delete spam, but I figure it's a good idea, as long as I'm rethinking how I post, to come up with a more explicit comment policy.


Mark said...

"One major thing that I've learned about myself is that I find the internet really exhausting. I find it emotionally and mentally draining."

I know how you feel. This was a big part of why I stopped posting about politics and debating on forums like 4k. I think of that time in my life as a valuable experience and I learned a lot, but I also got very burnt out on politics. My blog has become more trivial in a lot of ways in that I'm typically posting about books, movies, and lately video games (as such, I'd love to see more of such posts from you:). But I'm also happier and generally less stressed. I still make the occasional foray into debates every now and again, but I try not to get too worked up these days. I also try my best not to read too much into stuff, especially from random people on the internet (for instance, I tend to place a very low value on most comment threads at large sites).

In any case, I'm glad to hear that you're trying to be more positive in your posting. This blog was a little tough for me to read sometimes... Sarcasm and snark can be entertaining, but if you're looking for a true conversation, those things often set the wrong tone (for me at least).

In terms of comments, Spam is the most obvious and uncontroversial thing that needs to be removed. The rest is really a matter of personal taste. My comment policy includes references to wildly off-topic comments and outright flames or personal attacks being deleted... but I've never once had to delete a comment on those grounds. Everything has been spam related (though I'm sure I probably could have deleted some comments if I wanted to - however, I try to remain as open as possible). Some bloggers are more strict than others. Again, it's your website, so it's really up to you. Some people get fed up with various topics or how the comments on a given post stray from the original topic, so they close such threads when they get too broad. Some people don't want to spend a lot of time moderating, so they disable comments altogether. And some people let everything fly. Again, it's a matter of personal taste.

Anyway, I look forward to more posts:)

Mrs. Chili said...

I think that there's something in the air lately; a LOT of bloggers in my circle are questioning their motivations for blogging and wondering whether they feel they have anything worthwhile to say.

My take on this is that EVERYONE has SOMETHING worthwhile to say, but there's more to it than that; one has to WANT to say it.

I only occasionally dip my toes into political blogging; the sharp divisiveness that seems pretty prevalent right now is discouraging, and the hypocrisy being demonstrated by those formerly in power is enough to send me into fits of frustrated rage. I totally get why people try to stay out of it; it's exhausting.

Crystal said...

I've always enjoyed reading what you have to say. I suppose it helps that I usually agree with you. You also write well, so that can't hurt.

I understand what you mean about not having enough time to get involved in all of the conversations that interest you. I don't have any idea how bloggers do it, especially the ones who respond to comments.

I say this as someone who works part-time, so supposedly I could have time for such things. But I don't. Plus, reading one blog after another, and then email, the forums, Twitter, and Facebook? It's all exhausting. I've been relatively lax on several lately.

I don't think you said it explicitly, but do you think you would feel guilty if you backed off on the political/feminism discourse? I feel guilty that I don't blog about the issues that mean the most to me, and I haven't even tried!
But you know, I think about that sort of stuff a lot, then I read about it online, so I don't think I could emotionally handle writing about it too. I admire those who can, or try.

Either way, I'll stick around for whatever you've got. BRING IT ON.

Roy said...

Mrs. Chill: It's definitely exhausting. And discouraging. It's very very easy for lines to get drawn in the sand online. But, it definitely makes me sad and frustrated. I know some people who dedicate their lives to making change and to trying to work for a more equitable future, and then to see other people accuse them of bad things? It's totally easy to see that and get my back up, and I imagine that other people feel the same way. I don't know why it seems like things that happen online are so intense and so all or nothing. It seems like nobody is ever just mildly annoyed or a little peeved at someone online--it seems like people are either neutral, like you, or hate you. And that could totally be a result of my own issues, and maybe other people don't see it that way? I don't know.

Crystal: If I'm not careful, I'll literally burn hours reading blogs and forums. It's so easy to get into a mode where you're reading one thing, and it links to another, and that links to a blog you don't know, so you read some of the back posts... and the next thing I know, it's been three hours, and nothing I was supposed to do is done.

I don't know if I'd feel guilty or not. I'm not sure if guilt is the right word. There are definitely times when I think that I should be doing more, because, well, the world is screwed up, and it's up to all of us to try to make it better. But I also think that you have to take care of yourself first and foremost, and, honestly, the last year really sucked, and I just don't think that I was in the emotional or mental place to do a whole lot. But, now that things are sort of getting back on track, I do think that I should be doing more. Blogging, though, is really minor. I mean, honestly, I think that the vast majority of the people who read my blog were people who were mostly on the same side of the fence, you know? And I think that the people who weren't, probably aren't going to be. I think that there's some value in that, though--it's good to have a place where you can read people formulating arguments that make sense to you, and I think that there's value in forming safe spaces to provide emotional support for each other. But, really, I don't feel like I was contributing anything essential to the conversation most of the time. I guess some of my posts were probably entertaining?

At any rate, consider it brought. =)

Sovawanea said...

I completely understand about the exhaustion and burn out. I've never even gotten around to starting a blog and I spend much less time on forums and the internet in general than I used to.

I don't actually read many blogs. The few that I do are either people that I've actually met online, like you, or that have been recommended by people I know. I've always been a voracious reader and a news junkie. But, TV news barely qualifies as informative anymore and many newspapers aren't much better. What I still love about the internet is that it does help me keep informed and learn about things even when I'm sick of things being covered elsewhere or not actively searching for new information. Not only can a great blog or post highlight an issue I might not know about, I am much more likely to devote time to reading an in-depth article on an issue if I see someone recommending it and I know them well enough to accept their recommendation. I can't read or know about everything, but by having an extended network of people whose judgment I trust, I get to read and know much more about many things than I ever would have in the time before the internet.

Sarah said...

I completely understand about the burn-out as well. I don't have that many blogs in my feed reader and most of them (especially the big ones that have multiple posts a day) are sitting there mostly unread. I care a lot about feminism and political issues but I don't have the energy to think and read about them so much. It can so easily eat up many hours and there are many other things I want to do with my time.

I originally came across your blog from Feministing - I thought you left insightful comments there. I've enjoyed hearing your perspective on things. Now that I've been reading your blog for a while I feel a little bit like I know you - at least the side you present on your blog - and I am interested enough to keep following :) I actually tend to find individual blogs such as this one (as opposed to the big ones like Feministing) more interesting, perhaps because they usually contain longer, more thought-out posts but at a digestible frequency.

I would certainly enjoy reading posts with a positive tone. I agree that so much news is negative, it is hard to stay positive sometimes.

A little bit about my own blogging experience: I have two blogs (one on books and one on peace) and I have realized that I do them partly for myself. I am interested in feedback and comments and discussions, but I don't worry too much about my posting frequency (I tend to go through phases) or small number of followers (several of whom are family), because part of why I write them (especially the one on peace) is to help me organize my own thoughts. If it gets someone else thinking as well, so much the better, but I don't have the energy or interest to do the things that are necessary to gather huge followings, such as post every day and leave lots of comments elsewhere. Realizing that I do it partly for myself was a good way to not start pressuring myself to blog more than I really want to.

Becky said...

One major thing that I've learned about myself is that I find the internet really exhausting. I find it emotionally and mentally drainingMe too. It never used to be that way for me... back when I was a depressed and disaffected teenager I thrived on all that debating stuff. But now that I care about things, I find it really... draining. I don't think I could ever handle having a blog.

If I'm not careful, I'll literally burn hours reading blogs and forums. It's so easy to get into a mode where you're reading one thing, and it links to another, and that links to a blog you don't know, so you read some of the back posts... and the next thing I know, it's been three hours, and nothing I was supposed to do is done.Oh God, me too. It's a wonderful thing for me that my work has a really strict internet filter, it really is. I used to waste so much time at work reading stuff and end up feeling so guilty. Now I just have to worry about staying up too late reading stuff and being tired in the morning.

Anyway, I'm glad you're back and like Crystal I'm up for reading anything you write.