And, there are pictures! Totally unrelated pictures, but still!
So, the big topic of discussion this week in the Canadian momosphere (the corner of the blogosphere that is largely occupied by mothers) is whether blogging is being compromised or corrupted by social hierarchies and/or by commercialization. Or not.
This is not a new discussion. This discussion crops up about every two months or so, and creates a surge of posts lamenting the quote-unquote politics of blogging and everybody wrings their hands and nods their heads and says things like oh, me too, I feel excluded/I’m unpopular/the blogosphere is like high school/the popular kids keep to themselves/etc, etc.
This is going to sound, perhaps, a tad harsh, but here goes: these discussions* usually end up bugging the hell out of me. Not because the social intricacies and mores of blogging aren’t worthy topics, nor because I’m bothered by people expressing their feelings about their experience in the blogosphere. These are very worthy topics, and I’m all for the honest expression of feelings. But I usually end up feeling pissy about the whole discussion because it invariably ends up off the rails. Way off the rails. Much of this discussion (not all of it, but much of it), end of the day, is NOT about the "politics" of blogrolls and comments and blogads and all of the things that people sometimes feel sensitive about. It’s about people feeling sensitive.
This isn’t politics. I know this; in real life I am a political scientist (one who specializes, by the way, on the politics of womanhood and motherhood. So I’ve done my research and my thinking.) This is feelings. This is us calling something that makes us feel bad ‘politics.’ Because when we feel badly about social organization and interaction we refer to the problem as a political one. And sometimes we’re right: racism causes bad feelings. So does sexism, and a whole host of other isms. But sometimes we’re wrong. Sometimes we feel bad because we’re just not happy with our place in whatever community/system/mob/cocktail party that we’re part of, and politics, correctly understood, has little or nothing to do with it.
And this is, for the most part, what’s going on here. Much of the discussion that pops up every few months in the momosphere about ‘politics’ is really about the natural insecurities that emerge in social environments. It’s about the insecurities that emerge when something that we’re doing starts to matter a whole lot and we worry that we’re maybe not as successful at it as we’d like to be. I think that most bloggers – even the bloggers that have substantial readerships – feel these insecurities. We wonder – do people like us? Do they like our writing? Are we good writers?
And – why doesn’t Blogger A visit my blog? Why does Blogger B get paid to blog? Why did Blogger B take me off of her blogroll? Why do some bloggers get more attention than others? Why don’t I get more attention?
But here’s the thing. These issues, these questions, these feelings, are not the
result of or evidence of "politics." As I’ve said elsewhere, they’re the feelings/questions/issues that come with all social territories. They are, I think, especially pronounced in a community like ours – a community of (mostly) women who have come together to both socialize and to pursue writing. We’re seeking community and friendship, but we’re also seeking readers. We want a sense of belonging, but we also want to be read. So we are, I think, more sensitive to the ebb and flow of social interaction. If we’re not getting as much attention as we’d like (and we all need to ‘fess up that this is what it’s all about), it’s not just an emotional hit to that part of us that wants to belong in a meaningful way, it’s a hit to that part of us that wants to be recognized for this thing that we love doing – writing.
That hit can feel bad. I know this. I am considered by some to be a ‘popular’ blogger, but I’ve had my moments of feeling stung (these moments in the category of oh god so-and-so doesn’t like me! That post was about me/bloggers like me/me/me/me!) But I wouldn’t call the circumstances that cause those feelings political. If I’m feeling insecure about how I’m perceived in the blogosphere, that’s about me, not the blogosphere.
I’ve written about this at length on my own blog in the past, and plan on addressing it further there (in particular, the issue of whether the so-called commercialization of blogs corrupts the blogosphere, which I think is an excellent issue for discussion. My fast answer – NO. And I’ve got Gloria Steinem backing me up on this – we talked about the relationship between feminism and related movements and media/advertising briefly in New York – so there.) So I won’t belabour the subject here.
But I will direct you to what I consider to be a particularly well-reasoned and well-articulated and honest post on the subject, and encourage you to go read it, and to weigh in on the debate, regardless of whether or not you are a blogger. And then you can come back here and tell me what you think.
And if you come back and tell me that I’m that I’m totallly wrong, I’ll be a teeny little bit hurt. But I promise to not call it politics.
*For the record, when I refer to ‘this dicussion,’ I’m not singling out the posts linked in the first paragraph. I’m refering to the general discussion (in which comments play a big part) that ensues when such posts start popping up in the momosphere (dad-bloggers, interestingly, rarely if ever participate in this discussion. Hmmm… a woman thing? Something to consider.)
**I need to re-iterate my point above: no offence is meant to the authors of the posts cited in the first paragraph here. I am not asserting that by opening such discussion, they themselves have demonstrated deep insecurity. I am saying that this is the direction that such discussion, in my blogosphere experience, invariably goes. I am openly contesting some uses of the word politics in this discussion, but I mean no disrepect by this. Debate, people. Debate.