Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

the vast scope of the internet: always leaving me with far too much to say

spleenfiend's picture

"Blogging as a Social Action: A Genre Analysis of the Weblog" by Carolyn R. Miller and Dawn Shepherd brings up many points I immediately found myself replying to in my head.  For one thing, I loved the discussion of exhibition and voyeurism.  In general, people enjoy the power of the blog and the attention it gets them but are embarrassed when the wrong people read their private thoughts.

Anyway, as noted in the article, blogging makes people more aware of their own opinions and tastes.  A blogger named Rebecca Blood is quoted as saying of a blogger, "His own reactions to a poem, to other people, and, yes, to the media will carry more weight with him. Accustomed to expressing his thoughts on his website, he will be able to more fully articulate his opinions to himself and to others" (2000).

This is definitely something I have noticed myself about the internet: due to profile sites becoming so popular, people are forced to think about how they would describe themselves, often in only a few words.  Also, they readily categorize themselves by books, music, and other interests---interests which are also more vast due to the internet making people more aware of them.  [For example, people can easily find music within a genre by searching it and quickly downloading, as opposed to having to hear about the music through the media only.]

However, I disagree with the statement that a blogger will "become impatient with waiting to see what others think before he decides, and will begin to act in accordance with his inner voice instead" (Blood, 2000).  Since blogs are meant to be read, they are frequently tailored toward a certain audience.  Even a blog that contain a controversial viewpoint is written that way to appeal to those who are attracted to controversial ideas.  Also, most people are not eager to list interests and opinions that truly embarrass them to their own communities, especially since anything posted on the internet is permanent.  They tend to conform to their respective online communities, as people always conform to social norms.

So, I am a bit torn on whether I really think the all-exposing internet culture leads to greater self-discovery or not.  It means more people will be able to describe themselves with a string of adjectives, and they will have a community that readily connects them to others with the same interests.  People are also inclined to be overly honest and show others that what they are writing is the truth, because as the article notes, many people are fascinated by a glimpse into someone's private life.  But does this kind of exhibitionism really cultivate the self? I'm still not sure.  I think it can aid self-discovery, but so can most experiences where people identify with a group and are accepted.  And is an activity that encourages so much narcissism really beneficial?  Or is it more introspective than merely narcissistic?  Like I said, I'm torn.

I'd also like to comment on this statement in the article:
"Turkle's book explores the ways that the internet destabilizes our sense of identity, enabling experimentation with multiple identities or personae through MUDs and gaming, allowing people to experience the plasticity and multiplicity of the self that postmodernism posits (1997). Bloggers, however, seem less interested in role playing than in locating, or constructing, for themselves and for others, an identity that they can understand as unitary, as real."

I am interested in role playing and the unease that comes with knowing that someone on the internet could be anyone playing with a false identity. 

No one wants to believe that the online friend they have made or the blogger they have been following is lying, because that is terribly unsettling and leads to feelings of betrayal, such as in the case of the "Kaycee Nicole Cancer Hoax."  We have become very comfortable with the internet culture, so we tend to ignore the uncertainty.  I ignore it but still like entertaining the idea of it.  Reality TV was also mentioned in the article, which really amused me: people also like to believe reality TV is real, though at the same time, many people are aware it's fairly fake.  That's just like how we always talk about how we have to be aware of "creeps on the internet" but want to believe internet personalities are truthful.  This cognitive dissonance is interesting to me.

I can contrast those points with the points made in the article "The Book Is Real Enough.  It's the Author That's Fake" about the book by "Kendall Hart."  I love the idea of a book with a fictional author, writing the book she would write if she were a real person.  To me, it encourages more fake blogs (awesome!).

Finally, I am not at all surprised that very few of the most famous blogs are actually personal blogs, though personal blogs are quite prevalent.  I think people have become more exhibitionist since the nineties, meaning there are just too many blogs in existence for us to collectively focus our voyeurism on individuals, especially since exhibitionism no longer shocks us as much. I love to talk about personal blogs but definitely read informative blogs more than I read personal ones.


Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.
1 + 1 =
Solve this simple math problem and enter the result. E.g. for 1+3, enter 4.