Being And Blogging
by Chris Bowers, Mon Dec 11, 2006 at 10:01:07 AM EST
Still, even as I continue to push forward with actually existing, I admit that the past three years of blogging have altered me in some rather dramatic ways that do, in fact, begin to call very existence into question. I am not referring to the ways that blogging has caused a career change, granted me political and media access that I still find shocking, almost entirely ended my participation in old social circles and presented me with new ones, allowed me to work from home, or otherwise had an impact on the day to day activities of my life. Instead, I am actually referring to an important way in which blogging has altered my very consciousness. After two and a half years of virtually non-stop blogging, my perception of myself as a distinct individual has dramatically waned. My interior monologue has virtually disappeared. I no longer have aesthetic-based epiphanies, and I almost never concern myself with examining internal passions or emotions anymore. Blogging has not just changed the activities in which I engage--the activities in which I engage in order to be a successful blogger have profoundly altered the way my mind operates and the way I conceptualize my agency in relation to others. In effect, I do not exist in the same way I once existed.
- Whatever you write will be read by tens of thousands of people
- The material and research you use to produce that writing will almost never be of a personal nature.
- What you write must mesh with a perceived set of expectations of the content you have previously published.
- This is done almost entirely in virtual space, where your contacts take place over email, in comment threads, and on the front-page websites. Overall, you hve little human contact with either your colleagues or audience,
I am not whining about this. Rather, I am simply trying to figure it out, because something very strange is happening to me. For most of my existence, which apparently ended a few days ago, I had a very intense internal life, including extensive emotional wrangling, long stretches of examining my personal hopes and dreams--I mean, I wrote some pretty damn good poetry that always incorporated a strong confessional element. Can't get much more internal than that! Now, I hardly stop to consider what I will be doing with my life two weeks from now, and I never really think about my emotional state of mind. Like ever. It has all been subsumed into this odd daily practice of writing about politics (and, more and more, into other related activities). It makes me think of personal commentaries from who joined revolutionary, ideological groups back in the early twentieth century, when they described their sense of self slipping away into the movement they joined. It makes me think of academic work I read about shift in western consciousness that took place during the shift from a communal, agrarian culture into a more individualistic, bourgeois culture. The personal aesthetic experience and the concept of the "romantic mind" was created through the different ways people lived, starting with the development of the chimney in the thirteenth century (allowing for private quarters), moving to the widespread availability of books (which meant private, solitary reading instead of one person reading aloud to a group), and into solitary study, prayer and professions in later centuries. These shifts in the activities people performed helped to gradually cause a widespread shift in consciousness that created our current conceptualization of the self. It seems quite likely that the radical shifts I have undergone in my day to day life in this extremely new--and even more rare--position as someone who blogs nearly full-time have contributed to a similar, if far smaller, shift inside of me.
I bring this up for two reasons. First, people who blog full-time are a very strange and difficult to understand group of people. Not only is blogging new, but to date no one has ever written a personal memoir describing the ways in which blogging alters someone life. With a general dearth of knowledge about bloggers and blogging, it isn't all that much of a surprise that it leads to some really stupid commentary on blogging from non-blogosphere sources. Second, I mention this because I imagine that the ways in which blogging has changed me happen in different ways to people in other professions that take place in the public eye--namely politics. Being a political professional in Washington, D.C. for an extended period of time will inevitably change you in a similar fashion. It must be why we see infuriating group-think from Beltway-types. The social and professional circles in which people travel take on an powerful institutional life of their own that will alter any individual within the given institutions. This is virtually inevitable. And you will get especially stupid commentary on something like the blogosphere form people utterly ensconced within that mindset, not to mention a way of acting that will often appear perplexing, contradictory, and damaging to those outside of the institution.
Anyway, I wanted to get that off my chest before I returned to Washington for the first time since last April this evening. Much of the mystery surrounding the blogosphere through a personal memoir written in a confessional, "creative non-fiction" style that explains what life as a blogger is actually like. We can do that as bloggers, whereas professional politicos can't do that in Washington, D.C. without facing expulsion from the institutions in which they work. We political bloggers have spilled a great deal of ink on analytical, meta-blogosphere commentaries, and on how we would like to se the political process be reformed. I think we can do an equally great service--both to politics and to blogging--by spilling a little more ink on ourselves. No one has ever told the story of professional blogging in detail. Before I read yet another book on how Blogger X would fix the country, that is something I would like to see change. I doubt anyone will understand what it going on in the blogosphere until at least one person, and preferably several, finally does this.