Now blogging at diego's weblog. See you over there!

of blogging and "reality"

[via Dave] an article in the Village Voice, in which the writer, Whitney Pastorek, vilifies weblogs for destroying human interaction and forcing her to check websites all day to see what her "friends" are doing.

First, somebody should point Whitney to an RSS reader. It would be faster for her to check feeds, rather than make rounds on her friends' websites.

The piece is funny, but throughout it there's an undercurrent of disgust, as if blogs were against nature in some sense. I suppose carrying around a tiny four-inch brick of batteries and electronics that interrupts you at will is the most natural thing in the world (yes, I'm talking about cellphones--or does Whitney avoid them too?).

Maybe her friends find weblogs to be a good, unobtrusive way to communicate. Maybe her friends, lacking the ability to publish their thoughts on the Village Voice, have found a way to do essentially the same, thus threatening the uniqueness of what she does. (Isn't that article a lot like a weblog entry, btw?). Or maybe there's something deeper going on here.

The origins of this weblog problem for her seem to stem from her perception that weblogs are cutting down on "real" interaction:

These days, I do not even hear about the stupid stuff that's going onó"I got a haircut" or "My apartment burned down"óbecause the bloggers assume that I have read about it on their blog. Which I have not. And then I wonder why they are not answering their home phone, and immediately assume we are in a fight.


I invite my friends to [literary readings in which she performs], hoping for affirmation and free drinks. How heartbreaking, then, when no one arrives! Phone calls are made: I am sad that you did not come to my event! The bloggers reply, invariably: But I linked to you on my blog! That is just the same as if I showed up in person!

It is not. It is very different.

(Really? It's different to link to a webpage than go to a place and talk to people? No kidding eh? Truly shocking revelation. Thanks for the tip. And as for: "I do not even hear about the stupid stuff that's going onó'I got a haircut' or 'My apartment burned down'---that's the first time I've seen "my apartment has burned down" in the category of chit-chat, or, as she puts it "stupid stuff").

In my experience weblogs enhance real world interaction, not the other way around. I've gotten into conversations because of what I've read in other weblogs, and people have come up to me to talk about what I said at some point--creating new threads of conversations that might otherwise never have happened (this is more marked with people you don't see as often as you'd like, due to geography, or work, or whatever). And let's not get into how many people I've met, online and off, because of my weblog.

In person, issues can be discussed more in-depth. In fact, weblogs are good for a number of things, but they fail a little bit at some types of conversations since it's easy to miss the context of something that's being said (the source of many weblog "fights"). In person, if someone misses the context of what you just said, you explain yourself better. With weblogs, it baloons. Weblogs, on the other hand, have both an immediacy and a pemanence that makes them good for a number of other things, including long drawn-out conversations where ideas are evolving and being exchanged. In the end, they form a feedback cycle with "real world" interaction that enhances both.

But she still feels weblogs have taken something away, rather than added to it. So I thought about it... what's the only way in which a weblog can cut down on your "real world" interactions? When is it that they stifle conversation? When is it that a weblog allows you to say it all and nothing's left to be said in person?

How about when all your conversations center around superficial crap that can be explained in two words and which dissipates after five minutes?

In other words, if a weblog can really kill off "real world" interactions with your "friends" maybe it's time to think if those "friendships" are anything but meaningless chatter about the weather, haircuts, and pretending to be nice to each other.

Weblogs have made you realize that your life is a sequence of interactions that can be replaced by a few hyperlinks and 500-word entries?

Then maybe it means that to be so easily replaced those interactions were actually just superficial drivel. Deal with it. Or not.

But shooting the messenger isn't going to do you any good.

Posted by diego on March 4 2004 at 7:26 PM

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