VOF Week 3: (CyberSheets)
I have kept a journal since the age of 14 (which feels like eons ago!) when an aunt gifted me with one of those “nothing” books that became popular in the late 1970s. I have shared between many blank sheets my thoughts, feelings, ideas, as well as fears, dreams, and sordid little details. I believe this personal practice has helped develop mental processes, further self-expression, and foster psychological maturity (and upon later review, provide major comic relief). Imagine reading something at age forty that you wrote when you were fifteen. Journaling over the years also vastly honed my grammar, writing and storytelling skills. The ability to pen intimate or telltale words about myself, my opinions, knowledge and experiences feels very natural at this point, so blogging or online journaling seems like it is an extension or progression of an already-familiar process to me, given a few privacy tweaks and twists.
The past two years, I was a board member for a non-profit arts’ organization, and created an online blog for the members accessible from the organization’s website. I also created a newsletter that was distributed online. I enjoyed the challenge of finding ways to engage members through creative concepts, catchy headlines, personal accounts or inviting questions, laced with plenty of humor. The blog was a good way to get acquainted with new people, share resources and information, as well as build a stronger network between members. One of the biggest benefits for the organization was having a vehicle for building relationships and actually getting work done, without having to meet in person.
Of course, this “benefit” offered opportunities for conflicts, misunderstandings and miscommunications as well. Words without the added framework of voice inflections and facial expressions leave a lot of room for interpretation. Offering opinions, ideas, stories in a public forum such as a blog opens up the floor and your own door to debate, disagreement, but hopefully some good dialogue. There is also a feeling of some vulnerability when putting things “in print” or online that could reflect or be used against you, or be taken out of context and misconstrued. I tend to edit any public offerings with regard to such possibilities, as well as personal privacy issues. In that respect, blogging for me departs from “for my eyes only” journaling.
On the other end of the spectrum, by its very nature, blogging provides a sort of invisible cloak under which we can be perhaps bolder and brighter than we might be with actual faces in front of us. We can edit and rewrite our words and ideas, before they are “spoken.” But I also find it sometimes a challenge to keep myself from knee-jerk responses or reactionary retorts. Again, I have found that having a self-check and balance about what and when to share, or not, is invaluable.
Blogs are obviously created for a variety of purposes – connection, information, entertainment, expression. I think being a smart and successful blogger means knowing what “blank sheet” you’re writing on in cyberspace, and why? . . . as well as keeping in mind who might be reading.