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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.

Comments

molliv's picture

from book to web

yes, sandra! i have experienced so many of the same emotions in my transition from paper to internet. as a mom with 2 kids, being able to go online at any time of teh day, to read and re-read someone's thoughts before responding, no matter what the hour, no matter where they are or what you were doing just minutes before, it's empowering and amazing!!!! but this also comes with the difficulties that exist in the absence of nonverbal cues in everday face-to-face interactions... a smile, fidgeting, hand motions, etc...what someone may mean as a joke you may take VERY seriously, invoking conflict where there wasn't any. even my husband and i engage in unnecessary conflicts by communicating via email or IM during teh workday.

what do you think are some solutions you may see that will help you personally avoid teh downside you have seen? you mentioned the privacy factor, which is sometimes necessary. what about the miscommunication? do you think maybe HTML and teh ease of it, the use of symbol and "smileys" helps this? so that we can attach accentuation and emotion to words that may otherwise be misunderstood?

~molli

Don't let your worries get the best of you. Remember, even Moses started out as a basket case.

Sandra Dean-Marlowe's picture

Thanks!

Thanks you, Molli, for your response & comments. Nice to know that people are experiencing the same kinds of reflections and issues in the development of their online identities. Your point is well-taken about the possibility of emoticons accentuating the text of blogs, posts, etc. I've used them occasionally, but I must admit they seem a bit silly to me for more business type communications. Another important point I think is if you are having regular online interactions, then hopefully you are building some kind of relationship, that establishes a level of trust between persons. I think even tho' we believe we are connecting with persons of like-mindedness or similar interests (given that we are on the same websites or we have "subscribed" to certain blogs), there is still no substitute for development over time through those communications - mutual respect, expressed vulnerabilities, explored ideas, shared "self truths" of a kind - just as in human face-to-face relationships. We need to develop a level of trust, even online - maybe it's the modern day equivalent of "pen pals" we as kids used to have across the globe, whom we never met but still connected with? Needless to say, these virtual relationships are such interesting territory . . . I guess the "R" word (Relationship) is still about relating in all of its challenge and glory. LOL!
Thanks again for your good thoughts and interaction - very fun to read!
Smiles,
Sandra

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