14 February 2005

Learning to use the medium of weblogging

I intend to write this weblog posting in several stages, intermediately saving it as a draft. Although I wish to begin this post now, I have insufficient time to complete it. Further, I wish to learn to feel in control of how I use this medium. It has only just occurred to me that I have access to what I write here only by internet connection: no internet connection, no access. This scares me a little. It is like storing my personal journal in a library in Newcastle.

Having expanded my weblogger personal profile, I spent several hours exploring the user profiles of other webloggers with whom I share some or other characteristic. I realised with excitement that thousands of people have made use of this weblogging site. I realised with sadness that many of them posted only once or twice, after which there is nothing but silence. Some people have written nothing more than a personal profile before disappearing. I began to wonder whether I had missed the party. It seemed that everyone packed up and went home immediately after the US presidential election. I realised that, whilst this weblogging site is a virtual town, it has the ambience of a ghost town. I am uncertain how I feel about it all: overwhelmed perhaps. Disappointed? Unprepared. I do not know how much I shall welcome comment. Do I want dialogue? Can I be bothered to get into dialogue? After all, I know none of these people. To what extent can I trust them?

When I was searching through the personal profiles, I came across people with profiles showing interests similar to my own, or tastes in film, or tastes in books, or tastes in music. However, I came across no-one whose profile came remotely close to matching my own. My head says to celebrate my uniqueness. My heart says that I am alone. This sense of aloneness was amplified by the relative absence of people my own age. I guess that weblogging is an activity that belongs more to young people. It excited me that, whilst many (a majority from what I was able to discern) of the weblogs are written by people in the US, there are also many written by people from around the world. Not all of the weblogs are written in English. It was wonderful to see weblogs being written in Japanese (hiragana? katakana?), and I felt a little frustrated and ashamed that I was unable to read them. Some of the webloggers present themselves as very strange people, and I suspected that they wish to show themselves as flamboyant and interesting. Other webloggers present themselves as very serious. In this latter group are people who are/were using their blog to record difficult experiences, such as coping with cancer, or coming to terms with a significant berevement.

I scanned the personal profiles of webloggers with interests and preferences similar to my own, systematically following each interest word and each preference word. At first, I believed that I would be able to peek into the weblogs and lives of only those people whose weblogging space was adjacent to my own in one respect or another. Following this train of thought, I considered editing my profile to propose different interests and preferences, and thereby open up new avenues. However, this idea felt dishonest, and motivated by voyeurism. Moreover, I soon realised that I need only take the personal profile of another weblogger to have available a raft of new interests and preferences words to pursue. This procedure felt less voyeuristic, I believe because not dishonest. I experimented with this procedure a few times, but rapidly felt as though I was acting without direction.

I scanned the personal profiles of webloggers with interests and preferences similar to my own, systematically following each interest word and each preference word. Some of my interests and preferences words brought up little contact with other webloggers. I noticed how other webloggers expressed their interests and preferences in ways that were likely to attain a longer reach. An obvious example was that some webloggers, I guess largely webloggers in the UK, used not only the word 'counselling', but also the word 'counseling' (the US spelling). I added the word 'counseling' to the interests section of my personal profile, and found the personal profiles of many more webloggers available for scanning. In the favourite films section, I changed 'Coen brothers' to 'Coen', but it made little difference; and I changed 'Woody Allen' to 'Allen', as a result of which a variety of Allen's were being referenced, and I became confused about the personal profiles I was viewing. Some of the interests and preferences words I used in my personal profile were too general, generating endless personal profiles with nothing much in common. Some of my choices were too maverick, generating a small, widely scattered, disparate mix of weblogger personal profiles, again with nothing much in common. I began to realise that I was searching for my tribe. In what ways could I amend my profile so that I may locate and identify my tribe? I added and amended for hours, but came no closer to my goal. Perhaps they are not out there, although surely they must be.

As I added and amended the words I used to describe my interests and preferences, I began to think about how other webloggers would view my personal profile. What do the interests and preferences presented in my personal profile say about me? I have no desire to present myself as someone who I am not, neither less than I am nor more than I am. I have neither a wish to hide or dissemble, nor a wish to inflate myself. I wish to give as accurate a picture of myself as I am able. However, like Picasso's stylised use of oil paint in a painting such as Les Desmoiselles d'Avignon, using the medium takes skill, understanding and insight. For example, I was attracted to the inclusion in the personal profiles of some webloggers of their interest 'flying light aircraft'. I have a short history of flying lessons, albeit seven or eight years ago. Although I carry the achievement of those flying lessons around with me as a part of my personal identity, I can no longer, in all honesty, include as an interest 'flying light aircraft'. As an example of a favourite film, I did not include Wolf, because, as a rule, I do not like horror films. The question for me became, what interests and preferences can I present in my personal profile so that other members of my tribe can find me?

What I have presented in this weblog posting is accurate, although incomplete. I shall address other issues on another occasion. I have found it valuable to analyse my experiences, for I have achieved the insight of re-knowing that I am searching for my tribe.

1 comment:

Smart Aging said...

I just came across your blog about Wellness Intelligence to complete my work on Wellness Intelligence and wanted to drop you a note telling you how impressed I was with the information you have posted here. Thanks!