Blogging 203: Who are you talking to?

Friday night, I was given a lecture by the self appointed leader of the legion of Kai ni kii? deviants, he claims to speak for all 36 of you when he tells me that my erratic posting schedule is unacceptable (deep frown for emphasis).  Why do I refuse to post twice a week, as agreed upon?  He then warned me that I will lose my legion to other more reliable bloggers.  Are you laughing?  You are, aren’t you?  Humour aside (he was speaking in jest, but only a little), the man does have a point.  We have a contract here, you and I, I write, you read.  A token few sacrificial lambs volunteer to comment once in a while, to keep me occupied, and the show goes on.  Thing is, even as I endeavour to satisfy ‘the legion’, I’m starting to realise that the buggers I’m reading do not feel the same compunction to satisfy me.  Frankly, I’m a bit disgruntled, as a reader.

Now I have an embarrassing confession to make.  Up until January 2011, I had never read a single blog.  I was that idiot who’d hear people talking about blogs and wonder why they didn’t just go out and buy a book like normal people.  Then I discovered Bikozulu, back when he had the crazy chicks stalking him in the comments section, and then mamas picking fights with the stalkers, and then others hitting on the mamas (it was better than ‘Days of our Lives’).  I spent a month waxing lyrical to anyone who cared to listen, talking about how I had finally discovered…wait for it…the interwebs.  I know, I’m a complete technophobe.  Until that point, I only ever went online to do research for work and read my mail, and sometimes a bit of smut, because what is the internet for, if not sex?  I’ve made up for my ignorance since then, once it occurred to me that there must be others out there, idiots (not unlike like myself) with a fondness for all things peculiar.  How right I was…  I keep saying this, it’s frightening the number of random blogs out here, some good, a few bloody excellent, and, unfortunately, some not so good, and by that I mean painfully bad. 

Slight detour.  Is there a rule that states that spell check is optional on the internet?  I ask with seriousness, because I’m starting to think this is one of those things I don’t get, like LOL and *ducks*.  What the hell, man?  On the up side though, that’s how I ended up here, with my own blog.  Somehow I convinced myself that if the geniuses who no speaka da english can do it, then why not me?   Why not indeed…  Detour over.

Whenever I visit a new blog, the first thing I do is go to the very first post, or the ‘about’ page, to get an idea of the brilliant plan, and from that I’ve come to classify bloggers as one of three types.  There are the artists, they who talk about their ‘passion’ and such like froufrou nonsense, sijui how they love words and have always dreamt of being writers.  Those are the types who subject you to their angst and what not, in between (what they consider) finely crafted prose, and verse (always with the poetry…), often forcing you to sit through their never ending drama, purely because they’re skilled enough to keep you glued to their page.  Evil bastards those ones, (sometimes) brilliant, but evil!  (For the record, I may be slightly jealous of that evil talent, but that’s beside the point.)  Then there are the analysts, they who are so obsessed with putting the comma in the right place, they often forget to put themselves in as well.  Now you know I have love for random discussions, because I have a fondness for knowledge, and I do see the value in having impersonal discussions about serious matters, but I struggle with these types, because more often than not they refuse to tell me a story, or swear.  Which brings me to the last group, the batshit insane.  These buggers, they’re just lovely.  It’s usually an unending stream of (occasionally delightful) random stories, with a fondness for TMI, and perhaps uncensored language.  Frankly, they’re a little fucked up and not too proud to admit it, in all its sordid, technicolor detail.  Of course, being that they’re insane, they can and will drive you mad every so often, but its a small price to pay for a glimpse into their lives.

The reason I categorise my bloggers?  It’s not to gauge the quality of their writing, good writing doesn’t discriminate and is often found in the unlikeliest of places.  I do it simply to determine my level of engagement.  See, in the early days, I thought every blogger was eager to talk to random strangers, seeing as how they’re out in the public sphere, with those handy little comment boxes at the end of the post.  Not so much, as it turns out.  Turns out, most of the artist types can’t be bothered to talk to you, because they’re macelebs in their misguided heads.  The analyst types do not know how to talk to you, often thrown off their stride with the sudden intrusion of a stranger into their hermetically sealed world.  The insane ones, on the other hand, they talk so much, all the time, you’re scared to talk to them, and when you do, well, you’ve just signed your soul over to the devil, and become his new best friend.  This commenting mess is like goldilocks, only without the baby bear option that fits just right.  Back when I first started, I was that quiet idiot in the background, reading, laughing, crying, getting pissed off (often), but for the most part silent, too scared to get sucked into the peculiar chatter that characterises most comments sections.  Then I started scribbling my own most brilliant and eloquent thoughts (I mock myself…) and I realised that the quiet buggers can sometimes drive a blogger mad.  No really, mad!  I started commenting on blogs, actively, because I finally realised that what a blogger craves most is a reaction, even something as basic as a smiley.  (I was also commenting because they said that it’s the best way to get traffic to your blog.  FYI, they lied, that only works if you whore yourself with tacky links and cheesy ‘me too!’ comments, and even then, not so much, but that’s a story for another day.)  Most bloggers want to know that something they wrote got through to you, or at least that’s what they, we, say.

What we should actually say is that we want many, many readers on our on blogs, and the tons of praise that comes with them.  What buggers, sorry, bloggers will never admit to, because admitting to it is to show our vanity, in as much as we’re just happy to be read, what we really want is a glowing review.  We want you to gush all over us and proclaim us the next (insert name of favourite writer here…), because what are we if not a self-indulgent bunch of narcissist word whores?  What?  I’m just saying, someone doesn’t wake up and plaster their thoughts on the world wide web for the good of mankind; they’re either looking to show off like the artists they think they are (hence the narcissism), or they’re looking to share their (alleged) brilliance, and by so doing earn some love, or sympathy, or absolution.  We crave your comments, like a junkie craves his smack, but, and there’s always a but, but not if you’re going to tell us that you don’t like it, that you think its shit, that we should consider a refresher course in English, and typing.  That we don’t want to hear, those are the comments we delete, dismissing you as an ignorant philistine, incapable of grasping the brilliance that is our (and we say this with posh accents) ‘writing’.  All we want is shallow, if possible mindless, praise, or at least that is how it would appear.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what frustrates me most about blogs.

I am constantly looking for comments that go beyond the post.  If I like the post, I’m curious to read what other people think as well.  I have questions that I want answered, things that may have been left out in the post.  Its not that I want to post negative comments, or read them for that matter (pissy comments are often most unattractive, even when they’re funny), but I may not necessarily agree with what’s being said, and I’d like to discuss it further, if possible with like minded individuals.  Simply put, I want more.  See, that’s the beauty of blogs, they go where the papers and magazines can’t, in content and language.  Here we can get down and dirty, no?  Apparently not.  After many bland responses, or simply being ignored, I’ve learnt to stay silent.  There’s nothing worse than trying to talk to someone and getting the 1-2 brush-off, makes you wonder why you even bothered to waste those two minutes, no?  I was under the misguided notion that being online meant that I can actually talk to the author of the brilliance, instead of just sitting back and soaking it in like the adoring fan I’m expected to be.  What is this new media for, if not to have better conversation?

My dear bloggers, you might want to consider engaging with the masses, really engaging, not just ‘thank you’, and ‘cheers’.  Listen, we’re all looking to build some form of audience, stands to reason we must meet some of their expectations in the process, these buggers are just as selfish as we are.  They expect satisfaction, all the damn time.  As the author of this disturbingly accurate essay points out (The Internet Narcissism Epidemic), “…we get accustomed to having even our most minor needs accommodated to this degree, we are growing more needy and more entitled. In other words, more narcissistic.”  Now I’m not saying bloggers should be playing to the gallery, we all have our reasons for doing what we do, no?  Thing is, you must at the very least acknowledge the presence of a gallery.  If you choose to write an opinion piece, know that there will be a genius who wants to discuss it with you, perhaps even prove you wrong, so you had better be willing to back up your strong words, right there.  If you choose to wax lyrical, penning literary masterpieces, then be prepared for a self styled ‘critic’ calling you out on your (ab)use of language.  If you choose to delve into relationships, or sex, get ready to bare your soul, or other, for your audience, because that’s what’s expected of anyone who tries to be Dr Phil, or Hugh Hefner.

This audience we crave, it’s a double-edged sword, on the one hand keeping us going with their patronage, but on the other hand, constantly demanding more and more, because they must have their pound of flesh.  The lovely bastards out here reading are working under the (possibly misguided) impression that you’re there to entertain them, at all costs.  I know, the gall!  But that’s how the internet works, and if you don’t like it you always have the choice to go the other way.  Stop chasing the numbers, and chase the high you get from seeing your words on a page, even if the page is yours alone, and possibly shit.  Tell your story as you see fit, and then kill the comments thingi at the bottom, so the nuisance buggers (such as myself) know not to bother you.  That actually works, by the way, it comes in quite handy when you’re having a bad day.

The point to my little diatribe is this.  If you choose to talk to the public, then talk to us, not at us.  Interact, dammit, this isn’t a bloody newspaper with unseen readers.  This, my lovelies, is the interwebs, home of the idle and chatty (and sometimes vile) langas, bloggers and readers alike.  What’s that?  You don’t think you should talk to the hoi polloi?  Then who the fuck are you talking to?  You don’t like the nasty reactions you get sometimes?  Come now, a stupid comment gives you the (unfortunately too rare) opportunity to bitch slap an idiot.  Be honest, who here doesn’t love doing that?  Folks, every so often someone will come along and attempt to have a conversation with you, because something you said resonated with them.  Or perhaps they want to point out the flaws in your not so brilliant thinking, or writing, again, out of resonance.  By the time someone sets up camp in your house, and proceeds to have a bit of a chat, or rant, they’re doing so because they have genuine interest in what you say.

I am very disgruntled.  Methinks I have been cheated by the promise of the interwebs.