Friday, December 10, 2010

Why We Blog

My friend Jill is a gorgeous, sassy, accomplished, articulate friend (and fellow pie baker) who asked my advice on her new blog. She was feeling insecure and deflated after her husband so generously offered his opinion. "My husband thinks blogging is a waste of time."

In fact, her husband feels so strongly, and so negatively, about this he wrote a diatribe against the whole social networking trend on -- oh the irony -- a blog.

"The underlying impulse behind all this frantic networking is the veiled desire to affirm both one's ego and one's identity," he vented online. "The result is a gusher of trivia that is almost psychotic in its ferocity and pathetic in its quest for attention. But perhaps its greatest fault is that by embracing trivia and fostering human contact it demeans the English language. In the course of its flippant abbreviations both of speech and thought, it banishes certain values, which it has taken centuries to develop and, in place of creativity, it champions banality and encourages self-adulation."

His tone was critical, closed minded, and, let's face it, archaic, but still, I couldn't shake the dark cloud his opinion had cast upon me. It caused to stop and take stock of my own essays -- er, blog posts. Was I being self-adulating and simply trying to affirm my ego in my efforts to share my life's challenges and adventures? Was I merely seeking attention? Further, do other people even care about what's going on in my life? I mean, everyone has their own unique universe to focus on without wasting their time reading about mine.

There was a time -- only three years ago in real time, the equivalent of three decades in Internet time -- when I shared Jill’s husband's sentiments. I even wrote my own diatribe against Twitter and Facebook -- yes, on my blog, which at the time was brand new. It was my fifth post, to be exact. There are still many aspects of my story that still hold true -- like the importance of spending real life face time with people, getting away from the computer to exercise and get fresh air, and creating something artistic – like pie – with your own hands. But my opinions -- and my life -- have evolved considerably since then.

Which is why I was quick to reply to my friend's email. "No, Jill!" I wrote. "I know you love your husband and respect his opinion, but he is wrong. Social networking is an invaluable communications and marketing tool. And seeing as you're the bread winner, he has no room to talk. Go ahead and put yourself out there. You have every right to express your own creative voice."

My mother might side more with Jill’s husband. She has always told me I tell people too much. "Things you say could come back to hurt you," she warned. It's a good thing she doesn't read my blog because not only do I tell people a lot, I tell them EVERYTHING. I am a firm believer that “honesty is the best policy” and what I have learned from living by this creed is the only thing that hurts is staying silent.
Try telling Kelly Sedinger that blogging is a waste of time. If you do, you'll probably get a pie in the face.
On Sunday I received an email from a man in Upstate New York who has become a regular reader of my blog, which he discovered not from doing a Google search for pie, but for bib overalls. I find this highly amusing as wearing overalls ranks somewhere near the bottom on my list of attributes. Nonetheless, he wasn’t writing to me because of my farmer pants. This stranger (Kelly Sedinger, who I would now consider, well, a Facebook friend at the very least) was writing to tell me how much he appreciated my raw honesty about grief, about my long, emotional and sometimes suicidal process of dealing with the loss of my husband, and how my stories have helped him deal with his own grief over the loss of his two-year-old son. He also told me how he and his wife have used pie (coconut cream) to help heal, though in a most unusual way, by throwing it in each other’s faces!

I have received many emails like this (minus the pie throwing part) since Marcus died, since I began pouring my pain out onto the virtual pages of the Internet. Not a “gusher of trivia that is almost psychotic in its ferocity and pathetic in its quest for attention,” as Jill’s husband says. No, I’m gushing about REAL life. There are people out there who have no one to relate to, to talk to, to share with – for one, because our society is so reluctant to open up about death and other difficult subjects. And so, I relate, talk, share. And people, like my overall-wearing, pie-throwing reader in New York, relate, talk, and share back.

My friend Christine Buckley just started a blog called Seeking Shama about her cross-country road trip to help resolve her “existential crisis” after getting fired from a job she didn’t even like. She’s 41, fit, beautiful, well educated, highly employable, and, at face value, has nothing to complain about. Surely Jill’s husband would have a field day with this one. He would call it “banality,” while so many others are so starved for soul-searching stories like these that her essays are now published on the Huffington Post. I can just picture him fuming over this.

We, as human beings, need each other. We need to share our stories no matter how trivial, dramatic, or death-related they might be. We need to be honest. If we don’t share things, things that scare us or fill us with shame, what happens to all that fear and shame? It’s like I’ve said about grief when the baby rabbit died: Emotion is energy that needs to get out of your body. If you don’t release it, it will manifest itself in other ways like disease. Or, as my friend Nan reminds me, “Disease comes from dis-ease.” We need to share the good stuff too, the happiness, the victories. A Swedish proverb sums up in 12 words (plenty short to be posted on Twitter) perfectly: “Shared joy is a double joy; shared sorrow is half a sorrow.” If you get instant gratification -- or relief -- from sharing your joy and sorrow and everything in between over the Internet, well, good!

As for the “flippant abbreviations both of speech and thought” -- and countering my own initial reaction of “who cares what I’m doing now” -- I've come to enjoy the banter on Facebook and Twitter and marvel at the creative use of English. It really is like learning a new language, one that is short, to the point, and often twisted in ways so funny I laugh out loud. Flippant is good. Irreverent, even better. Thank god for the social break that these social networking sites provide amidst stressful or sometimes uneventful days. I live in a rural area and to be connected with smart, sophisticated, successful types from NYC to London and beyond keeps me from feeling cut off from the outside world, it stimulates my mind and keeps me from sinking into the vortex of despair where one can go when lacking human contact. Out there on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and beyond is a big, entertaining, often useful conversation going on 24/7 that I can drop in on anytime I feel the need for some company or want to speak my mind. And god knows, it's better than TV. Harmful to our language? Hardly. You want to talk about the demise of English? Come to my town where there’s rampant use of the word “ain’t.”

Social networking, and blogging in particular, is not a waste of time. It is an essential means of broadening our minds, our creativity, our friendships, and, mainly, our connections. Man is not meant to be alone and if we find each other in cyberspace, so what. It’s a good place to start. And after making those initial connections, sharing our stories with each other, and discovering common ground from which to launch meaningful relationships, there's a lot further we can take them. I look forward to meeting my blog readers, fellow bloggers and Twitter followers in person. And my life will be so much richer for it. All because of a of a little blog about pie.

I wish I could give you the URL to Jill’s blog, because she really is a great writer with a wicked sense of humor. She’s got the kind of charming voice where she can sling insults and make them sound like compliments. Kind of like getting a coconut cream pie thrown in your face. It’s so delicious you don’t even mind how it arrived in your mouth! She has talent. She also has a wonderful little business, which deserves to succeed. But Jill isn’t even her real name. She loves her husband, even though he is resistant to change, and I don’t want to offend her anymore than I already have, so I’ll stop there.

Everyone has a voice that deserves to be heard. Where and how are you sharing yours?  Creating a blog is free. Ditto for Facebook page, Twitter and LinkedIn. And by all means, please feel free to connect with me on Facebook or Twitter (worldneedspie).

3 comments:

Jaquandor said...

Great post, and not at all too ranty. I, too, have acquaintances who think that blogging is just a giant waste of time, but then, I also have had acquaintances who think that writing fiction is a waste of time. Or watching movies more than once is a waste of time. Or [fill in the blank of something somebody doesn't understand]. It's kind of maddening, especially when I see people (a) deride blogging (b) while blogging themselves! That's just odd.

And a public thanks for the link and the mention and link to me and my blog (that's me with the pie in the face, folks)! If anyone's interested, I made a video of the pieing resulting in the picture Beth uses, which you can see in this blog post of mine. Pie really does heal, whether in the making, the eating, the throwing, or the wearing!

Sigrid said...

Hi Beth;
I read your blog today and I have to say I have mixed feelings about starting a blog. Actually I did start one but never posted it. Of course my blog would be more about cooking and entertaining. I cook to calm me down and you know I love to entertain. As for facebook I was on facebook for 20 minutes and removed my name because I had almost 25 hits in that short time, it scared the jeebies out of me, ha,ha. Do you actually read these comments?? As for your friend's husband I disagree with him writing is never a waste of time no matter which forum one uses.
Don't get buried in the snow!

Sigrid

Martha said...

I enjoy reading some people's blogs, and so I do. I do not enjoy reading some blogs, and so I do not. It's as simple as that. And Jill's husband is equally free to make his choices.

What I don't understand is his angry and mean-spirited tone. I also don't understand how he has reached his conclusion that social networking via blogs has demeaned the English language. For example, it does not follow that because abbreviations are sometimes used, our language's values have been banished.

Let's talk about blogging and/or reading blogs being a waste of time. A reasonable definition of wasting time would be to spend our time on any non-essential task. I definately carve out a chunk of my time every day that I devote to "wasting". I watch football, I read fiction, and I stand in the shower much long than necessary. And in fact I have many, many other time-wasters. My point is that my time belongs to me to waste or to use productively as I choose.

However, I do not consider time I spend in a manner that relaxes and pleases me to be time wasted. So I'll just end by saying when I read "The World Needs More Pie", I consider it time well spent.