Sunny Vergara has a great post over at The Wily Filipino, on blogging. I am experiencing a bit of nostalgia over his post, what it once was like in a space that I now complain daily is rife with noise, clutter, thoughtlessness and insincerity.
Back in the Day
So we are blogging about blogging again, and about social networks. Indeed, back in the day, blogging was a less self-conscious endeavor, and the blog was that space to report our mundane and routine, and it was also the means by which we got to know other writers. Friendships and collaborations began in blog world, folks were or seemed sincerely interested in what was going on in one another’s lives.
I began blogging in grad school, and the space became crucial for my gnoshing on ideas for papers and projects. I’d post my rambling thoughts on process, poem drafts in their infancy and the texts and productions informing these nascent drafts. What was I listening to on iTunes, what films, documentaries, visual art I was viewing, what texts I was immersed in or revisiting, where I was people watching and eavesdropping on conversations in public city spaces, where and when I was just listening to my surroundings, and what these were telling me.
Other bloggers would join in and comment on the poems in progress, discuss their take on Apocalypse Now, point me to other literature, media and various other cultural stimuli. Hence, Poeta en San Francisco was born on my first blog, as much as it was born in poetry workshops, and it’s a similar case with Diwata. As you can see, this was a much needed collaborative or communal process, given the solitude of writing in my little Downtown Oakland studio apartment, given the cultural and political disconnects I experienced in grad school.
Other folks were also discussing their cultural, political, literary issues and works in progress, and I would also jump in on their blogs to comment, share my take on the issue at hand, respond to the blogger and to the other commenters, actually have conversations with them. A UC Berkeley Conference on Filipino Americans and Beauty was born in blog interaction, spearheaded by Gladys Nubla and Joanne Rondilla, whom I met in blog world before I ever met them in the flesh. Same is true with Sunny, who I’d only known of as a prof at SFSU and blogger; I remember eventually setting up a time for me to drop by his office in the Ethnic Studies building to give him a copy of Gravities of Center. He became one of my MFA thesis advisors for Poeta en San Francisco. He’s taught my first two books in Asian American Studies classes, and today I count him among my good friends.
And of course, some of you know how I met my husband. I mean, on whose blog I met my husband. ♥
So yes, it was a very fruitful and enthusiastic time. In addition to these real interactions, we were content creators. We didn’t know it at the time; we didn’t use that term. The content was also good quality, precisely because of our lack of self-consciousness.
Since then, as Sunny says, things have changed. I wonder if e-world became too big, or if the novelty of connecting in e-space wore off, or it just ceased to be concretely useful. Oscar and I were just talking about this the other day, that I had once thought it was because so many people were now on mobile devices that folks started opting for brevity over quality content.
This is another term that we didn’t use back in the day, for what we were already doing, engaging one another’s writings in thoughtful ways. Sunny talks about his previous belief that Facebook, “romping about in a walled garden, with the outside world unable to peek in,” was something that had changed blogging and our willingness to engage one another thoughtfully in open space. I want to agree with this, because somewhere along the way, the open space that is the blog became a daunting place to be. When did this happen?
Sunny also writes:
The lesson I learned here: you take the site and the content to the reader, and they should be free to discuss and converse wherever they want.
I suppose he’s right, and that my dissatisfaction with the lack of dialogue has less to do with social media, and more to do with something else.
One thing I have had to remind myself is that just because folks mostly do not leave thoughtful comments these days (barring the three or four of you who actually do here) does not mean they are not thoughtfully engaging my writing. Some people still read these substantial blog posts, and still think about the questions I pose. Still, I do think they are in the minority. My stat counter tells me how many or few hits come over from FB, Twitter, Google+, RSS feed readers, and other places. On pure numbers, I can tell you that the most fruitless and the most noise-filled e-space I occupy is Twitter. It’s kind of useless to be there.
Then there’s the other, non-quantifiable evidence, comments that indicate that the commenter has not in fact read any of what I’ve written (why bother commenting then?), or comments that indicate that the commenter is only responding to a decontextualized piece of my entire post. (Addendum: there are also the comments that indicate the commenter is not engaging even minimally, and really only interested in using my comments section to serve his own agenda.)
In the words of Depeche Mode, “people are people…” and that’s that. The same social dynamics that manifest themselves in non-virtual spaces also manifest themselves in e-spaces. Back then, I think we thought that wouldn’t be the case. Upon realizing this was, in fact, the case, I think we decided to be in denial about it, and just blame social media and technology instead.
So what’s next? Google+ is manageable so far, perhaps because there are relatively fewer people there. But people being people, then I suspect the same thing will happen at G+ that happens at FB, that happens at Twitter, folks accumulating contacts to accumulate contacts.
As for myself, I just need to keep doing what I’m doing, writing to work out my work, being skeptical of the hype around new social media, but mostly just to keep writing in this public space to work out my work, maybe write a book. Yes, this is what I want to get back to; having this blog be the space where I continue to process what needs processing, so I can continue to envision a project, write it to completion, see it through to publication and beyond.
[Shout out to Anthem Salgado for his recent Art of Hustle post on utilizing those headings formats to break up chunky blocks of text! How's it look?]