Writing in the Margins of My Life: An Ode to Blogging

Cross posted from Geekdad:

Writing in the Margins of My Life: An Ode to Blogging: "
"Urg-onomics" Etch-a-Sketch by Jonathan Liu

"Urg-onomics" Etch-a-Sketch by Jonathan Liu

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to blog about it, does it make a sound?

If you’re anything like me, you spend a good deal of time every day online, and at least part of that time is spent somehow documenting what you’re doing, what you’ve recently done, what you’re about to do. Maybe it’s a blog of some sort, or comments on a blog. Maybe it’s through your Facebook status updates, or Twitter. Maybe you simply email somebody about your day. Back in the analog days, perhaps we used a day planner or a diary or jotted things down on a wall calendar. But now it’s so easy to just broadcast what you’re doing or thinking at any time, and many of us do. I mean, sure, we expect somebody to be interested in everything, say, Neil Gaiman does. He’s a celebrity, a literary superstar, who could start a bidding war over a stick-figure doodle. But the rest of us can just as easily start up a blog or a Ustream webcast, whether or not we have any followers.

Why do we blog?

According to Margaret Wente, it’s because we’re guys and we suffer from Male Answer Syndrome, meaning we are quick to spout opinions about things we know nothing about. Never mind the fact that there are a lot of women bloggers, or that not all blogs are opinion pieces—the very name “blog” is short for “weblog” which is basically a diary. Or that Wente states this opinion from her regular online newspaper column with a comments section … how is this not a blog again? I couldn’t help laughing about her comment that “Opinionizing in public is a form of mental jousting” that she’s clearly not interested in doing.

For me, I’m sure it is somehow tied to my obsession with recording and documenting things. It’s the same compulsion that made our parents shoot hours of (mostly unwatched) home videos of us; the same motivation behind countless bad vacation slideshows. It’s what we’ve been training for since kindergarten Show ‘n’ Tell. As I admitted to Shannon Proudfoot for her article on “life tracking,” I don’t necessarily do it because I think other people are going to find it interesting—and if I stop to think about it, maybe I’d have to admit that most people probably don’t.

Sometimes it boils down to this: If I don’t blog about it, it didn’t happen.

Not convinced? Do a quick search on the phrase “I blog, therefore I am” and see how many blogs with that title you turn up. (There’s even a blog-based book by that title.) I blog because it’s the current incarnation of the diary. It’s my way of processing my day, thinking out loud, getting my thoughts in order (or at least throwing them all out in a pile so I can sift through them). It’s the running commentary, the footnotes, the little scribblings in the margins of my life.

Yes, Ms. Wente, I do have opinions and I like to spout them. But I’ve also been keeping a personal blog for family and friends for about eight years now, and it’s mostly not opinions, but just news. Since I’ve moved several times in the past decade, it became my way of keeping in touch with all the friends we’d made and left behind, of letting them know what we’re up to. It’s not monetized, search-engine-optimized, or branded. It’s not even on Google. Living in the rural Midwest, blogging has been my connection to rest of the world at large, my “voice crying in the wilderness,” so to speak. I also started blogging about books I’ve read basically so that I could keep track of things and remember what they were about. I have a readership that maybe numbers in the teens.

But now I’ve been writing for GeekDad for a year, which obviously gives me a much broader readership. Does it make me more convincing, what I say more true? Nope. Probably it just makes me louder, actually. What I love most about it is the camaraderie I enjoy with my fellow GeekDad writers—getting to know them via email and Twitter and the posts they write, and suddenly discovering that blogging doesn’t have to be this solitary activity, an one-way conversation. People talk back! And they talk to each other, and when I list my reasons for blogging, I can add this: it expands my world. I’m a stay-at-home dad with co-workers and colleagues. I’m just some guy, sitting in my house, who happens to be chatting with the world.

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