The Problem With Blogging

The problem with blogging is that you can never show the full truth.

This is not something which troubles me much, because I am well aware that no one ever knows the full truth about, well, most anything. There is, however, a special problem with personal blogs. People often think that they know the blogger, when that is especially unlikely due to the inherently incomplete nature of this form of communication.

There are two main problems: the first is that the blogger can never say enough to make the full truth of her reality clear. The second is that the reader will always infer things based on the reader’s reality rather than anything the blogger intends to imply.

I learned a lot about the first issue from That Wife, when once upon a time she posted daily and often received the most absurd comments from people who could not grasp that there might possibly be more to her life than what she wrote. After all, she wrote so much about so many topics, it was easy for them to imagine that they knew everything.

And the second problem was clarified for me by Felice mi fa who most graciously explained (in far better words) that when a reader misreads based on the reader’s experience, it is a sign that the blogger has somehow reached the reader personally, and that is something for which to give thanks.

Misunderstanding is fine, so long as everyone benefits. It is almost always the responsibility of the reader to move on if something is not beneficial, but I have occasionally seen bloggers struggle to hang on when it seemed clear that their efforts were an unrequited emotional drain of energy.

I have frequently found that people have great difficulty distinguishing between personal posts which represent countless hours of anguish, and posts which are the result of random thought hurriedly typed out to meet a self-imposed deadline. This means that it is almost impossible to determine how to read the post correctly, because one could under-read the emotion expressed or–and more likely in my experience–think that a casual thought is an expression of deep and lasting anguish.

A great challenge for me is that I prefer to blog as if anyone who would bother to form an opinion about a post would only do so after having read a significant amount of what I have posted previously. I don’t imagine that many people would do that, but I do not post for the sake of building an audience.

This is an even funnier assumption because sometimes I privatize previous posts, and then forget that I have done so. And sometimes I don’t get around to posting things that I have written, so I don’t realize how much it is impossible for a new reader to know, even if she actually was crazy enough to read my archives.

Sometimes it takes the kindest comments to make me realize how incredibly I unintentionally mislead my readers. And then there is the fact that just typing that last sentence makes me smile a little at such a joke as one that implies that I have “readers!”

Ehem! Anyway. The problem with personal blogging is that it always involves people sharing stories, and people reading stories. That will always be a blessed mess, but it is a mess that happens to work quite well for me.

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10 thoughts on “The Problem With Blogging

  1. Pingback: The Problem With Blogging | The Expanded Kingdom |

  2. Catholic Mutt

    I understand exactly what you’re saying! Unless I don’t, which is entirely possible. But I agree that there are times that I feel deeply about something and people seem to miss the point, or people feel badly about something that was merely a passing thought for me.

    And I’m a reader! Don’t laugh me off!

  3. Rebecca

    Yes! Yes! “It is a mess that happens to work quite well for me.” :) – me too! As you know, I struggle with this so much, worrying how my words might affect someone (and then thinking that that thought is somehow arrogant because it assumes people will read – ugh! it’s so confusing sometimes).

    I loved the interaction in the comments on your previous post btw :).

  4. Pingback: 7 Quick Takes Volume 4 | Life's Rich Pageant

  5. waywardson

    Writing is far more difficult than talking. It can be difficult to convey emotion in text. What is meant ironically can be understood seriously. What is intended to be gentle is understood as harsh.

    And then there are some people who are somehow able to misunderstand anything. :-)

  6. Former fan girl

    It seems to me that you’re relieving the blogger of almost all responsibility in this situation. I think it is far more often the case that the writer doesn’t understand the complexity their words & hasn’t taken the time to really examine what they’re writing. When a reader takes umbrage at poor phrasing, the response is frequently “but you misunderstood!” when is should be “I see how my writing suggests that. Here’s what I meant to say.”

    It’s funny that you chose That Wife as someone you learned from because I think she’s a fairly good example of the defensive attitude I mention above. I’ve followed her since I first found Weddingbee years ago and I’ve seen the angry, alienating responses she gives many, many times. While I agree that there are many assumptions being made by people who truly seem to hate her, I see the images & words she puts on her blog and it’s not hard to see why they have come to those conclusions.

    In summary, words have meaning and the way in which you string them together can have just as much of an impact as a reader’s emotions.

  7. Jenna

    It is readers like you that make blogging enjoyable and interesting.

    It is commenters like the one above who do exactly the opposite. They do a lovely job of illustrating exactly what you described in your second paragraph.

    This is why a blogger must at some point choose to blog for their own reasons, and give up on worrying about specific audiences. You can’t please everyone.

  8. Mama Kalila

    I’ve gotten to the point I don’t worry about it… I know I don’t have many readers, that’s fine. I write for a combo of reasons, usually just to get my thoughts out… plus I know there’s one or two family members who like staying up to date this way. And I have a few bloggers I’ve come to consider friends (and a few friends who became bloggers lol). I have had some way out of left field assumptions made before though and this is an interesting take on that. *eh rambling* I’ll stop.

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