This rant/stream of consciousness/essaything/bit of me talking into the ether was partially inspired by a recent post of newblksusan's. Thanks for the bit of brain food!
So this afternoon in the shower (don't ask, I seem to usually do deep thinking in either the bath or the shower - something about the hot water) I found myself thinking about blogging and journalling and how the two could be classified as different. Back when I first started up with Livejournal I despised the word "blog." To quote Hugh Brown Shu, "That's not a word! That's a cartoon sound effect!" (Though admittedly he was actually talking about pronouncing "conch" as "conk," but it still works here.) I found the word to be dumb and simplistic, a geek hipster contraction of "Web log" that rubbed me as much the wrong way as shortening "carbohydrates" to "carbs" during the height of the Church of Eternal Atkins craze. Plus it sounded like one of those onomatopoetic words for "vomit."
Two or three years later and "carbs," thank the heavens, seems to be out of fashion. "Blog," however, is not. If anything, it's gotten more widespread. It used to just be geeks keeping online journals and mouthing off, now suddenly everyone has one. They're used as journalistic tools, kinda the Internet equivelant of weekly columns. (I have this image of some crazy person collecting all of the text of "I Hate It Here" and republishing it as the blog of Spider Jerusalem. Same basic format.) They're used to give human faces to businesses, allowing companies to "talk" to their customers. And it's starting to be a little scary how many celebrities have myspace and use that to reach their fans. (myspace still frightens me, even though I have an account. Though I mostly use it to harass my wannabe thug life nephew.) They've gotten legit. Dan Rather himself said something about leaving evening news to start regularly blogging, since apparently CBS doesn't allow its anchors to do both. Blogs, suddenly, are Important. So I was thinking about it more today... is the only difference between blogs and online journals what word you use or are there deeper differences that somehow make blogging more legitimate than journalling?
The first thing I came up with is that blogs are kinda like online columns - ways of telling the world your thoughts and views on (insert subject here). Whether the world actually cares or not, well, that's a different story. Journals are more for recording day to day existence, or important events, or yes, even what the hell you scored on that "what sort of fairy am I" test from Quizilla. (...That could be read wrong.) It's more sharing the internal, personal stuff. But then, again... that's not really different from blogging really, cause you're still expressing yourself and what you think and feel about given subjects, even in a day to day journal - what you note down, even if it reads like the most inane bit of garbage, still says that it was important to you enough to be recorded somewhere. It might not be deep or profound or change the universe or win a Pulitzer or anything, but it's still an expression of yourself - it's just that unlike a paper journal, usually other people can see your thought processes as well.
So the next tack my brain took, which made more sense, was that blogs seem to be more centered about one specific topic. A blog could just convey news and information about said topic, or opinions, or political statements. They also seem to be more edited for public consumption than online journals are; blog entries seem to be more polished, more essay-like, than your average journal entry, which is often just a stream of consciousness or a list of unrelated paragraphs representing different points in a day, or different thoughts in an hour. Blogs usually are pretty cohesive in staying on-topic, though the topics themselves can be as narrow as matchstick buildings or as broad as "pop culture." Journal entries wander all over the place topic wise.
Of course, then my brain pointed out that online journals do follow one specific topic or theme - that is the life and times of the writer. And with that in mind, they carry their own sense of legitimacy. It occurred to me that an online journal, though it may be harder to read and unpolished, is in a way more legitimate. Blogs imply polish, distillation, finding the sentence to capture a thought in such a way that it gains x reaction from the readers, while a journal entry is just put out there, raw. This is what is, this is what happened to me, here's my shopping list, my annoyance with my kids, that horrible bitch I work with screwed me over once again, god this world blows goats, don't it? and by the way, that boy I have a crush on totally asked me out OMGWTFBBQ!!! Seriously though... a journal is not just a sequence of carefully worded essays, it tells a story of someone's life from date A to date B. Sometimes it is a superficial story, never going deeper than the surface of a person. Sometimes the stories are deeply personal, sharing to a level not unlike retyping a private paper journal and posting it to the internet. All of these stories can be silly, profound, sad, ecstatic, romantic, twisted, depressing, or haunting. Sometimes within the same journal. That's life though. No matter what sort of journal it is, by writing in it, that person is saying to the world, "this is my life, this is my story, and I want you to read it. The public entries, anyway."
It's funny... on and off since I was ten, I've kept journals, wrote letters, obsessively kept some sort of record of the time passing in my life. Almost 20 years, committed to paper or disk. That's a long time. There are times I think that I've not begun living yet, that I concentrate on the things I haven't experienced, but all of that paper and disk space put the lie to that. There are times I stomp about and complain that I'm not writing anything, but once again, that's not true, I write, compulsively, every single day of my life, in here, in my other two livejournals, in the myriad notebooks I schlep around with me at all times. That's a lot of living right there, a lot of emotion, silliness, deepness, fear, love, loathing, fun, laughing, hope, despair, pain and joy, recorded in my own words. I sometimes wonder why I do it, who I'm writing it for. Mostly myself, I think, but who knows, someone might pick up a notebook I've scrawled in, or pass by my website and decide to peruse my livejournal on their way through the web, and think what I had to say on (insert date here) interesting. *chuckle* It reminds me of when a few weeks ago I mentioned to sydneycat that I had decided to read her livejournal from the beginning, and she was horrified that I saw what sort of things she was writing back then, but I thought that was silly. We are all made older and wiser with time, and of course what we write in the past may look silly and stupid to us now, but it was important enough then to write down, wasn't it? And it still you and your story, no matter how naive or juvenile or just young you were at some point in it. I mean, think about it. Anne Frank's diary was pretty much the giggly mooning over boys you'd expect from a girl her age before the whole hide-from-the-Nazis-in-the-attic thing, but that doesn't detract from the power of the document. If anything it adds to it - it shows that she was real, not just a face they trot out to when they talk about WWII and the Holocaust in middle school history class. The same goes for any diary that's hit print. Anais Nin's and Zlata's come to mind. Somehow reading what these folks have to say in their own words, their experiences as they lived them... it gives whatever event or time period contextualized by their writing more of a voice than a paragraph or two in any history book.
Maybe only time and history will tell whether blogging or journalling will become the more legitimate medium. All I know is that what I do is write
. For myself, for the amusement and the informing of my friends, for the entertainment of the random visitor. My little way of saying, I'm here, my name is Andee, I'm a real person with graces (maybe a few) and flaws (plenty), and this is my story as I'm living it.