It’s the question I’ve been asking myself ever since I started.
I used to keep a blog over on livejournal but I kept it a secret: no one who knew me knew where it was or how to find it. Or at least, I hope they didn’t! The idea of that was that it was like keeping a diary but with the knowledge that strangers might find it – so it was, while personal, written for an audience other than myself. Eventually, I deleted that and ‘came out’ as a blogger – I moved over here and started writing for a wider audience. I don’t particularly censor myself but I also don’t treat it as a diary anymore. I talk about things personal to myself and to my own history but I don’t write as much about my immediate thoughts and feelings.
So why do I do it? Partly, it’s to keep my hand in, to ensure that I’m writing for some kind of audience on a regular basis. I like the thought (unless I think about it too much) of people reading what I’ve written; it makes me feel like I have a purpose. But given that my readership is limited and given that there are people from certain areas of my life who I would rather didn’t know about it, there is some ambiguity about its worth. Every time I post something about work, for example, I am painfully aware of the potential danger of someone finding it who would disapprove. And I am frequently worried about the kids I work with coming across it.
The danger of blogging was brought home to me a couple of weeks ago when I was having a conversation about a blog that someone had written. A person who had been implicated (though anonymously) had read it and been upset by what had been said. There had been no malicious intent on the part of the writer; in fact, if they’d known it would upset that person they would never have written it. All the writer was doing was venting their frustrations but doing so in a public space had effects that they could not have predicted. When you are writing a blog, you are aware that anyone can read it but it is easy to forget the significance of that. If you keep a diary and someone reads it, it is generally considered their fault if they find out something they’d rather not have known. But if that diary is up on the web for all to see, the responsibility lies with the writer. It’s a hard thing to adjust to if you’re a seasoned diary writer.
In recent years, we’ve had an increasing desire to put ourselves in the public sphere and share ourselves with strangers. More and more of us are blogging, signing up to social networking sites, and posting our videos on YouTube. Why? Is it the increasing pace of technology? Our increasing narcissism? Fashion? Or maybe it’s just a decreasing satisfaction with our lifestyles: aren’t we all secretly hoping that someone will pay enough money for our thoughts that we don’t have to go to work tomorrow?
I think that might be among my reasons.