Thursday, April 17, 2003

Is It Real, Or Is It A Blog?

I was just catching up reading some blogs, and I saw queserasera talking about crying at work and in the shower. I don't know what is prompting her to cry (she recently posted about a close friend dying, so that may be it, but she didn't say specifically), but I feel for the woman. It's miserable to feel so terrible that you can't even put on your game-face at work and pretend to be okay. Personal life does not neatly stop at 9:00 a.m. and pick up again at 5:00 p.m.. Show me the robot who is consistently able to do that, and there will most likely be a soulless bastard of a CEO sitting in the chair. But for the rest of us, it's tough to turn off the emotions at work, and I've done my share of lying about how "It's just allergies" when caught looking particularly blotchy and wet-faced at my desk.

I could write a whole post about crying in inappropriate places, but that is not really what is on my mind. What is of concern to me at the moment is the fact that I am worrying about the emotional health of a person I don't even know, and I'm wondering why.

I've been thinking about this subject ever since I got my first home computer and began exploring the internet, in 1997. While blogging is a relatively new phenomenon, for years I found things in common with people in chatrooms and on discussion boards on websites, and have actually made some very good friends with people around the world this way. I am *not* talking about internet dating, which is something I've never had the nerve to do. I mean chatting with people with common interests, and becoming attached to them IRL. I've met a bunch of people in person, and one friend has become so close that we take vacations to visit one another and our families. Of course, there have been one or two odd balls in the mix, but no horror stories to relate, so I've been really happy and lucky in making acquaintances online.

This is not quite the same as becoming "attached" to people who write blogs. Although many blogs have comments areas and email addresses, so you have the opportunity to interact with the writer if you choose to, the writer similarly has the option to comment back to you, or to completely ignore you, the latter of the two having been my experience. I've left comments here and there on the blogs I like, but I have yet to receive any feedback from any of the bloggers in return. Not that I am at all troubled by this, as it would be insane to expect them to respond to all comments (that would be so time-consuming, and in the case of some of the ridiculous comments people leave on these blogs, pointless), mainly because there is one blogger, but in some cases, hundreds of readers each day. So, due to the nature of the thing, blogging is very different from exchanging emails or cross-talking on a newsletter or discussion board.

I've come to the conclusion now that becoming "attached" (for lack of a better word) to a blogger is similar to connection you feel to a great character in a book. The blogger is pouring out their innermost feelings to you, the reader, and you get to feel like you know these people a bit, probably as well as or better than you know some acquaintances in your real life. Most people do not open up their internal monologue to the world, so reading a blog seems almost like an aquaintance admitting that her marriage is on the rocks. You instantly feel more connected to someone for offering up such a personal insight, but with bloggers, you wonder if you are reading about the real person, or instead, a character that they are portraying. Some bloggers, like Oblivio make no bones about the fact that they are writers, and some of their writings are fiction and some are not. But I the ones I tend to like the best seem to be writing about their real life and their real feelings, and it's tough not to get drawn in.

I wonder if there is a name for this phenomenon? It's not quite like being a soap opera addict, and then seeing the actor out on the street and beating them on the arm for some infraction perpetrated by their character. But, it is some kind of addiction, needing to read about strangers' adventures every day, and becoming so interested in their tales that you feel bad for them when they are hurt, and you are happy for them when they fall in love, or get a job, or whatever their good news might be. Whatever the name for the phenomenon, I'll meet you at the meetings. I'll be the one standing up in the basement full of chairs, with a cup of coffee in my hand, saying, "Hi, I'm Carrie, and I'm a Blog Addict."

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