Sunday July 22, 2007
To blog or not to blog
Culture Cul De Sac
By Jacqueline Pereira
I CAN’T remember the writer’s name or the blog. What I do recall is my initial horror after logging on to her spot in cyberspace four years ago. The avid blogger had invited me, with particular panache and pride, to gauge her potential as a writer.
The young girl was attractive, articulate and - most of all - eager to get a head start in the world of writing. I was impressed with her uncommon initiative.
It was a simple blog, enhanced with arty, edgy, experimental photography. The entries, however, were slightly staccato, some composed with much care. A few rambled incoherently, common among new writers too in love with themselves and their precious words. Many were daily jottings of a twenty-something in search of her path in life, and herself. The rest were downright disturbing.
This emotional outpouring of heart and soul resulted in an unchecked diatribe floating in the public domain. Easily accessed by anyone with a computer, a network connection and a curious mind.
They included: the inability to wake up in the morning after a wild and drunken night out in the city, imaginations of slashed wrists , stemming thoughts of suicide, lying in bed depressed for days and the almost mandatory ruminations about who will love me - forever.
A quick scroll was all that it took.
The word ‘blog’, shortened snappily from ‘web log’, did not exist until 8 years ago. Yet today, trawling through the Net, you will find every subject being dissected and discussed to death.
Blogs function as a personal diary, a break-up tool, a mother’s journey, a travel journal, a showcase of works, another side to the story, a how-to, a business model etc etc.
Blogs are now a part of our lives, as indispensable as computer, laptop, Blackberry, e-mail address, mobile phone and digital camera, in this era of instant connectivity.
Currently, 57 million exist, while each day 100,000 new blogs clog the over-crowded World Wide Web, as reported in The Times of London, proving that the blog phenomenon is unstoppable. And inescapable.
Parisian Clotilde Dusoulier’s compulsive jottings on her passion for food eventually led to a book deal four years later. As her blog garnered readers and recognition, writing commissions came her way. Chocolate and Zucchini: Daily Adventures in a Parisian Kitchen was finally published in the UK last month.
Early in 2007, Chinese newscaster Rui Chenggang posted an entry on his blog protesting the presence of Starbucks in Beijing’s imposingly imperial Forbidden City. His passionate patriotic plea not to degrade Chinese culture led to the closure of the café less than a week ago.
In Malaysia, too, blogger numbers are surging. Some - accused of writing seditious words - have been hauled to court, others spark debates, and some even press for graft investigations. More often than not, they have become the voice of the displaced and the disenchanted. And the platform for those kept out of mainstream media.
The power of this medium is undeniable. Cultivated carefully, blogging is a compulsive alternative engine for views . But navigating through its slimy slush is another matter altogether.
Clicking randomly on certain blogs leads us to unsheltered territory and, if you have time on your hands, you never know where the journey might lead. The vista is vast: from elitist cliques and self-congratulatory salutations to vent pits and the dark recesses of dirty minds.
Like the first example above, blogs tend to reveal a lot about the blogger. Grammar, punctuation and vocabulary aside, blogs reveal tastes, likes, dislikes, interests, penchants, problems and – maybe unwittingly – the posting person’s intellectual make-up. Not a few bloggers, especially novices, remain unaware that their usually friendly notations, keyed in initially as missives to friends and family, in reality offer more information than any person would be willing to share in a face-to-face dialogue.
These instant bytes, sometimes interminable, at other times informative, are a means of sharing thoughts, feelings, hopes and dreams with the whole wide world. Experts state that, to succeed in inviting interest, a blog needs to engage in a variety of ways: catchy content, user-friendly design, and a niche approach. Some, cashing in on their blog’s popularity, earn ad revenue.
Some of us only read blogs that interest us, while others stay on top of several. Then there are the rest, who watch amid the fray, stay out of the loop, and - Shock! Horror! - do not blog.
You may ask, quite understandably, if I have succumbed to this sensation of the noughties. To be honest, I’m only half-way there. I’ve registered and procured my space. But before its objective, readership, and desired results are clear, I will not rush where previously so many have tentatively trodden and blogged blindly.