Tuesday, 25 January 2011

The Risks of Blogging

This is the thing ... we buy us a computer, we flick the switch, lights flash and things are possible. Some people play Risk other people play with risk. Some people move money or stare at piccies of the kiddies. Others think a think and write it down in a box, press 'publish' and go to bed. 

Blogging is something that I am trying to work out. I am a long way from a resolution, so continue until I am either fully convinced of its rightness, or conversely, reach the moment when I shudder, have a word with myself, and cease fire. 

I can understand why people read blogs. Oddly, though, I cannot fully understand why we write them. Does that sound daft? Tough. Some stuff has reached my attention this week that has reminded me in stark terms that this is a risky old business. Let me tell you why.

1. When we write, we are often sat alone in a room. We think our think, we splurge it across our computer screen and then send it to the whole world, without moderation, editorial advice or even a moment to assess the sense in what is written. It seems to me to be unique in the written arts. Authors of printed material will never have a book read once without the input of others. Why the input? To measure credibility, accuracy, potency and valency. More importantly, they are the ones who will warn you off a pathway. Blogging is like a journey without a map, done at speed. We travel across terrain that we know only in part, that is riddled with mines - all the while hoping that we will survive. 

2. What we say of ourselves is never just a matter for ourselves, unless we live in a hermitage. Our past deeds, good or ill, have had effects on others, and they often have a voice in those events. Blog fodder is not value-free in that regard. I may love telling you that my kids daub poo in one another's hair, but they have no opportunity to have a 'say' in whether or not Blog Dad tells the entire population of humanity about it. Bloggers sometimes run the risk of reducing the rights of others in the accounts they/we give, especially when those events caused pain even decades previously. Other people are always implicit in what we write about, often voicelessly, often without a say. 

3. If I ran the risk of personal affront or insult every time I walked down the street, I would choose not to. Yet we bloggists run that risk with every post we publish. We could talk about something innocuous but have the comments boxes hijacked. A co-blogger has found this out recently, much to his sadness, I think. Since I left school, I have only ever been properly insulted in blog comments. Why is this so? Because commenters too sit in a room alone with a computer. Insulting people like that is easy; quite unlike in the flesh when I would be far less likely to be name-called! 

4. I have said it before, and I shall say it again. When we press 'publish', we bloggerising folkses know well what we meant. What is received by those who read the post is quite beyond our control. This is largely a matter dealt with in comments - but sometimes it isn't. Hurt and upset caused unintentionally is doubly hurtful, because neither party wants it. Lack of eye contact, a poor choice of words perhaps, an 'in joke' that doesn't travel  - they all get splatted on our blogs sometimes - and run a very specific risk!

5. What we say may haunt us. If we are lucky, it is a good thing. Sometimes, it won't be. I am endlessly surprised that my most 'read' post was an ill-planned never-commented-on piece written in haste on a Sunday. Well over a thousand separate views of that have been made. I would never have predicted that. There is nothing to say that my words won't come back to haunt me in a decade or twenty years time. Bloggers run the risk of time. We need also to write to people in ages to come - we have no idea what will happen to our material in the end. 

A few thoughts, and a list that could grow. But for now, I will stop tapping and let you finish reading!


  1. Blogging is a much more organic process than book writing. The peer review comes down hear where you have the opportunity to revise your previous thoughts. Most people who blog see it as part of the conversation. I blog because I want to engage with the question of the future of Anglican worship and fresh expressions and alternative worship. There are few bloggers who pronounce decrees upon society. I suppose there are people like Cranmer who use their blog like that but I don't see many.

    I have a huge disclaimer on my blog =D

  2. Don't think I've found a good balance yet - am I venting? Am I adding creatively to a conversation? At the moment it's thinking out load while giving my husband's ears a rest!



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