Larry at OF Blog of the Fallen raises an interesting point about the “lack of liveliness” in some blogs :
While no one has to do any of the above or more, sometimes I’m reading through a blog and it’s as though the person operating it has largely chosen to remove him/herself from the material being presented. It seems as though for many of the blogs that I’ve read, that the blogger has taken a fairly passive role to the material s/he is presenting. Yes, some will use the first-person on occasion, but it often feels tacked on, as if s/he were writing a plot summary and then decided to use a paragraph or two at the end to interject his/her opinions on the matter. Such things feel bolted-on to me, as if two separate things (description of book, reaction to book) are forcibly combined, rather than an integration of the two taking place. While useful for many as an indicator of how the reviewer reacted to a piece, as a review essay, it is rather wanting to me.
This is rather a timely comment as, over the last week, I have been thinking of fiddling with the format a bit. When I started Ruthless Culture my aim was to write about films in a way that was not possible at the various reviewing gigs I had and which sat uncomfortably with the SF-focus of my old blog. Because of that ‘mission statement’ I also cut out most of the editorialising and linking that I traditionally did in between any substantial pieces I might write. I saw this as cutting out the fluff.
I think that this has resulted in a blog that feels a trifle dry. So, in addition to the longer critical and review pieces I produce I am also going to produce shorter non-critical posts which should serve to even out the tone somewhat.
However, I can completely understand why one would not want to go down this particular road. In fact, off the top of my head, here are four reasons for sticking to the facts :
1) Most of us lead quite dull lives – We’re not all trapped in the middle of a civil war or living through a flu epidemic or making our way in the world as rent boys catering to the Argentinian political classes. Most of our lives are crushingly mundane and it has never been completely clear to me why anyone should take an interest in my life. In fact, I tend to think that the trend for ‘compulsive sharing’ that our culture has drifted into is rather narcisssistic.
2) Some of us are trained to filter out the subjective – The skills I have as a critic stem largely from my academic training and in academic circles the subjective is neither here nor there. I was once castigated for using the first person pronoun in an essay (I kept doing it though). So for many bloggers I suspect it never occurs to them to write about themselves whilst writing about other things.
3) There are different reasons for keeping a blog – I think it’s pretty clear that, even among intellectual blogs, it is better for readers if the blogger strikes a stance more friendly and discursive than that required for proper intellectual analysis but some bloggers are not overly bothered about what their readerships think. If you write for yourself then there’s no reason why you should strive to be more accessible and transparent.
4) It’s a Jungle Out There – By including personal matters in one’s blogging one is effectively putting information into the public domain. Some people (Larry included) do not blog under their own name and so insulate their real life from their online life by making sure that nobody can gogle their name and discover that they’re a cross dresser, a manic depressive or a collector of Nazi memorabelia. Some of us do blog under our real names and so might well ‘withhold’ in quite a different way, namely by refusing to share personal details about oneself.
Clearly, there’s a spectrum here with nothing but hard-core criticism at one end and nothing but discussions of your lover’s oral sex technique and the health of your cats at the other but I think that pretty much any position in the spectrum one chooses to adopt is entirely defensible as long as one realises the trade-offs one is making by adopting one position rather than another.