the veiled sibyl

I have heard and said more inanities, since you took me in tow, than in all the rest of my life.

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Thursday, July 21, 2005

No Talent Hacks

Psychology of the Online Journal
(A bunch of hot air that goes nowhere)

The Argument

There was a disagreement this weekend about online journals. See, "X" wrote something about "ABC" which "Z" found and showed to "Y". "Y" got offended, and since "X" is a friend of "Y" and "S" (that's me, BTW), things got complicated quickly.

During the "discussion" "S" haphazardly mentioned that she should take any references to "ABC" off the TVS - not that there is anything bad on the TVS about "ABC" - it was more that "S" wanted to have a bit more control on who reads the TVS, and didn't want to be found by a search engine. This statement was truly innocent, but "Y" took it to be a bit sinister.

"S" stated that there were certain things that she would feel embarrased about if certain individuals read it. "Y" commented that if there were such things, then they shouldn't be online, available for everyone to see. "S" couldn't really argue with that, but tried to explain the difference between "the general population" (don't care if they read the TVS) and "certain specific individuals - i.e. parents" (would be embarrased if they read the TVS) to "Y", but by then the argument was in full swing.

What it boiled down to is that "Y" doesn't like and doesn't understand the "online diary" phenomenon. He couldn't understand why anyone would want to put personal stuff online. "S" thought about it and wondered the same thing.

The History of the TVS

The TVS started (for reasons that will not be fully disclosed) because YHA saw that everyday life was full of minute oddities, and it was her desire to chronicle the funny side of ordinary. YHA thought writing silly little pieces about silly little things might be "fun", but little did she realize that writing takes "talent" and "skill". C'est la vie...

Seeing that the initial idea was not as easy as she'd hoped, YHA decided to use the TVS simply as a broadcasting medium, without regard to the quality of her writing. It was a no-pressure way to get the funny stories out to the people without having to type a separate email to each of her friends everytime something good happened. (YHA is not a fan of the multi-recipient email...)

And boy, did something good happen - practically every day YHA was given the gift of yet another ridiculous situation to prattle on about. Soon however, the funny/strange/insane events began to encroach ever nearer to YHA's "real" personal life, and YHA found out that snipy, gossipy drama is fun when you are only indirectly involved, but that it sucks to be in the middle of the shitstorm.

It was at this point that the TVS took a turn, some might say for the worse. That was when the "Fear and Loathing" indicator came into existence, and self-involved, brooding emo-trash entries were par for the course.

Thankfully, YHA came to her senses and nearly every entry that could even be remotely construed as F&L was removed forever, and preposterous stories about the circus that is the MBRG made a triumphant, if not brief, return. Brief, because at some point, YHA saw that there was just TMI on the TVS, and Fish Drama was given its pink slip.

This paved the way for the TVS you see before you: Friday Links, Reviews of Crappy CD's, Tales from the Grocery Cart, etc. In other words, the TVS became what it was envisioned as in the beginning: a place for documenting the strange and silly bits of every day life.

Anonymity and the Internets

Many writers (YHA does NOT consider herself a writer - I'm talking about real writers) keep a journal - but why post it online? I think it appeals to certain types of people - those who want their work to be seen, but desire the relative anonymity that the internet provides. (I say relative anonymity, because it's actually quite easy to figure out who people are in real life. "X" is a case in point.)

Of course, more people are going to see your efforts online than if they were safely locked away as Word files on your hard drive. And don't forget about instant gratification - comments, ISP tracking, hit counters - all these tools to let you know people are seeing your stuff. To many, this is a much better situation than keeping your writing hidden in a notebook under the bed, or handing something to a helpless victim-friend and saying, "I wrote this, tell me what you think about it."

This exposure combined with anonymity gives a person a certain amount of freedom in their writing. For instance, if you know someone who reads your journal was a witness to an event you are writing about, you will tend to take pains to report the event journalistically, and to avoid using "poetic license". This can put a constraint on your writing, especially if what you are trying to do is hone your art, and not simply be a reporter. Online, no one knows you so there are no expectations on you.

But, the anonymity and freedom you might be enjoying is short-lived, because when you become part of an online community, you become a persona in that community. Perhaps your net persona is just like your real-life (RL) persona - perhaps it's totally different. Nevertheless, the people who read your writing - be it in a journal, a blog, or even on a message board - come to know the "Net You". Your readers begin to expect you to be a certain way, say a certain thing, etc. So now, just like in RL, you have something to "live up to".

Mixing Internet Life with Real Life

This is always trouble. People who spend too much time on the computer (YHA looks into a mirror and averts her gaze...) always have a set of "internet friends" that does not mix with their "RL friends". That doesn't mean that there is shady business going on with the internet friends - it's just a separate set of people. Kind of like "work friends" versus "home friends". It's nice to have a group of people who semi-"know" you, but are completely detached from your situation. (Another good reason many keep an online journal...)

That being said, YHA's online TVS is read predominantly by her RL friends. (They're the only ones who'd get it, anyway...) That's why YHA uses nicknames for everyone in the TVS. Of course, it soon becomes obvious who everyone is, but it's the principle of the matter. People get touchy about that kind of thing, so you always have to take that into consideration. (That was the problem with "X's" journal - real names were used.)

The Conclusion

Why keep an online journal?

Broadcasting gossip? Check.
Orgainzing your thoughts? Check.
Honing your art? Check.
Instant gratification? Check.
Vanity? Double Check.



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