We now return to the regularly scheduled program. My digression into Thomas Paine, still nowhere near its end, has been an intriguing one, but I started blogging with a topic in mind, that of digital_nation and the study of psychological impacts of social media on its users. This is still a topic of consider interest to me and not yet adequately explored so I will return to that topic. I pick up where I left off, examining the posts of Dr. Tracy Dennis as seeds to stimulate the unfolding of my own ideas. I will now take up her third oldest post, one she calls a “Meta-Blog” on the subject of “Top 7 Ways Blogging Changes My Consciousness“.
This was one the first posts I read that really caught my attention. At least in terms of published posts this was only her third, yet she is making personal observations of a quite insightful nature based on only! two previous published posts. At first I thought I’d take this list and make it my own: updating, adding and deleting it to make it fit my experience, but I really couldn’t think of too many more items nor choose to subtract any. I supplement the original post, not to disagree, as a personal observation is a personal observation and thus correct, by definition, but instead I wish to reshape, just a little, these points to how I now feel about blogging. Perhaps the contrast will be useful.
The only item I would add as my #8 I think only applies to me and that is the feeling I get by writing to an imaginary audience of freedom: freedom to say what I want and how I want to phrase it and its length without having to worry about the reception the post will receive from my readers. In normal conversation as Wally says “enough is too much” and interactive conversation protocols dictate brevity and sharing the conversation time with others. This is fine for polite social interchange but not ideal for exploring one’s own thoughts. Seeing that little light go on, as speakers in structured forums have as their timer, but in the case of conversation the flagging of the listeners’ attention, one must halt, possibly mid-thought in order to maintain proper semblance of mutual interaction instead of monologue.
But in this writing what do I care – if you get bored and tired of what I’m saying you can simply drift off and I’ll never know and therefore I will not self-censor to keep the conversation going or be annoyed you’re no longer listening. This selfish approach may not encourage attention as much as the brief give-and-take nuggets of social conversation but it serves my purpose, to pursue where my thoughts lead me until I am the one bored or exhausted. Now of course I could go on as much as I want in some unpublished monograph but with the illusion that blogs are published and public this liberation I feel is greater than merely talking endlessly to myself.
Having added the only item not already on Dr. Dennis’ list I’ll proceed to my humble additions or alternative views to her excellent list. Beware, this may be one of my longer posts as there is so much meat in Dr. Dennis’ post (I could also do a separate and complete post on each item in her list) and now I’ve learned the trick of saving drafts and resuming later so as my endurance for sitting in a chair at a keyboard limited my previous works now I can really go on and on.
1. I’ve been shower blogging. That is, I rehearse blogs in the shower. …
I get this exactly, esp. as she elaborates the thought, but for me it’s always been a different venue. It started when people banned smoking indoors (a good thing!) and I was still a smoker. So banished to outside and even away from any doors I took up marching around the parking lot (or later at a different job, a balcony) around the building. No one was listening so actually speaking out the words was not so odd as to look looney, even though I did this so much that people began to notice, even with the joke that I was wearing a track in pavement. Now in contrast when I used to bicycle a lot I would start with a very busy mind, but as I’ve already mentioned in a previous post, bicycling was a kind of meditation for me and soon the thoughts evaporated and I came close to the “empty mind”. By marching around a parking lot after more cigarettes than I’d planned I found thoughts coming into focus. And as Dr. Dennis reports, forgetting much of the thoughts while in the shower, details would fade, but I usually retained enough that I could return to my desk and start fresh, often now with solutions (to programming or design issues) that had eluded me while staring at the screen.
So this is old habit of decades for me but what I found was that thinking about a post has that same effect as once solving work-related problems and I find it a pleasant diversion. Too bad that summer weather in Nebraska is so intolerable but now I have a relatively large house and, for the moment, am alone so I can march around the house, to the amusement of my cat, in air-conditioned comfort.
2. I have a busier mind. …
Again I take her point, focusing on this snippet: “Essentially, I find myself spending much more of my mental time zooming from one thought to another, time having an internal conversation with myself, and …“ In my case it’s less a question of mental time zooming, as I have usually done this in my idle time before, but now my internal conversation is more outwardly focused, on my imaginary reader and how to reveal my thoughts to them: which additional context must be provided that is implicit for me, or what digressions to avoid, or what too personal memories or current spontaneous feeling not to reveal, or what facts do I have to confirm. Saying something for others that previously we only had to think for ourselves definitely makes the mind busier since now the thinking is goal-oriented rather than mere day-dreaming.
3. I’m thinking more about being mindful. …
On second reading of the text for this item I’m a little confused and surprised. “spending more time in the moment” makes sense, but for me, “stillness in my life” seems contradictory. Perhaps it is for me, since I’m retired and spend my day alone, that there is no contrast being any other time and time during blogging, whereas for someone with a very active life, as Dr. Dennis describes about herself, it is a “stillness” in contrast to the hubbub of that active life. “mindful” seems to be a very positive state very much in favor today but I’m still not quite sure how to measure it, say against “mindless” (is that really its opposite). So it’s hard for me to have this feeling as a consequence of blogging but it’s very interesting that it does happen to others.
4. I keep better track of interesting ideas that I wouldn’t have otherwise. …
This is probably close to the main reason why I started blogging and as example of the point Dr. Dennis makes: “Just think how many ideas we just let go because we’re in the middle of something, or walking around, or have in the middle of a conversation and just forget.” I’ve traditionally had idle time to spend lots of time thinking and sometimes to my significant amusement and pleasure, but then life interrupts and hours later I find the thoughts have deserted me. And that is a loss, at least to me. I’ve tried other ways to capture those passing thoughts, without success, so I’m now trying blogging. Again the greater intensity and focus of putting the evanescent thoughts into words for a reader seems to work for them holding those thoughts until I can get to the keyboard and start writing them. And that, thus far, is a gain.
5. I write with an imaginary audience in mind.
Absolutely! Even my first posts set my own expectation that my words would never be read the idea that they might was still there and this completely reshaped what I wrote. I actually find the imaginary audience more intriguing than a real one. The largest audience I’ve ever had for an actual presentation was about 2000. My presentation had be polished and rehearsed and edited to fit the time and my slides precisely timed and it might have been one of the most boring presentations I ever did. So while I work a bit more on posts than I might if this was but a journal the idea that I am trying to communicate something “interesting” completely changes the writing.
6. I feel cleverer. Emphasis on the “feel.” ,,,
First I’ll say to Dr. Dennis who says “It’s pretty clear that I’m not cleverer“, I understand that this may be true relative to your own evaluation of yourself, but one of the first things that attracted me to your posts was in fact the “cleverness” I found in them. And I also very much share the notion, “I do a lot of scientific writing, and strangely enough, this does not make me feel particularly clever. Perhaps because it’s just what I do”. In my work (software architecture) my main work product was writing. From the earliest days of my career I never had any problem cranking out complex documents, often quite creative if I can pat myself on the back, that then formed the basis for hundreds of human-years of work turning those words in real product. I felt creative and inventive, but never particularly ‘clever’. Perhaps partly because I associate ‘clever’ with commentary on the human condition rather than mere technical work. Also the actual prose, in my technical documents, was of little consequence, whereas in blogging the writing itself is the end product, for whatever it’s worth.
7. I feel more connected. I really do. …
I hear what Dr. Dennis is saying and also see how this relates to some aspects of her research interests in social media, but for me I don’t share this feeling. I do admit, however, some amusement the first time I tracked down someone who liked one of my posts to find a person very different from me and in a different country. Again being an old-timer in technology I actually experienced this in an email long before there was any form of public email. My company had an internal global system, only for transactions or employees, quite an accomplishment given the technology of the time. And one day I received an email (the message moved around geographic locations electronically but to a person on a piece of paper, not unlike a telegram) from someone in Russia I’d never known who somehow had found out about work I was doing and wanted to know more (Russia was a bit more remote as this was still the era with tensions between U.S. and USSR). I would label this as my first “virtual” connection and it was a wonder (I kept that message for a long time but it’s lost now). But having myself done design and coding to expand that system, plus later develop other systems before email was readily available, perhaps the “wonder” of connectedness to strangers has simply diminished for me and I take it more for granted to communicate to anyone anywhere. In the recreation I do known as geodashing I formed a team of people I’d never met and evidently in the course of time actually met these people F2F, in one case not even knowing the person’s real name until showing up to their house. So, again, perhaps it’s a relative thing, the sense of connectedness based on how much other experience prior to blogging.
Whew, definitely a long post and if, dear reader, you’ve made it this far I commend you on your patience and endurance.