First, I've said it before and I'll say it again -- I hate the word "blog". I rarely say it. I don't type it often. I use "weblog". Blogs are and forever will remain the blops of old toothpaste on the side of the sink with some hair sticking in them. They are a disgusting thing that requires a scrubby and Comet to eradicate.
With that said...
Occasionally I get to have IM conversation with someone who has a weblog I read. Sometimes these comversations are but light little things, frothy and brief, pleasant and insubstantial. Sometimes they are careful testing probes to determine if it is safe to talk. Sometimes they are dissapointing little ventures to see if the person writing the cool blog is the same person in IM. Sometimes they are accidental incidents where you pull up desperate mentions of what you read in the weblog so as to have conversation until you can think of how to get off.
I just had one of those. I'm not sure which one it was. Mostly we discussed "the things you can't talk about in your weblog for fear of [fill in the blank]". I"m not sure which catagory of IM convo it was because 1) I am rabidly insecure 2) I think the person with whom I conversed is interesting but also very, very guarded and careful 3) I am not sure if I'm the slightest bit interesting.
In any case, once more the conversation made me think about the contradictions of weblogs. Here we are with this hugely available medium for communication, this semi-anonymous method of talking to the world, of being heard -- and yet so many webloggers struggle with the same problems. What can I talk about? Who am I writing for? Who is reading me? Is anyone reading me?
Fear. Stark, abject, contradictory fear. That's what it comes down to. We fear repercussions from speaking freely. People lose their jobs over weblogs. Internet friendships go down in flamewars. Spammers find you, or worse, you attract the attention of someone with nothing better to do but harrass your comments or your email. There are simply hundreds of potential hobgobblins threatening the person who uses a weblog to talk to the world.
But it is worse to be gagged and silent, isn' t it? Worse to live in fear of the monsters who may not really be under the bed at all. Worse not to have this particular outlet where you can, let's face it, say things you never manage to say in daily life -- especially if you always think of the snappy come back the day after.
I see everyone who keeps a weblog, be they some well known writer or obscure nobody, as balancing on the same wire, trying to do the same things -- write well, say interesting things, be something (bold, brash, funny, angry, wise, reflective, insightful...pick a word, there's someone trying to do it in a weblog) that others want to read, and perhaps even like enough to talk back. Underneath that high wire are all the rocks and whirlpools of failure -- being dull and boring, writing badly looking stupid, sounding whiny, etc. etc...
I've kept some form of online journal now since 1998, and I still come up with only a handful of reasons to push on with it despite the constant nagging and gagging of my doubts and fears.
First reason to weblog: I'm a talker, and I like to talk to people. I keep hoping they will talk back.
Second reason to weblog: I've met some great folks through the internet and I don't want to lose that.
Third reason to weblog: It makes me write almost every day, or at least think about writing.
And, when all else fails in a conversation, one can always talk about the blog.