Alaskan Artist - Elise Tomlinson
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08/16/2005: "Personal blogs change the way we communicate"

Another way of looking at it is this…we used to write (or at least some of us did) real letter. Pen on ink, sent to one person, and the content was personalized just for them. I think we all tend to reveal different aspects of ourselves to different people. There is the person you can be goofy with, the person who brings out the intellectual in you, the person you can be angry with, etc. And then there are the people who know you better than anyone, that you can be really boring and complainy to, because they know you aren’t *always* like that and because they’ve seen you at your worst and still love you.

So, we’d write a different letter to say, our grandma (though my grandma is really cool so this is just a generalization) than we would to our drinking buddy. We might even tell each of them about the same event but we’d choose to reveal different tid bits in each.

Then email came along and now we can copy and paste one email message to multiple friends, though we might change "Hi Jake" to "Hi Sammy" and personalize some of the content. Take out the rant about Bush in the email to Jake who voted for him, etc. email saves time so you don’t have to write the same laundry list of what’s been going on over and over again and yet you can still personalize them enough that they aren’t perceived as an impersonal mass mailing (though even with mass mailing you edit to extent based on who you include in the list)

And now with blogs, there is just one version of events getting written. If you put something down Bush lovin Jake will be as likely to read it as your grandma as your best friend. And it’s not just me obviously, most of my friends are getting blogs and it’s the main way we keep up with each other’s lives. You only have to tell the story once. But the personalization has gone out of it, and some would say that forces us to reveal the unedited version to everyone, or else it means we’re self-censoring too much because any of the various people in our lives (including our bosses) could potentially be reading this, some of us may feel tempted to clean things up and only show the most watered down version of things…or as I was trying to articulate yesterday, only the highlights.

And an entirely new problem arises if you choose to write things like...that you had a party over the weekend. Unless you invited every single person you know...chances are someone will read it and think "hey, why wasn't I invited?"...but even with all the negatives, I still adore writing in here, and reading other people's blogs, and only write all of this as sort of an apology to anyone who maybe read one insightful post and thought I was this cool person, and then later realized I'm not all that.

Replies: 7 Comments

on Tuesday, August 16th, Jim L said

I know exactly what you mean. I've been meaning to write more on my mostly defunct blog but I think of a topic and then I think "but what if ... reads it?". For instance, I had a lot of thoughts on not having children etc., but I couldn't put that in my blog because good friends just had a baby and are the typically wacko parents about it...So I end up writing nothing. And I thought my blog was as anonymous as I could get!

Blogging is a weird way to communicate - but one that does seem to capture the blogger's personality much more intimately than other forms.

on Tuesday, August 16th, Elise said

Wow Jim, you responded to this one before I really had a chance to edit it:
but I think most people who write these struggle with it, as it isn't a new problem at all, it's just maybe when you first start it no one is reading it so you talk about any number of unmentionables but the more people who tell you "hey, I've been reading your blog" the more you think in the back of your head that you have to be concious of the fact that person is reading it and not saying anything to make that person hate you. If you start letting it get to you too much, the whole point of having the damn thing is lost.

on Tuesday, August 16th, ona said

Interesting points. I've thought of this, but I think I like blogging because I imagine my friends reading it. I guess I'm talking to them since we are all so busy, and I want them to know who I am. I guess I'm not concerned about who I'll offend because they can always stop reading. . .so be as exciting and as boring as you want-- i'll still read you!

on Tuesday, August 16th, Elise said

I agree ona, but it was easier to think that way when the only people reading this were my friends. I mean, once you know that your conservative family members and people you don't know who live in the same town as you etc. are reading, it's impossible not to think about what you're going to say and how you're going to say it. I'm just sooo happy that you're stopping by now. I feel closer to you, and miss you so much and I feel privledged that you're sharing your blog with me, I just love to read it everyday. I hope you keep it up!

on Wednesday, August 17th, Kasia said

And that's the point! Imaginig friends while writing a blog is the best solution. Certain people will get offended anyway. (sometimes I write short stories and everybody asks:who was your "pattern" for this or that character? they cannot understand that nooone, my stories live their own life and so is the blog:) )
And i think it's normal that we wanna be perceived as good, intelligent, smart, funny etc. everybody wants be like that. And it's O.K. People who know us best, although they may have seen a lot of difficult situations, would not mind, wouldn't they? Besides, (i promised myself not to judge anyone...) this blog, your blog is absolutely fantastic. i'm from Poland, you're from Alaska, which so far away, and I feel connected. i like reading it , because it feels so.....i don't know. have I found a soulmate? :D

on Wednesday, August 17th, greg said

more on the "openness ... honesty ... creating community" substance, from previous: perhaps there are different types of blogs too. There are the personal ones that you like friends and family to read, and more professional ones that are journals or essays - maybe one you DONT want friends and/or family to read! :cool:

I have the sense Elise, that yours kinda falls inbetween somewhere. I first took an interest because of the professional journal side of this blog. I was seeing an artist struggle with real creative and marketing issues, like me. I do find inspiration in this, cuz you at least have had REAL shows and sales! :)
For me the other stuff is fun, but I guess doesnt ness. command my attention as much.

Do you think you struggle with this blog, trying to strike that balance between professional marketing journel, and the "was' happenin'?" parade of what-not??

on Wednesday, August 17th, Elise said

First off, thanks Kasia for your kind words, maybe you should start a daily blog (in English) using something like which is free and then I can see a little into what your life is like in Poland. It sounds as intriguing to me as I’m sure Alaska seems to you!

And Greg, I see three groups who read this, so the balance is between those 3 mostly.
1. Artists who, like me, are struggling to find a balance between their creative and non-creative pursuits.
2. People who are primarily interested in Alaska. I think Alaska still holds a lot of magic in the imaginations of people all over the world and people are interested in hearing anything at all about what life is like here.
3. My friends and family. Either friends I’ve met in real life or only online…both here in Juneau and fairly far flung. People I don’t have time to email all the ins and outs of life on a regular basis. So they stop by once in awhile to make sure I’m still alive and kickin.

If I write only about art, groups 2 and 3 are bored to tears. If I write only about Alaska, group 1 and maybe 3 would get bored…and if I only write about my personal stuff, well, that would probably only really interest group 3. So, I guess I try to mix it up a bit so that there’s a lil sumpn sumpn for everyone. My friend Sean, for example, told me that he thinks it’s a real snooze when I write about sailing. I know that is probably boring for all 3 groups…that’s something I enjoy writing about just for me, as a way of deconstructing the sail and sort of reliving it in the process.

So, hopefully if people start reading a post and they aren’t interested in what I’m writing about they’ll just check back in a day or two.