Personal Blogging and the Difference Between On and Offline

Filed as Editorial on December 12, 2008 4:00 am

The death of a blogger in the Swedish blogosphere is getting a lot of attention right now. It figures of course, a lot of people enjoyed the blog, and there was a personal touch to it as well. Condolences and prayers are piling up, it is beautiful in a way.

It’s also a reminder that the blogosphere can be a really personal place. That works both ways, because on the one hand you might get well-wishes when you’re ill or in trouble, whereas you can also be totally slammed in the comments for being an asshole, basically. The (faulty) feeling that we’re anonymous online makes it easier to be nasty, but also to give praise, although that by all means are a lot less common, unfortunately. It’s much more fun to bitch and whine.

Unless it is something big, of course. Like a serious illness, a death, or something like that. These are things that all people can relate to, and although a small portion of us have the poor taste to make fun of someone else’s misery, most don’t, and a fairly large percentage will leave an encouraging comment. At least that is what my impression is.

I both love and loathe the blogosphere for this, and I used to feel the same way about online publishing pre-blogs, because we always had forums and comment sections for people to speak their mind in. I even bought a forum that was on the verge of collapsing just to keep it floating, paid for a server and made investments, but ended up selling it because the tone of it all was so negative and nasty that it really wasn’t worth my time. A lot of people said things there that I’d venture to say that none of them would say to my face. Even the ones that leave snarky comments, pointing to some mistake you’ve made and trying to look cool and funny or whatever would think twice before doing that in the Physical World. At least when talking to me, I’m 6 foot 3 with a shaved head and a scary red beard… But online, no one can see that, and even if they could, what can I do? They are in the clear.

That is often the case when people are behaving badly online. They can just log off, resort to profanities, or whatever, because the target of their obscene words are so distant, both geographically and in the mind of these people. I really truly hate that.

Perhaps that is why it warms my heart when people take the time to write something nice, no matter the occasion. We should all remember to encourage at least as much as we criticize, preferably a lot more.

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  1. By Nan Hoekstra posted on December 12, 2008 at 10:26 am
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    Reading your blog is helping me decide whether to go or stay. I ‘ve been blogging for almost a year, almost 750 posts, I blog a booktalk for young people of books published in the current year. I approached my library administration ( I am a children’s librarian) about having a blog like mine as an aspect of our homepage and got a “no, thank you”. It has been an independent study for me and 100% worthwhile but I wanted to be clearer about my whys and whats as 2009 comes. Thanks for your insightful and provocative posts about blogging and our connections to eachother and all of it. Sincerely.

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  2. By jackie sheeler posted on December 14, 2008 at 4:53 pm
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    my sympathy to the family and friends (and readers) of the blogger who passed away.

    i appreciate this post a lot, because i’ve had a sudden run of negative comments on my own blog. it’s a political blog, and it’s pretty aggressive, and i expect to garner my share of disagreements. but it’s been a lot in a row — and some pretty nasty ones — and it’s a great time for me to be reminded that i’m not alone and that of course it’s not all gonna be negative.

    plus, i’m not 6’3 and don’t have a shaved head or a big read beard!

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  3. By Thord Daniel Hedengren posted on December 15, 2008 at 7:02 am
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    I’m glad you liked it!

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