Why Read Personal Blogs?

May 11th, 2009 by Harrumpher Leave a reply »

A favorite UU minister has had me thinking again about the intrinsic nature of blogs. He basically asked me why anyone would care about the small or even momentous very personal details here.

That written in his email,  he noted that he, as a long-term friend, did care about the tales here of my broken leg/operation and recovery. For a taste, “All in all, I found your blogs very interesting, but frankly, interesting only to me.  I especially appreciated the combined efforts of the whole family to get you to the Haymarket.  However, I wondered who else besides those who love you really gave a damn?

We have always been candid to the point of bluntness with each other. We’ve known each other for over 20 years from when he was interim at a church where I chaired personnel and was about to take over the board. We have chased a lot of polity issues around the trees, as well as sharing many meals and drinks together and with our families. He has never felt he had to play the kindly padre with me.

He’s the good type of 92-year-old too. He’s paid attention and is no Abe Simpson.  While we disagree on some events and people’s behavior, he has always been insightful, analytic and open to discussion. We should all age so well that we end up with a bucket full of experience and related wisdom to dip into as needed.


So, I’m back to that question that bloggers squeezed their soggy teabags over a decade ago. If an individual post or a whole blog is personal, who will want to read it and why?

I fretted about that too. Reading the Pew reports on who blogs, why and what type, I was surprised to see how much of it was the chatty stuff so common now on Facebook. Cruising with my mouse, like clicking Next blog in Blogger or the equivalent in a directory, I was astonished too see the granularity and apparent trivia of so many.

For example, I knew someone who had a blog full of mini-anecdotes and almost indiscernible images of his two cats. Someone I worked with had a blog dominated by his wife’s photos of, quite literally, every restaurant meal they ate.

Meanwhile, the tiny weeds of technology, politics and even reportage were getting more numerous and vigorous. These other blogs, whether individual or community ones, had purpose and heft.

I started nearly six years ago with a marriage-equality blog, Marry in Massachusetts.  I can’t seem to restrain my fingers and have covered much more in political terms, a lot of it unrelated to the original theme. The name is less accurate but it remains progressive politics.

Likewise, I joined with a couple of other pinkos in a weekly podcast based blog, Left Ahead!  It is also not a ain’t-my-kitten/girlfriend/house-cute sort of thing.

This blog seemed necessary when more personal topics were creeping into Marry in Massachusetts. Readers here know this will be more intimate and occasionally philosophical. I don’t avoid the effects of being a liberal, a UU, a spouse and parent.

Very Different Strokes

Yet, as I contrast various blog types, I think back to pre-blog days when I erred badly in a UU church men’s group. My church was in downtown Boston (Arlington Street, or as it was known at the UUA across the Boston Public Garden and Common, the UUA chapel for the number of staff who belonged). We shared some group meetings with the similarly liberal Paulist Center.  The joint men’s group was one and worked fine, once the Catholic contingent adjusted to the reality that UUs tend not to charge for R.E. meetings, where they put a fee on every activity.

The first meeting had maybe a dozen from each of us.  I blundered early as each of us went around the seated circle saying why we were there. The ASC is a seriously social-activist church, which attracted my wife and me from the beginning. I said that and then — drum roll and cymbal clash — said I was not in the church for music or drama (also strong at ASC), with the implication that they were less meaningful.

While the Paulist crew grunted and nodded in understanding, two other ASC men turned colors. They were in the choir and lambasted me. They considered music their worship and said it was equally as important to human well being as  feeding the hungry and so forth. They had heard my type before and would not let it pass.

Thus, I think of blog varieties and readers. The voyeuristic and gossipy sorts remain ubiquitous and beloved. Whether it’s people we know or celebrities, who among us has no interest in someone else’s life?

At the Keyhole

Oh, I know another UU who doesn’t. A great friend over 30 years despises blogs, including mine. Apparently the New Republic convinced him that they are dangerous, unreliable and mentally toxic. I saw the effect again last week when three of us gray or bald types shared some bar stools. One had taught me about comminuted bones. He discussed some posts here and his following the obvious and internal progress of healing. The other said he had not and would not read about it.

I can imagine not looking at a friend’s blog, but that is not my style. I would want to know and would find that kind of self-indulgence fine. Like my minister friend, for someone I know and love, I do care about such posts. Moreover, for my most personal posts, I do try to do a bit of sermonizing to spread the intimate out to the larger world.

As a sidebar on the matter, that same minister has said many times that I should plan on a divinity degree and a retirement career of ministry. He and I preached together in the ASC, as I did with the incoming minister who is still there.

Clearly, there are millions of blogs with lots of room for the personal and political and many other types. In UUPDATES alone, I find all manner of splendid reading.  To the question who cares, it seems many of us do. Finding and bookmarking the blogs we want to care about regularly is time consuming but gives a good return.

I have not returned to that blog filled with pictures of plates that couple had set before them. Most blogs in my RSS reader are political and news based, but I do have diversions to the personal. Moreover, while most bloggers are not good writers, some who deal in the personal craft their posts better and a few regularly rise to the level of literature. Those are wonderful surprises.

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5 Responses

  1. Patrick McLaughlin says:

    Why are the points at which we connect with each other important? Because they’re the points at which we connect.

    That is frequently (mostly, largely), I would argue, not rational or reasonable, or most significant and interesting–to an outside observer (unless that observer shares a peculiar interest in the particular character of the point of common interest).

    Why blog about skiing? Well… for skiing fans, that’s important. So might food be (for a range of reasons). And, in the end, as the old (now) observation has it “the personal is the political.”

    There’s no telling how the entangled hyperlinks of personal contact will play out. Which is part of why they’re so important.

  2. Robin Edgar says:

    For the record, I really give a damn about *some* of what The Harrumpher harrumphs about here, including his trials and tribulations resulting from his badly broken leg having been in a similar situation myself once.

    One doesn’t even have to personally know *any* blogger blogging about *anything* to give a damn about whatever it is they might be saying and, quite frankly my dears. . . I am surprised* that a U*U minister would be so insensitive as to wonder who else besides those who know and love any particular blogger “really gave a damn” about what that blogger says.

    * Just kidding. I am not *really* surprised at all that *some* U*U ministers could be so clued out and insensitive about people to doubt that anyone might actually care about what a “stranger” might have to say on his and/or her blog.

  3. Harrumpher says:

    Well, that minister is a WWI/WWII Eras fellow. He didn’t take up computers until they were commonplace, in his early 70s. He has seen and participated in many changes, including technologies. He’s a regular email user. Face to face, he has a fabulous reputation for his pastoral counseling. I found his question refreshingly to the point and candid. I disagree though.

  4. Robin Edgar says:

    Well he beat me by a couple of decades then Harrumpher. I didn’t take up computers until the mid-to-late 1990’s myself. Gotta admit that I have taken them up with something of a vengeance since though. 😉

    The comment seems to discount the possibility that any “stranger” can possibly care about what another “stranger” has to say about anything let alone empathize with his and/or her “trails and tribulations.” Perhaps in hindsight he will realize how his assertion comes across to um “strangers” and will change his mind.

  5. Uncle says:

    I suspect our friend’s chief issue with blogs is the absence of ka-ching…which I’ve wondered about myself. Turning the medium into something that can support itself isn’t a small thing.
    Still, is the presence or absence of an audience ever the reason for creating anything? Perhaps the Greeks had it right…this is not something you do for other mortals, but for yourself and for your Muse. It is the latter, so we hope, who will see that the creator does not go unrewarded.

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