Meandering reflections about blogging and friendship

I’ve been dumping blogs from my reading list—blogs that no longer exist, blogs that have gone private, blogs owned by people who never visit my blog, and blogs that have been inactive for years. This is a sad task, but I hate clutter.

I’m embarrassed to admit that I don’t have time for bloggers who don’t read my blog unless their blogs are devoted to some longterm or shorterm interest of mine, and the latter blogs I eventually drop. For instance, I just dropped a blog devoted to lynchings because I felt that I had learned enough about the subject, and because I’m depressed enough without continually exposing myself to long ago tragedies (I even wonder if it makes sense to learn as much as I do about current tragedies).

My goal in blogging is to, in the main, give my posts greater context than simply writing about my personal life. Even in my latest post about cats, I tried to communicate what I’ve learned about cats that might be both entertaining and instructive rather than simply entertaining. Even so, I’ve noticed that some of my most popular posts are entirely self-focused—posts about my health, for example, and I’m fine with that because such posts humanize a person. Even so, if personal news is all you write, I have to think of you as a very close friend indeed if I’m to regularly read your blog.

The day that a blogger stops posting is usually the day he ends his friendships with other bloggers. I regard this as a sad outcome because it implies that his blog friends were not so important as he gave them reason to think. I’ve had four blogger friends who I know to have died, but I suspect it is true of others who abruptly dropped out of sight.

Being able to verify that ex-bloggers are still alive is one reason I like to have their contact information. Another is that it means that we’re not just people who share an interest in blogging, but that our friendship transcends our blogs. Even if we never write or phone, it means a lot to me to know how to get in touch, especially if the contact information includes a home address and phone number. My heart will forever be warmed when I recollect that the very first blogger who gave me these things had been recently stalked by another blogger.

I used to wonder if it was even possible to be deeply devoted to someone whom I only know on the Internet, and the answer is yes. True, blogging is a limited kind of friendship, but then face-to-face friendships are also limited, especially if my face-to-face friend has no interest in my blog. The reason for this is that, compared to written communication, the quality of my spoken communication is lacking because I can’t take long pauses or edit myself. I have a friend who imagines that the purpose of such pausing and editing is to present myself in a favorable light at the expense of honesty, his belief being that the first thought that comes out of a person’s mouth is more likely to be the truth. I find his analysis appalling because formulating my thoughts is like digging with a shovel in that the more time I’m allowed, the deeper I can go. I simply need more time to think than conversation allows, so to overcome what is to me an unnatural restriction, I sometimes take such lengthy pauses that people try to hurry me along. It’s also the case in conversation that the listener has no time to reflect upon what was just said without missing that which follows.

I don’t mean to suggest that blogging necessarily leads to depth or honesty. In fact, one of my disappointments with blogging is that many blogs are consistently shallow. Many, if not most, bloggers don’t want to discuss either their posts or the posts of others, and I suspect that many blog visitors only visit other blogs so that those bloggers will visit their blogs. But without an exchange of thoughts, how does anyone even know that his posts are being read? “Interesting post” is what advertisers write, and many bloggers write little more than advertisers, only while advertisers are looking for money, it seems to me that many blog owners are willing to settle for the illusion of being read

Maybe I am being overly cynical based upon the fact that I have no way to know what’s going through a person’s mind unless they tell me, but my doubt comes from the fact that they don’t necessarily tell me. I can but say that I would greatly prefer to have 20 readers who truly care about what I write than my current list of 261, many of whom probably don’t even remember that they are on my “followers” list. A lengthy blogroll is as meaningless as a lengthy “friends” list on Facebook, but I didn’t realize this when I started blogging. At the time, I looked forward to feeling validated by having a lot of readers and to building an international community of blogging friends. While these things have occurred to some extent, they aren't represented by my relatively long list of supposed “followers.”

I’ve also noticed that the number of comments that accumulate following a given post isn’t a function of the quality of the post but the poster’s willingness to visit a lot of other people’s blogs. Another disappointment is that I’ve been naive enough to trust that fellow bloggers meant it when they said they would always be my friends. My early blogging years were marked by idealism in that many of us came to blogging back then in the belief that the blogging world was purer and deeper than the face-to-face world. We imagined that, through blogging, we could meet at a heart level, and that what we gave of ourselves and to one another would remain for the rest of our lives, but this didn’t usually happen.

Other than my sister, Anne, I don’t know a single person whom I first knew face-to-face who—to my knowledge—ever reads my blog, and this has led me to conclude that my face-to-face friends lack interest in knowing me on a deep level. I don’t mean to imply that the only friendships that matter are those that contain profound sharing because being there for one another in more prosaic ways is equally important. I also don’t mean to imply that blog friends are better people because bloggers are as prone to anger and pettiness as anyone else. I will say this: many of those who got mad and went away (from my blog) were liberals who touted a respect of diversity when the only diversity that they respected was diversity that mirrored their own thinking. You can’t show someone a better way by dumping him from your life, yet the self-proclaimed diversity lovers are as prone to this as are conservatives.

I have no friendships that aren’t seriously lacking. Peggy, Brewsky, Ollie, and Scully, are with me in an inner sphere with everyone else being in spheres at varying distances. This is not what I want in life, but it’s what I have, and my greatest problem is that I don’t how I would survive if I lost Peggy. The older we men become, the more the loss of our spouse presents a grave problem (ha). When we were kids and young adults, we had a great many friends, but we have since lost them at a higher rate than they’ve been replaced (Edwin A. Robinson wrote about this in “Mr. Flood’s Party”*). By contrast, when women get beyond early rivalries and the busyness of jobs and children, their friendship circles tend to increase. For this reason and others, women’s declining years are often happier than men’s. In fact, the older a man becomes, the greater his risk of suicide. I think it possible that this will be how I die, but I don’t plan to do it anytime soon.

I am sometimes complimented on my willingness to make myself vulnerable by sharing as deeply as I do on my blog, but if I felt that vulnerable, I would either close my blog to uninvited readers or I wouldn’t divulge as much as I do. I will say that in all the years I’ve been blogging, I haven’t been the recipient of any more abuse than what I’ve received in my face-to-face life. If you want to be abused, upload films onto Youtube because while any mean-spirited moron can watch a film, it takes at least a little intelligence to be interested in reading a multiple page post.