I remember the days when the term “blogging” brought up connotations of techno-hermits spilling their latest mercurial fascinations and complaints on the Internet. In David Fincher’s The Social Network, Mark Zuckerberg’s ex-girlfriend eloquently accuses him of fitting that stereotype, remarking, “You write your snide bullshit from a dark room because that’s what the angry do nowadays.” Indeed, back then, blogging felt oddly narcissistic and almost cowardly. It made use of the Internet as a kind of virtual soapbox, with enough convenient anonymity for those unable to broadcast their ideas as easily or as publicly as the faces on TV and the voices on the radio.
Nowadays, most of us blog in one way or another; Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Tumblr, and Reddit (to name a few) all revolve around people expressing themselves—or at least chosen versions of themselves—on the Internet. The difference between now and the halcyon days of “the angry” is that our society has naturally evolved to accept the narcissism and cowardice inherent to Internet communication. Many of us rely on blogs as sources of news and popular culture. Even most modern businesses recognize the advertising potential in blogging to the extent that a “blogger” now refers to certain careers. In a world where Kim Kardashian gets paid $10,000 per tweet, no one is denying the influence of writing crap from a dark room.
But while Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube constitute most of our involvement as bloggers, these websites represent abridged, simplified versions of more traditional blogging. A full-blown blog involves writing, designing, and maintaining an online journal that stands alone.
I run a music blog. It sounds a bit awkward to say, even on paper. For the sake of avoiding shameful self-promotion, I’ll refrain from mentioning my blog’s name. However, as a blogger and student at the Claremont Colleges, I often wonder about the kinds of blogs run by kids on campus. In some effort to capture at least a part of the kind of blogosphere that exists around us at the 5Cs, I examined three very different blogs, run by three very different bloggers.
Valerie Latimore SC ‘12 maintains a blog entitled, “In Progress.” With each post colored red and white and set on a stark black background with more negative space than most Websites, it comes as a surprise that Valerie’s blog states “personal liberation” as a goal. Liberation from what? “From my own judgmental eye and from the societal expectations I felt weighing down on me,” she explained. Latimore writes frankly, often about her hair, but with enough humility and occasional bursts of insight that make her voice expressly her own. Her posts evoke a genuine sense of excitement toward self-definition and personal development, even if those goals rely on virtual means to get started. “I need improvement,” she writes on a post entitled, “Err In My Ways.” “I realize that I cover up my discomfort with presenting my real self with being fake. Fake is not attractive, and that’s not who I really am.” Even though Valerie trades phrases like, “who knew the capacity to love could be born of such discomfort,” with other phrases like, “Flavor flaaaaaav!” often in the same post, she still writes candidly and refreshingly free of pretension. Easily the most personal of all the sites I looked at, “In Progress” still stood out in its sincerity; it’s rare to read blogging with such a sense of self.
The second blog, aptly entitled, “Rose Watches Buffy,” follows Pomona senior Rose Haley as she… watches Buffy The Vampire Slayer. As a self-identified Buffy follower in my own right, I approached her blog with a fair share of fanboy enthusiasm and loved what I found. Beginning with the very first episode of the iconic ’90s cult series, Rose dissects each moment from the show with the same self-conscious humor that characterizes Buffy’s sharp writing. Rose claimed “sometimes I have to try really, really hard to pretend to be witty,” but thankfully her writing never comes across as forcefully humorous. She writes unassumingly, with all the giggles and giddiness of a true fan, and her humor comes from a tactic Haley employs rather sharply: allowing the show’s absurdity to stand on its own. She concludes one post with, “THE KIDS. ATE. THEIR PRINCIPAL.” As the latest post only dealt with the first season finale of a show with seven in total, her blog comes a little late in the game, not only for a show with one of the largest Internet fan communities in the world, but for a show that went off the air almost eight years ago. However, Rose recognizes this fact, admitting “I’m not the first person to write a blog with the exact same goal as mine, but that’s the beauty of blogging—I assume people read mine because they know me… Theoretically, there could be infinite Buffy blogs. Isn’t that a nice thought?”
The last blog I visited, “The Big Swifty,” belongs to Brendan Rowan, also a senior at Pomona. I feel odd about trying to describe everything contained in Brendan’s expansive writing. Over the course of a single blog post that typically concerns one or more of Rowan’s observations or stories about everyday life, his comments manage to cover all the bases with enough of a fresh outlook to keep a reader hooked. He unpacks all the half-truths and bizarre minutiae of American culture with a wit characteristic of Jerry Seinfeld or Louis CK. “For me, writing is like seeing a therapist, except it’s free and I don’t have to deal with a therapist,” he explained. In one story entitled, “I’m Not Trying To Rape Your Daughter, I Promise,” Brendan recounts a hilarious case of mistaken pedophilia while making room for references to Law & Order: SVU, R. Kelly, Alien: Resurrection, Cher, Magnum P.I., 1984, Archer, Californication, Battlestar Galactica, Pull-Ups, “The Divine Comedy,” and Razor Scooters. “‘The Big Swifty’ is great because I’m not bound by genre lines or even the distinction between fact and fiction,” Rowan asserted. His blog appeals not only in sheer hilarity and broadness of critical scope, but also the way in which he makes his comments so instantly relatable, even if he’s describing the advertising catchphrase on a bottle of Old Spice body-wash. “I can write about my own life and give opinions nobody would sit still long enough for otherwise and crack jokes and write fiction, too, and the reader, whoever he or she is, can choose what to read, and what’s true and what’s not.”
He’s describing a freedom available to all bloggers and all blog readers—it’s a freedom that makes the open, limitless world of Internet communication such a rich ground in which to find one’s own voice.