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Weblog as a backstage: performance is counterproductive

This post is kind of related to the blog networking study, but please treat it as not very scientific thinking in a middle of the night. It’s on the study results in respect to presenting oneself through blogging.

One issue that is not really clear there is how intentional is shaping one’s own image through blogging: from one side, bloggers do make choices about if, what and how to write in their weblogs, from another – they seem to let things emerge through their writing.

Weblogs are easily viewed as a space for identity management (re:Goffman) where blogging is a frontstage performance set to impress the audience in a particular way. I feel that blogging is rather a backstage, where you can be yourself, even if it’s in public. Like in this post by Fa Martin-Niemi:

We moved into a new modern flat a few months ago with lovely views of the harbour and ocean.  All I could think about is what we could see.  “Oh, look from this window and this one and the deck…”  What I hadn’t thought about was windows work both ways.  So one day when I was walking home, I looked up and noticed my son’s bed was unmade and he had toys all over the floor.  It took a second before I realised that if I could see this from the road, then so could all of the hundreds of people who walk and drive by our flat everyday.

Now, I am thinking that blogging may be similar.  I love reading good blog posts.  “Oh, look at this one and that.  Did you read the one about…?  Let me send you a link”  So when I created this blog all I could think about is all of the great views I could see.  But of course, this blog like most are public so every word I write can be seen by anyone passing by.  Not just by the friends and commenters who I know about, but also the unknown lurkers who happen upon it.

The funny thing is you get used to it.  I didn’t start closing the curtains when I realised that everyone could see in.  I didn’t even start cleaning.  I just decided that it comes with the territory.  If I want to look out, it means that others can look in.  So with blogging I am not going to close access and change my writing.  In fact, I welcome the casual readers.  Hope you are enjoying it, dirty laundry and all…

In the comments to the post on presenting oneself through blogging there is a discussion on why bloggers in the study post personal details on their blogs and how they might deal with unexpected audiences. My intuition (=did not check it properly with the data) says that it’s more of the discovering over time that “it comes with the territory” – it’s not only ok to be yourself (and personal), it is essentially the thing that brings those unexpected connections that are so valued.

Being yourself (like with good friends) – vulnerable, personal, multidimentional – in public, you meet others.  If weblog is an attractor, a “gravity pull” (Ton) then whatever you project outside “people will appear who appreciate that” (Martin). You start to “chat with people as they were your friends” (Dave) and they eventually become your friends. You start performing, they become an audience.

So, in a sense, performance is counterproductive.

It also takes more effort than being youself, since multiple audiences collide in one space and a performance means you have figure out how to play multiple roles at the same time. And it kills unexpectedness, since the performance defines the audience.

This also explains, why there are so many signs of “it wasn’t intented, just emerged that way” and “if you try to sell via blogging things go wrong” attitudes between the interview lines.

Still, why there is a struggle of how personal a weblog should be? My guess – while you can be yourself with friends, you probably do not want to be naked with all of them and even if you do not mind, you probably wouldn’t do it in a public place.

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