Saturday, May 24, 2008

Blogus in extremis

I have been reading a lengthy cover article in the New York Times Magazine by Emily Gould, who at one time wrote for the gossipy-snarky New York media blog called Gawker. It's worth a look for any of us who write blogs, not because I agree with most of her thoughts or share her experiences or because we'll end up where she did (don't worry, not jail!), but because of how the early steps of this de/ascent to purgatory were so normal and gradual, the kind of thing each of us has probably experienced a little bit as well.

A few choice extracts:

Back in 2006, I had just been promoted to associate editor at the publishing house where I’d been working since I graduated from college, and ... almost every day I updated my year-old blog, Emily Magazine, to let a few hundred people know what I was reading and watching and thinking about.

Some of my blog’s readers were my friends in real life, and even the ones who weren’t acted like friends when they posted comments or sent me e-mail. They criticized me sometimes, but kindly, the way you chide someone you know well. Some of them had blogs, too, and I read those and left my own comments. As... one-dimensional as my relationships with these people were, they were important to me. They made me feel like a part of some kind of community, and that made the giant city I lived in seem smaller and more manageable.

... But is that really what’s making people blog? After all, online, you’re not even competing for 10 grand and a Kia. I think most people who maintain blogs are doing it for some of the same reasons I do: they like the idea that there’s a place where a record of their existence is kept — a house with an always-open door where people who are looking for you can check on you, compare notes with you and tell you what they think of you.

After the first night [after my breakup] ... I woke up as the sun rose and sat down at my desk to write a post that was nominally about a recent New York Times article about the shelf-life of romantic love. My boyfriend and I had just broken up, I revealed, and so I had been wondering whether love really exists. I wrote that I had concluded that it does. We can’t expect other people to make us happy, I informed my readers with total sincerity and earnestness, and we should live in the moment and stop obsessing about the future...I shudder involuntarily when I read this post now. It’s like stumbling across a diary I kept as a teenager. It’s probably one of the worst things that I’ve ever written. The commenters loved it.

Gawker had recently added a counter beside each post that displayed how many views it received. Now it was easy to see exactly how many people cared about my feelings. The site’s owner didn’t like my “I believe in love” post, he told me, but he said he was O.K. with it because, as everyone could see, more than 10,000 people disagreed with him. Readers e-mailed me their own breakup horror stories and posted hundreds of comments, advising me about flavors of ice cream to eat, and I reveled in the attention. I had managed to turn my job into a group therapy session. “Emily, I don’t really know you any more than I know the people I see every morning walking the dogs,” one of them wrote. “It’s more of an imagined familiarity born out of reading your words for a year. But that took guts, all the way around. And I’m in your corner, inasmuch as a somewhat anonymous, faceless, nameless commenter can be.”

All of this does make me think how grateful I am for the few but loyal readers of this blog. Group hug!

Love you all,




Lola Is Beauty said...

whoo yeah, lenghty! I liked the sub-title "Famous For 15 People" though.

Anonymous said...

yes, group hug!! :)

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