I Blog Therefore I Am

Last week, Wilkinson reflected on blogging as an extension of the self:

There’s nothing wrong with blogging for money, but the terms of social exchange are queered a little by the cash nexus. A personal blog, a blog that is really your own, and not a channel of the The Daily Beast or Forbes or The Washington Post or what have you, is an iterated game with the purity of non-commercial social intercourse. The difference between hanging out and getting paid to hang out. Anyway, in old-school blogging, you put things out there, broadcast bits of your mind. You just give it away and in return maybe you get some attention, which is nice, and some gratitude, which is even nicer. The real return, though, is in the conclusions people draw about you based on what you have said, about what what you have said says about you, about what it means relative to what you used to say. People form expectations about you. They start to imagine a character of you, start to write a little story about you. Some of this is validating, some is irritating, and some is downright hateful. In any case it all contributes to self-definition, helps the blogger locate and comprehend himself as a node in the social world. We all lost something when the first-gen blogs and bloggers got bought up. Or, at any rate, those bloggers lost something. I’m proud of us all, but there’s also something ruinous about our success, such as it is.

The Epicurean Dealmaker responds:

Whether the creation of an online persona is a primary motivation for personal blogging, as Mr. Wilkinson maintains, or simply a (hopefully) beneficial side product thereof is not really my concern. But everybody does it.

Some of the motivations behind this character creation are the same or similar for everyone who blogs: we want our online persona to appear smarter, funnier, wiser, better-read, and more articulate than we are in real life. Some of them are more unique to my own situation and adopted persona: I want to appear richer, more powerful, better connected, more successful, more handsome, and more wicked here than I am in actuality. In any event, these exaggerations or deceptions add up—we hope—to create an online “self” that is more compelling and admirable than our own and in whose reflected glory we can bask our gratified egos. We tell ourselves that yes, my online self is the real me, me as I want others to see me, minus all those embarrassing, incidental flaws and imperfections which do not define me as I would be seen. As I want to be. As I really am.

Freddie contrasts blogging with social media:

The advantage of old-school blogs lay in the greater degree for self-ownership than social media. You controlled everything with your own space, and as a blog post was far slower and far more considered than your average Facebook status update, there was more of a sense of weight and finality to what you had to say. Twitter is never fully your space, even when looking at you’re own timeline. That’s what people like about it, but it has consequences. Sure, there was intense social conditioning involved with blogs, but it was slower and more disparate. On Tumblr and Facebook, the system of reward and punishment is so immediate, and your ownership so much less total than it was on blogs, that the speed and intensity of social conditioning are dramatically increased. It’s a wonder that the average internet obsessive has much of a differentiated self left to be affirmed or denied by others.