Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Not just my personal diary: How blogging is helping to shape the human experience

Image from firehow.com

I remember watching the internet grow and mature. I did a lot of growing up myself during the same time. I remember carefully considering how I should represent my personality with a new Myspace layout or “about me” section, and taking a million selfies so I could rack up more photo comments. I remember the debates about social media and how dangerous it could be. I remember finally giving in and getting a Facebook even though it wasn’t as cool as Myspace simply to keep up with some of my home school friends who weren’t allowed on other sites.

And I remember thinking that a blog was a pretty pointless and even conceited thing to spend time on. I mean, really...no one wants to know about your day or what lyrics you really relate to right now other than your mom. Even your top friends are only reading out of obligation.

But all things change, and at an ever increasing rate in our modern world.

These days, the internet is constantly at our fingertips and we are constantly making use of it. Information is only a Google search away and updates on distant loved ones show up in our Facebook news feeds!

Thus it was a no brainer for me to start a blog while traveling last year. I knew I would have plenty of stories to tell while teaching English in the post-Soviet developing country of Georgia. Stories that wouldn’t fit into a status update. And did I ever! There was the time I gotpunched in the face by a three year old, the time I assumed we were going to a school meeting and didn’t realize it was actually a visitation until I walked in and saw the body, the time I went camping in an old hippy bus with a handful of other twenty-somethings from a handful of different countries...the list goes on. It was the most amazing adventure I’ve yet experienced.

And I had the ability to share any of it through my blog-any of my encounters with language and cultural barrier, any of my struggles to shake off their limited views of what a woman could be, any of the moments and any of the people who made the hard times completely worth it. I was excited and proud to paint these pictures of a piece of the world-of the human story, even-that many of my readers would never experience firsthand.

Then, after coming back and starting my career as an archaeologist, I had more stories to tell. And then I started using my blog as a platform for discussing the social issues that had been brought to my attention more than ever in Georgia, but that I was still encountering in my beloved home country. Feminism and racism weren’t just topics for me to rant about to whatever poor soul was nearest to me. I realized that I could contribute to the conversation on a broader level.

And this is the power of blogging: the power to share stories and information with other people who will never meet you, read your local newspaper, or listen to your local news station. If you have the motivation to compile information and the skill to craft it into a readable format, you have the power to share it. No need to hope the editor of the local newspaper will like it and no pressure to put enough stuff together to have even a chance at a book deal.

And then you can share it, and it has the potential to be seen by people all across the world who would never know that your local newspaper even existed and who would never happen upon your book, let alone spend money on it. When you think about it, blogging is actually becoming a very useful exercise of the human faculties.

However, I often still detect the old attitude hanging in the air. We bloggers can often tell by the expressions we are met with when we mention that we blog and offhand comments here and there that our hobby (or, sometimes, profession) is still seen as completely irrelevant to the modern world. But I insist that it is one of the most relevant hobbies or professions provided by the world wide web.

As a matter of fact, I’ve noticed that people share blog posts quite frequently without seeming to realize that that’s what they are. Next time you’re reading an “article” or “opinion piece,” look and see if it’s actually a blog post. Even big think tanks often have paid bloggers on staff and/or are happy to accept relevant and well-written guest posts. The Huffington Post, for example, relies heavily on contributions from the blogging community. Especially if you’ve ever shared a “X reasons why...” or “X ways to...” article, you’ve probably shared the home-spun work of a blogger.

Never in the history of humanity have we been so connected. Never in the history of humanity has information been so readily available. And never in the history of humanity has the common person had so much power to contribute to global conversation. Blogging is art, philosophy, politics, adventure, and more...but by the people, for the people. And that means that us common folk can have an effect on the way that humanity sees itself and the world around it! And if you ask me, it doesn’t get much more relevant than that.

What do you think? Are blogs making an important contribution to the development of human society? Or are they still pretty pointless? 

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