The other day someone said to me that “most folks don’t read blogs, but that’s okay.”
No, I don’t think it is.
My husband writes the very funny and very illuminating Justdfacsmaam blog, a look at the d-facs (dining facilities) on Kandahar Air Field. He has managed, for three years, to find funny, sweet, angry, smart, slightly bitter and fascinating things to say about the food over there and I think that is more because he is himself funny, sweet, angry, smart, slightly bitter and fascinating than it is because there’s anything intrinsically interesting about, say, chicken ass.
He could write about anything in a blog, and I would read it – because he’s good at it. I’m learning about his world when he’s away from me, and he’s communicating with hundreds (thousands?) of people though it. If I called him every day and asked “how was your day?” I wouldn’t get this level of detail, or the weird immediacy that comes from a focused blog post written in the heat of the moment.
When I started this blog, it was a way to send him letters from home, in a way. I started it off with a couple posts about how much I love him. We don’t write letters, and although we write emails all the time, they aren’t what they used to be. We skype now, instead of writing long missives, or text, or “like” one another’s facebook posts…
Sigh. I don’t even write a journal anymore. I wrote tons of drivel into my journals as a young woman, and though they were private and nobody every looked at them (that I know of) the writing of it served a very good purpose. Self-therapy, problem solving, facilty with language, exploration… all of it was eased into being by the writing-down-of-it all.
For years I’ve been posting photos of food I’ve made on Facebook; every once in a while I put some up here on the blog, but always seems too… what, formal? I like that it’s immediate on FB, that I don’t have to write a lot about it, or sit at my laptop – I usually just post it from my phone. But it occurs to me that I should put it up here too, for a few reasons – several people just mentioned it to me, and I feel like FB may be going downhill fast. Do you feel it? The slow rise to almost obscene amounts of kitty cat videos and Takei memes, the increasing number of ways to muddy up what used to be a fairly simple interface?
What’s starting to take precedence is the convenience of the medium, not the message? I must want convenience, so Twitter would make perfect sense, right? But I have never really cottoned to twitter, though I have an account (@box761) and use it sometimes, but it doesn’t feel like my medium. I really just use it when I’m on the road and don’t have wifi, or if I want what I’ve blogged to show up on Facebook. When I use Twitter on my iPad I really like the interface, but on my laptop it seems stupid and at the wrong speed – like, driving somewhere to go for a walk.
I like blogs. I really like them. Sometimes when I have too much time on my hands I go to blogspot and just keep hitting the “next blog” button to see what comes up… I could spend all day down that rabbit hole. It’s a good way to see into people’s lives without having to, you know, talk to anyone. I like that anyone can write an autobiography now; it’s not just something “important” people can do. Anyone can, and does. I love it. I also like taking walks at dusk because you can see in people’s houses – I’m not a voyeur, really, it’s just that I really like knowing how people construct their lives. I like seeing who hangs their pictures too high over the sofa, and who prefers ambient light to overhead, and who’s watching tv at 6 pm. I like hearing them chatter out back if the weather’s nice and I like waving as I go by if they see me passing.
I know that people who don’t know me might come across Box 761 and wonder what the hell I’m doing, writing about my dinner, and my dogs and death and how much I adore my husband. Hell, even people I do know might wonder why I do it. Maybe I’m writing you all letters. Maybe I’m trying to make sure that we know one another when we meet on the street; we’ll know that my cat died or that I had cranberry oatcakes or that you went back to school or ate chicken ass in Kandahar. It’s all about knowing each other, even if we’re strangers.
I’m not sure, really, but this medium feels just my speed. It feels sufficiently old school that I don’t have to rush, it’s largely narrative but has the added benefit of being able to link, and illustrate on the side. Some days I want to writea bout things that I think are really important – it’s vital that I write it down. Those days, I don’t care that “most folks don’t read blogs” because it’s the writing that’s important to me. Catharsis? Other days I really want to share – look what I did/made/saw/read! Those days it’s like talking to a friend; the unhurried sort of conversation we all had before we got so frigging busy and old and interested in our phones. The only time my blog doesn’t “work” for me is when I’m trying to get people to read it. Those times I’m inauthentic and ingenuous and I pander.
Meh. sometimes the lure of site stats is too irresistible.When we were going through my father’s things after he died, we found file folders full of cards and letters, old business cards and little bits of paper. Each child had a folder – he’d kept it all. Letters I’d written to him at 13, bitter funny letters about highschool, letters asking for money, apologizing for things… There was a crazy amount of stuff there, and I couldn’t really even remember writing most of them. They were lovely and embarrassing and so while not more “real” than the texts I receive from my daughter (you can fit a lot of nuance in 160 characters), they are more lasting.
I shredded most of those letters – the nature of the relationship was that many of them were angry-young-woman letters and they did not travel through the decades well. What I’m left with, though, was a lingering feeling that we were closer than I remember and that if in the intervening years we became more distant it might be in part because I stopped writing those letters…. Communication methods changed – I emailed, I phoned, I wrote cards on birthdays and when he was ill, but no more letters. In the late ’80’s – enraptured by the technology – I faxed a few.
My mother did the same – I have a small cache of letters I’d sent her that she’d saved, and cards she received at my birth and kept.
Sadly, I don’t really have that much for my kids to find, filed away once I’m gone – they’re digital babies and all the information is either on the hard drive of my laptop, in old floppies and flash drives and vhs tapes, or ephemera – texts and emails and “likes” on Facebook. I have saved things, of course, but there just isn’t as much.
What I liked about those ridiculous letters – my juvenilia, such as it is – was that they were about the day-to-day, not just historic events. They were full of details about normal, ordinary things. They were chatty and authentic and guileless. I remember being genuinely annoyed when stamps went up to 17 cents. Outrageous! Yesterday I went into the post office to send a card to a relative in Georgia (hey Ruth!) and I didn’t even know how much a stamp would cost! ($1.29 CAD, btw…. more outrage!)
I’m most emphatically not a luddite. I am usually an early adopter of new technology, and I tend to absorb it into my daily life fairly quickly. Perhaps I’ve done so a bit too quickly…. when a blog feels old schoolit means I may have thrown the baby out with the bathwater.
When I’m talking about writing but the word “technology” comes out as a synonym, there might be a problem. I adore my ebooks. I am eagerly awaiting the chip in my head that will make reading as simple as, say, wiggling my nose like Samantha on Bewitched.
But I also like paper. I like paper books, and paper letters and photos that are printed out onto… paper. I love it all. I like stuff I can hold in my hands, stuff that feels silky, or crackly, or musty. I like it all, because I love the act that engendered it – all of these people, leaving bits of themselves on paper for anyone to read and see them… it doesn’t get much better than that.
I want to write more letters. I want to get more letters. I have a childhood friend who isn’t on Facebook, doesn’t read blogs, isn’t on twitter, and frowns on letters that aren’t handwritten. I don’t think I’ll go that far, because it’s well… kind of annoying. I find writing letters to him feels like I’m repeating myself, because there’s so much back-story that I have to write, because he missed my most recent fb status update.
I’m also going to keep reading blogs, and writing them. There are some days when I read a blog and it feels like commenting is too time consuming. Really? What am I, the Queen?
I will reconsider my sloth, and consider the price of entry a comment that shows I see their bid, and raise it. Let’s see what we’ve all got in our hands, eh?
What’s written in blogs isn’t always of import, but it’s almost always important. People are writing letters out to the world. Anyone could find it, and read it – they could walk by and see if my tv is on, or what kind of art I have hung (at just the right height) on my walls. Sometimes, though, it is of import – it’s life and death out there, it’s loss and fear and a place to say all those things we can’t write in letters any more because well, we don’t write them.
Read them, people.
Let’s all keep in touch a bit more, shall we? I’m going to make the effort to write more comments, and connect. I might even print out ones I like, so they don’t get lost. I can’t leave my kids my WordPress subscription list, or my bookmark files, can I?