I guess I prefer photographic drama over blog drama, so I’m skipping commentary on being misrepresented and lied about. I’m not going to say I enjoy being dishonestly set up for a good old fashioned bashing on the blogs of people I called friends, but I’d really rather talk about the cool storm rolling in here to Jacksonville yesterday evening. Because really, the irony of getting pissed off over being called a douche about all that is pretty thick all things considered, “and when the core of the argument goes a bit over your head or turns out to be something that you didn’t think it was (egg on your face) you focus on spelling and word meaning and other stupid ass shit” as someone once said.
So this storm rolled in yesterday afternoon, and Jane summoned me out front to see it. I walked out, mesmerized by the clouds. They were really low and really fast, rolling and roiling like in some mega-disaster movie. I sent my son back inside to fetch the camera equipment, so I could share this on the blog.
It’s funny how those clouds, the turbulence of them really, is sort of a metaphor for the relationships in our lives. Doubly so for the relationships we build and forge and release online. I was talking to a friend (one that hasn’t kicked me in the ‘nads) yesterday about why I don’t write as much as I used to.
Storm Clouds continues below the fold.
It occurred to me then that I’ve spent a lot of time on Twitter and FaceBook, maybe just because it requires so much less effort and thought. There’s an immediacy to Twitter and FaceBook that a blog just doesn’t have. Or maybe it’s just that there is a greater volume of feedback from those than a little blog like this one tends to get. Certainly the megablogs will be around for a long time, but I wonder if Twitter and FaceBook will be the death of the little blogs. Without the backing and advertising of a giant conglomerate like Seed or Discover, will the little bloggers continue to be content to have their words go unheard?
I wonder if that shift in my own online behavior may be a result of the ability to force my words into my friends’ faces more efficiently in those media. A blog has more of a passive advertising stance in that sense. Unless it happens to be in someone’s feedreader, the only people who read a blog post are people who come by (mostly people googling for puking girls, apparently). With Twitter, anyone who is my Tweep has my words in their face, whether they want them right that minute or not. With Facebook, there is a bit more control in the news feed feature, but by hiding a friend’s feed, a user hides all of that friend’s feed. It’s sort of a nuclear option, so maybe it gets used with a bit of reticence. In any event, my words get pushed into the faces of all the friends who haven’t hidden my feed.
So maybe it’s about being heard. Maybe having that bully pulpit of sorts encourages more feedback, giving the gratification that comes along with being heard and acknowledged.
Thinking about it some more now, I think there’s another issue at work here. Writing on a blog is kind of like hanging out my laundry on the line in the back yard. It’s just hanging there to see for anyone who happens by. With a medium like FaceBook, the viewing public is more targeted. Only those people who I’ve agreed to allow into my living room can see my laundry, and I can alter that list at any time rather easily. Every single friend on FaceBook (assuming the standard privacy settings) must be specifically approved, and that privilege of seeing my underwear can be revoked with the click of a mouse. If one of them pisses me off or just disagrees with me, I can throw the online equivalent of a temper tantrum and just de-friend that person. In that light, I think users may tend to have a large majority of listeners who already agree with them on most issues. That brings up some interesting issues of its own, issues about echo chambers and solidarity and the glory of cheering masses.
With a blog I’m more likely to receive comments from a wider spectrum of viewpoints. John Q. Public may happen by and disagree with my main point, or maybe even with a word I’ve chosen to use. Mr. Public may even comment on that. Some egos can’t handle that very well, and some arguments are too weak to withstand that kind of criticism. That’s the biggest reason that Creationist blogs are so heavily moderated, if they allow comments at all. On a tiny blog like this one something like that might not ever get noticed, but if it does get noticed it’s really out there. One commenter’s criticism might be 50% of the comments on a post. On a large blog with a lot of regular traffic, there is plenty of backup to support the author, whether the author is right or wrong – a hardcore fan-base of sycophants, if you will, that will cheer the author even if the author is wrong or flat out lying. In such a case, that same critical comment might be 5% or less of the comments on a post. (I’m setting aside the issue of the legitimacy and/or veracity of the criticism, as it’s irrelevant to the point.)
I don’t enjoy that sort of popularity here, and at this point in my life I’m honestly glad about that. When I wrote primarily at UDoJ, I have to say that I hoped to one day be a big-name blogger with page views in the hundreds of thousands. I’m much less interested in that these days. Though I certainly hope that someone will read these words and find something interesting in them, it’s really ok if my words hang unread. I write mostly for myself now when I write here. It’s sort of my diary that I leave open on the kitchen table. It’s hooked up to FriendFeed, which feeds to Twitter, which feeds to FaceBook, and I suppose that undermines my previous comment some, but in the end, if someone happens to read it and find something they like, that’s fine. If not, well.. eh, usually.
I’ve been less and less actively present on Twitter and FaceBook as well. If I find something interesting, or just have a quick thought I need to get off my chest I throw it out there. What happens to it after that, I usually don’t really care. I reply to comments that are specifically directed my way out of common courtesy, and because if they are directed my way then it’s because a friend knows that I’d find something interesting in them. Sometimes my friends just need me to hear what they’re saying, and I try to listen and respond because they need that just then. But my own words, well, they’re less important to me after they make it to the ether, I guess. It’s the act of putting them out there that interests me.
Anyway, back to the clouds. Like those clouds, my online relationships have roiled and boiled over the few years I’ve been a blogger. I think of the people I used to interact with regularly, and that group of friends has changed significantly. Many of them have closed their blogs or let them gather dust. Some of them have moved on to other things and I’ve lost track of them. The ones that are still blogging regularly are still in my feed reader, and I still read what they write. But certainly, I interact with them a lot less now than I once did, for whatever reason. My own aforementioned change in online behavior is no small part of that, either.
So just like in real life, I’ve had people come and go in my life, their immediacy rises and falls, their proximity increases and decreases. Some friends are forever of course, but sadly most friends are temporarily close. It’s an interesting phenomenon, and sort of brings about a longing and wistfulness. Maybe it’s better thought of in terms of old Army buddies or school chums that think about each other every now and again. One calls the other up every couple of years, they talk about how glad they are to hear from each other, they reminisce, they catch up with the highlights, they promise to keep in better touch, and then they go back to their lives for another few years.
That constant change, that dynamic movement, is what came to mind as I processed these photos from yesterday. It’s funny how sometimes we see some larger metaphor in the most unrelated photos. Well, that’s neither here nor there in the end, but the clouds sure were pretty all by themselves. Enjoy the photos.
Remember, this post is not about you, it’s about this series of photos I took yesterday, and how they represent relationships.
From whence came the art:
That image is titled Storm Clouds, one of a series by me, and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution – Noncommercial – Share Alike license.