Friday, 14 September 2007

Belonging

Crossposted at BlogRhet

What part of yourself do you have invested in the online community? A good number of the posts and comments at BlogRhet over the last few months have either addressed or resonated with this question. There have been posts and comments about race and culture and how the differences among us in this respect colour our perception of the blogging world. There have been comments about inclusion and exclusion, ranging from the sense of alienation many of us take away from high school, through the discussions of tagging and sub groups inside the mommy bloggers' orbit and often touching on commenting and response to blog posts. What all the discussion seems to have in common is good will, the determination to make the community work and the willingness to speak openly and expose deep emotions in the cause of making this happen.

'I was always on the outside in high school' is a very common comment. 'I wasn't one of the popular kids'. 'I felt alienated'. 'I'm shy and inhibited face to face'. 'I don't feel confident about meeting people' -- a statement a lot of us made, while discussing the BlogHer conference and at other times. A recurring theme among those of us who answered the BlogRhet meme was that the online contacts were somehow more engaging and fulfilling than 'IRL' day to day interactions. (I think IRL is short for In Real Life - one of the things I have had to learn fast is the acronyms, short forms and references that are in common use in this on line world. What's a 'MILF', anyone?) Those of us not part of the 'white' dominant culture express concern about feeling that an important part of ourselves is not valued or ignored.

There are two areas where my experience closely matches that of the comments and posts I've been citing. One is in feeling that the online lives I touch and the discussions I have here are more fulfilling than most of my daily contacts. The other is that I am a minority; because I'm a senior I'm sometimes treated differently or with indifference by people who deal with me face to face. While agism is not on the same page as racism, getting put down or ignored because of white hair and wrinkles sure gives me empathy.

What I have invested in my blog and here is my love of writing and a commitment to write, to stretch myself, to participate in as many of the threads and tags and challenges as I can. The bloggers that I feel the most kinship with are the others of you that are doing that. The quality of a lot of what I read, and the quality of the women and men who are writing is thrilling. The encouragement, the positive responses and the wonderful way in which ideas and techniques are shuttled from person to person through the mommyblogging community is enriching, I believe, to all of us.

Some of you have invested your hearts and souls, your most cherished ideas, your emotional responses, your deepest selves in your blogs, reaching out to others in so many ways. You discuss race, religion, your personal fears and triumphs, your intimate lives. You not only write, you read, and the comments you leave when someone needs a response or comfort or advice are generous, perceptive and often hilarious. The courage of some of you, who meet very difficult days with laughter and share the experience, is immense.

When we write with this intensity, however, it is not hard to be nervous, even fearful, about the response we will get. I know that I sometimes have an inner insecure self who worries about how what I write will be received, who is disappointed when there are no comments, who feels down if something doesn't get noticed. I find it necessary to stomp on this tendency as soon and as often as possible. Because the mommy blogosphere is full of generous people who read, comment and respond and who feel guilty when they can't do so. I can't get to all the posts I want to read as soon as I would like and most of the people I know about are much busier than I am. It continues to amaze me that there is so much comment and exchange when I know how short of time and energy many people are.

Getting comments fosters a sense of belonging. So does the receipt of one of the various awards that bounce through the blogs -- things like the Just Post, the Perfect Post, The Thinking Blogger, the ROFL. Getting 'tagged' to do a meme is also a boost to the camaraderie quotient. I think these are all good things. But they come with a price. To get one of the post awards, it is necessary to write that kind of post. It is also gracious to look for posts that fit the criteria and nominate them. Established bloggers go out of their way to select newbies for awards and tags, which is one of the things I like a lot about them, but they can't include everybody. It is not productive to be hurt if you aren't selected for something: tags, for instance, only work if they are consistently spread. We should participate as much as we can and understand that others are doing the same, without being too dependent on this kind of recognition.

The forum here at BlogRhet has one of the best formats I have found. I stuck my neck out and volunteered to be part of it, as a real newbie, was welcomed in and am really glad I joined. It's inclusive, stimulating and fun. It's managed by a bunch of horrifically busy women and so the bus wheels may occasionally wobble but, by and large, it's amazingly smooth. And really worthwhile. If you're reading this at my own site, please pop over and scroll through it. You'll be glad you did.

But in the final analysis, the feeling of belonging is something each of us has to create for herself. It comes from confidence that what we write will resonate with others and that other writers will appreciate our comments. Most of all, it comes from the satisfaction of having done well in what we set out to do.

5 comments:

  1. I love this. It *is* hard to read all I want to read, and it then makes me wonder about where my focus should be if I want people to read what I write. (I actually posted QUITE awkwardly on this today.) At the very least it's a good challenge, and I so love having an outlet for my writing everyday.

    d

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  2. As a totaly newbie myself, I really appreciated this post. A lot of your points really resonated with me. Thank you!

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  3. This was great, Mary. (I should really check out BlogRhet. It sounds great.) You touched upon a lot of issues that I've thought about as a blogger: commenting, nominating, tagging for memes. I have to fight with this sense of being "left out" when I don't get tagged/nominated/comments.

    I'm always impressed by those bloggers who are able to leave so many comments around on other people's blogs. It's often a struggle for me to write a comment, even though I've read and appreciated posts.

    And by the way, I appreciated what you wrote about agism. I'm glad that you wrote about this, and raised my awareness of the issue.

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  4. So thoughtful and truly illuminating. We're making our own rules, here as we go along, but it's not all sunshine and roses. Those things that rear their ugly heads IRL can do so here, too.

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  5. Hey, thanks for stopping by my blog. I read BlogRhet all the time and really enjoy it. I'm constantly amazed by the posts there - they are above and beyond what I could (or would necessarily want to) write.

    I look forward to reading more of your posts.

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