Where does one get their authority?
April 2, 2003 5:07 PM   Subscribe

A solid sense of identity. A small but interesting essay that is ostensibly about blogging, but instead really about the core problem of personal identity. "Maintaining a successful blog requires a solid sense of identity. ...A blog's stickiness, or that quality that turns us into its regular readers -- comes not so much from the blog's informative value in content or through the network of links it provides as it comes from the blogger's authority... Teen blogs are boring because what permeates them mostly is a heightened sense of anxiety about one's place in the scheme of things. Having lost that sense of invincibility that comes from being a young adult, the over-forty is thrown in that same breath-choking cold current of doubts that he or she navigated as a teen. That is why a middle-aged woman's blog description of getting a haircut sounds the same as a teenage girl's account of the same event."
posted by namespan (14 comments total)
"The problem of self-identity is not just a problem for the young. It is a problem for all time. Perhaps the problem. It should haunt old age, and when it no longer does it should tell you that you are dead."

--Norman Maclean.
posted by namespan at 5:08 PM on April 2, 2003

Actually, I've found that it's boring to read the same thing over and over.

Therefore I prefer a manic/hyperactive web blog.

Anyone else with me?
posted by shepd at 6:08 PM on April 2, 2003

the lack of quality in blogs stems from the fact that your life is boring and no one cares about what you did today.
i would prefer a hyperactive blog if they weren't so forced.
posted by the aloha at 6:32 PM on April 2, 2003

[cough] the lack of quality in personal online journals stems from the fact that your life is boring and no-one cares about what you did today...that might be more apt. Any reverse-chronological-order site that mentions haircuts (except in the presence of a multitude of associated cool links) ain't a blog in my book.
posted by Jimbob at 7:05 PM on April 2, 2003

Wasn't weblog originally a "log of where you went on the web" e.g. a sample of visited links with some commentary? Blog is a funny word, but it would make more sense to call sites that are obviously digital journals just journals and leave the word blog for link-based sites like robotwisdom, boingboing, metafilter, etc.

Say it with me.... journal. See that didn't hurt.
posted by skallas at 10:46 PM on April 2, 2003

I think this article generalises unhelpfully: during my days at opendiary I read several on-line journals by both teenage girls and women over forty that exhibited no shortage of writerly ethos, and which, even when dealing with everyday anxieties, were well-written and well-thought-out.
posted by misteraitch at 2:30 AM on April 3, 2003

misteraitch, I'd agree with you that the generalization about all teenagers and middle agers lack a secure identity, even though I can see that it is a frequent problem.

I was as interested in the author's theories about a strong personal identity being connected to good writing as I was whether or not the general types were correct.... is personal identity intergral to good writing? Good blogging?
posted by namespan at 3:14 AM on April 3, 2003

Err, yes, I'd say it is, or at least it's an important prerequisite for creating a body of writing that could be preceived as consistent, compelling and/or persuasive.
posted by misteraitch at 3:29 AM on April 3, 2003

And once you get over 60, again things become more steady and full of wisdom. One of my favourite daily reads is The Old Grey Poet and I generally find reading blogs and journals of older folk to be more enlightening than, say, reading Kottke (just picking a popular example).

Nice article though.
posted by wackybrit at 3:31 AM on April 3, 2003

is personal identity intergral to good writing? Good blogging?

Yes, yes, yes!!! In fact, that's the whole reason I read blogs. My favorite daily reads, in addition to comprising what I consider to be good writing, also have a palpable sense of an individual behind them. Even (or perhaps especially) when the blogger leaves his/her personal life out of it, the best blogs really give a sense of a real person. The blogs I'm addicted to are the ones where I get a sense that the person writing it is someone who I'd want to be friends with

When I first started reading blogs about a year ago, I felt like this was what the Internet was made for. I've learned so much from reading blogs. And it's really changed the way I get my news. I still go to traditional news sources, but I think the ability of a blog to provide analysis, filtering, synthesis, opposing arguments, and a sense of narrative greatly increases my ability to understand world events (or at least feel like I understand).
posted by spacewaitress at 8:11 AM on April 3, 2003

alright then, the problem with blogs is that no one cares to hear your opinions on websites you visit. most of your sites are ok, but your commentary is trite. either get a journalism degree and get a real job, or go outside and get some exercise.
posted by the aloha at 8:23 AM on April 3, 2003

Hmm. I just read the article, and I have to disagree with the author's glorification of twenty- and thirtysomethings (even though I am in my late twenties). Two of the best blogs, IMO, Electrolite and Making Light, are by a husband and wife who are in their forties. Once out of your teens, age has nothing to do with it (although, come to think of it, one of the best blogs I'd ever read post-9/11 was by a startlingly mature 15-year-old. Unfortunately, she's not blogging anymore). And his specific denigration of blogs by women over forty bears a slight whiff of mysogyny.

There may be something to his theory of parents and teens taking up psychic space in each others' heads. Perhaps some full-time parents of teenagers have neither the time nor the emotional resources for blogging.

Overall I'd say the main point of his essay is a salient one, but his analysis suffers from an unfortunate solipsism.

[UPDATE: Whoa! I just read the "about" info on the site. The author of the article is a middle-aged woman. I assumed it was a man in his late twenties or early thirties. Seeing the article in this light raises even more questions, for starters, why is she being so critical of her peers?]
posted by spacewaitress at 8:27 AM on April 3, 2003

The Aloha, this is a thread about what makes blogs interesting, not why blogs suck. Why don't you take your own advice and go outside and get some exercise?
posted by spacewaitress at 8:31 AM on April 3, 2003

I'm torn here, as I correspond with and both like and respect Maria--but the shoals that one navigates as a forty something woman in this world are more complex than that of any teenage identity crisis. They're more to do with maintaining a sense of your hard won confidence, and defending the location of your identity against all the subtle and not so subtle prejudices against aging women. It's not fun, even for those of us who have been staunchly feminist for years, to see one's "looks" fading (especially if you remember days when you looked in the mirror with pleasure rather than anxiety) and to have to try to separate, once and for all, the ideas of beauty and youth. That aside, I agree with the idea of the authoritative voice, and with the way that good writers convery a sense of character; that's what I look for online, but that's not what all readers want. Some just want an update on the lastest widget, and fair enough.

I did write about getting a haircut in my weblog once, though. I'll leave it to others to decide if it was boring or not...
posted by jokeefe at 12:45 PM on April 3, 2003

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