December 13, 2000
9:10 AM   Subscribe

A student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign wrote a paper on Weblogs and Journals, dissceting the thoughts and blogs of a few people. Very interesting paper, in my opinion (not because I am mentioned very briefly :) and worthy of some discussion and dissection.
posted by Arvid (14 comments total)
This couples well with a paper I'm writing on the necessity (or lack) of truth in autobiographical writing.

On one hand we have a writer like Romain Gary, a man with a tendency to conflate his life with those of his prinicipal characters, a man who invented a secure pseudonym that allowed him to tell a version of truth that he had so often neglected in his Gary books.

On the other hand, we have a writer like Annie Ernaux whose books read like sociological expositions, well-formed character essays with explicit detail and a near-clinical approach to emotion.

Where, in the realm of truth, do you webloggers stand? Do you lie? To develop the story or protection? To you tell iscretionary truth? Brutal truth?

posted by Mo Nickels at 9:34 AM on December 13, 2000

Where, in the realm of truth, do you webloggers stand? Do you lie? To develop the story or for protection? To you tell discretionary truth? Brutal truth?

My answer: I lie. I lie like a bastard. I lie like it's Monday and and Tuesday's a holiday. It's half daydream, half falsehood and half make-believe. I lie to protect my friends, to protect myself, to fend of fears that my insignificance is critical: if there's something to protect, then that something must be valuable. It's a tiny whirlpool of a goal, a purpose, in an amorphous mass of half-formed sentiments.

And I lie to develop the story. I fail, usually, to develop it to the point of being any better than the truth, but it amuses me.
posted by Mo Nickels at 9:41 AM on December 13, 2000

Where, in the realm of truth, do you webloggers stand? Do you lie? To develop the story or protection? To you tell iscretionary truth? Brutal truth?

For the most part, I tell the truth. I have been known to embellish the facts a tiny bit to give a better explanation of my thoughts and actions. But pretty much, I stick to the facts.

But maybe that's just me.....
posted by Arvid at 10:08 AM on December 13, 2000

An absolutely honest personal weblog is a contradiction in terms: if it becomes entirely honest, there's nothing "personal" left about it. If the words themselves aren't lies, then they lie in that what they talk about isn't what's really important to the writer.

It's a question of representation: as you approach completely clinical honesty, the objective detatchment involved in that "truthfulness" starts to constitute its own form of deception.
posted by grimmelm at 10:35 AM on December 13, 2000

I tell the truth, in a non-detached fashion. I find lying repugnant and avoid it whenever possible. I always have. The easiest way to piss me off, hurt me, and lose me as a friend is to lie to me. (Or even to intentionally just hide the truth from me, for a reason which I don't agree with (for the record, information that constitutes someone else's personal privacy is not something I'm ever annoyed at having hidden from me)).

In my weblog, I do, however, (mostly) refrain from commenting on aspects of my life that would embarrass my parents, since they both read my weblog (as does my brother). So I go vent about certain things somewhere else, under a pseudonym.

To me, I wouldn't want to do a weblog if I felt I had to embellish my life in order to make it interesting enough for other people to read.

I don't give a shit about how many people read my weblog. Fuck that, I'm not in this for popularity - I'm in it to share my experience of being alive. Because, really, what else is there? When you get to the end of your life, what really matters?

For me, I need to be honest, brutally, dorkily honest about who I am, what I think, what I see, what I care about and admire and am annoyed by. Life as it really is is something I find plentifully interesting and beautiful enough to write about.

Sure, I can't give a running commentary of every thought, perception, and impulse that runs through my head (nor can anyone, imho), so I necessarily edit for clarity, brevity, and what I think is more interesting. I don't consider this being deceptive, not in the slightest.

And no, I don't begrudge anyone else their own weblog style - do what you want, create the kind of thing that you most want to achieve, even if it involves 99-44/100% fiction. More power to ya.

I just know that personally I prefer to read weblogs that strike me as being quite genuine and authentic, at least to me.
posted by beth at 11:03 AM on December 13, 2000

Where, in the realm of truth, do you webloggers stand?

I mostly write what I'm thinking about, my opinion, so it's pretty difficult to lie. I do use fiction, at times, to elaborate a point, but it's identified as such with qualifiers such as "such as."


I take on a somewhat more authoritative voice in my writing, also. I read somewhere that if you state everything as if it were a fact, it lends more credence to your writing. Psychological warfare and whatnot, so I tend to sound far more entrenched in my ideas than I actually am.

Also, because I tend to write as though I'm debating a point, I try to be honest and clear simply because it's harder to poke holes in such an argument. If people do point out flaws in my logic, then it is indeed something that's wrong with my point, as opposed to the way I present my point.

So to a degree I lie about who I am on my site. The thoughts and experiences I relate are true and honest, but they've been buffed and shined.
posted by cCranium at 11:28 AM on December 13, 2000

The public monologue of weblogging exists for the writer. If they write for the reader, then they miss out of the best aspect of it, critical introspection.

Minor details about your life and the people you know are only ever important unless someone is doing a paper on you.

At some point it's communication, but it feels like ego most of the time.
posted by john at 12:36 PM on December 13, 2000

So to a degree I lie about who I am on my site. The thoughts and experiences I relate are true and honest, but they've been buffed and shined.

I agree, there are some aspects of my life that I do not wish to make public. There was a time when I made everything about myself open on my log, but I learned from that mistake.

I embellish to protect those who I care about. Every time I use a pseudonym for someone, I am embellishing. Every time I am not certain what I am thinking, I embellish my thoughts. Every time I make an entry that doesn't contain all the facts, because I wish to conceal some thougts from people like my family, I am embellishing.

I am not flat out lying. I am not changing the facts. I may be omitting certain things that would look not favorable on my person or someone I care about, but as it is my log, I have the right to do that.

It's the truth, that you can guarantee, but I did pad it and buff it and protect it for the sake of people I care about. Myself included.
posted by Arvid at 12:39 PM on December 13, 2000

Me? I go for brutal truth. My real name's on it too.However, unlike most people, I don't have a hell of a lot to lose. Personally, if you're going to make stuff up, I'd rather not read it.I'm interested in reality, not falsehoods, phoniness and self aggrandizement.
posted by Mr. skullhead at 1:14 PM on December 13, 2000

I don't even deal with this question, because my weblog has nothing whatever to do with me.

Not all weblogs are personal journals!
posted by Mars Saxman at 1:31 PM on December 13, 2000

In Soap Opera I decided to try and take my life and mash it into something that made no sense to anyone who didn't know me. And given that the one person who does know me that read it didn't really understand it either, I suppose I did the job too well.
In my other blogs I try to avoid soap opera completely because:
A: I find it pointless. I don't assume that anyone is going to be even remotely interested in the plain vanilla version of my life.
B: I live with my parents, never leave the house and haven't had regular converstation with someone outside of my own head for several years. So it would just be about me getting up and messing with my computer.

posted by davidgentle at 6:27 PM on December 13, 2000

I'm with Mo -- my weblog is emphatically not a journal. I don't talk about my family, my friends, my love life. I've become more introspective to a small degree, and I let more of my personality through than I used to, but it's never going to be an online diary.

I think this is just a misuse of the term weblog.
posted by dhartung at 8:16 PM on December 13, 2000

You think calling a journal is misuse of the term weblog? (asking just to ensure I'm responding to the correct point)

I want to agree with that statement, because technically speaking my site isn't a weblog, I'm not logging the web.

At the same time though, overclassification and worrying about what this site is and what that site is is just plain boring. They're all personal sites, they're all in weblog format, they just mean different things to different people.

I find it interesting that I personally place different definitions on "weblog" and "'blog" even though they're essentially the same word.

A weblog, to me, is what dhartung and Mars are talking about, a list of links with commentary. A 'Blog, on the other hand, feels more... I don't know, "personal" I guess. I think it's because "'Blog" is a more familiar-sounding name. (Familiar as in nickname, not familiar as in known)

I also find it interesting that around this time last year people with journalling-style sites were arguing that they weren't weblogs, and now webloggers, using the original definition, are agreeing with them. :-)

Semantics is fun!
posted by cCranium at 6:41 AM on December 14, 2000

I like the idea that the definition of "weblog" is of a *format*, and doesn't imply anything about the content.

At least, it makes the most useful sense to me that way.

It's somewhat futile to attempt to put weblogs into categories or classifications of "type", since there will always be some that will cross any boundaries that you try to put up.

Of course, there *are* various weblogs out there that specifically declare themselves to be of a certain type (such as news, personal, journal, or interesting links), and follow their own definitions with great fidelity.

But that's the point - they define *themselves* as being "of a type" (well, the authors do the defining). It's not something you can impose from outside.

You can attempt a crude description for your own classification purposes, but that's about as far as you'll get.

And there will always be folks like me, whose weblog entries change character by the day, if not the hour or even the minute. It all depends on what I feel like writing about at a given moment.

Or, another way of putting it is:

I never add an entry to the same type of weblog twice.
posted by beth at 1:13 PM on December 14, 2000

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