Thursday, December 15, 2011

Blogging -- What Is It Good For?

     Last night B had a group of her women friends over from work for a potluck Christmas dinner. This morning, she was recapitulating some of the conversations that went on over the cheese noodle pudding, the broccoli quiche and the spinach salad.

     There's one woman in particular who annoyed her. "All she does is talk about herself," B complained.

     Apparently, whenever anyone at the table brought up a subject, this woman just had to present her own experience with the subject at hand -- and if she didn't have any experience herself, she'd go on at length about her husband, her children or some other relative. All without the slightest regard for whether anyone else at the table was interested, without any empathy or connection to other people's experiences.

     Someone in the group mentioned that she'd had a knee operation. "Oh, well, let me tell you about my husband and his knee operation," she insisted. "He had his knee replaced. It was awful!" And on and on and on.

     Later, the woman was telling a story to B, while the two of them were standing in the kitchen. Another guest wandered into the room. The woman stopped, turned to the other guest, and started the story all over again, from the beginning, while B politely nodded and inwardly groaned.

     It reminded me of how an old colleague of mine used to make fun of people who were too self-absorbed, too caught up in themselves. "Okay, enough about me," my colleague would say loudly, imitating the person and mocking them at the same time. "Let's talk about you now. So ... what do you think about me?"

     B's experience last night, and recalling my old friend joking about self-involved people, made me  think of my blogging. Our blogging. I've seen comments here and there in the media -- usually the mainstream Internet media -- making fun of bloggers, referring to them -- us -- as a narcissistic bunch of people who insist on posting to the Internet every detail of our lives, and how wonderful our kids are, and how cute our pets are, without any consideration whether or not anyone else in the world was interested in our lives, or our children or our pets.

     It made me wonder:  Is this what we retired bloggers are doing -- we Baby Boomers, who are incessantly accused of being interested in ourselves, and only in ourselves and what we are doing and how we impact American life?

     I am not criticizing anyone (least of all myself -- eeegads!). And I am not fishing for reassurance or compliments about my own blog. (Who me? Fishing for compliments? Never!) But there's nothing wrong with a little self-examination every once in a while. And it makes we wonder: How do we talk about the issues in our lives, our day-to-day concerns as well as our more fundamental issues, without falling into the quicksand of self-indulgence? How do we include other people in our conversations? How do we keep ourselves relevant as we talk about our families, our ailments, our travels, our finances, our politics?

     The bloggers I know hardly ever talk about their kids. We do hear about people's travels -- but I like reading about all those trips to Hawaii and elsewhere (although they do make me envious). I actually don't think the important thing is the subject matter itself, but the way it's handled. Can other people relate to the experience, or are we just bragging about what we've done?

     What about nostalgia? Can I delve into the morass of nostalgia, or am I being a self-indulgent Baby Boomer if I do that? I dunno. I like the occasional trip down memory lane. Don't you enjoy listening to Sinatra or the Beatles or Jim Morrison every once in a while?

     Anyhooo ... B told me I didn't have to leave the house when her friends came over last night. "These women are not as raucous as my book group," she assured me. Nevertheless, I didn't want to be holed up in the bedroom while all these women were downstairs talking and laughing and eating and having a good time. So I went out to a movie. I saw The Descendants, with George Clooney, at my local arthouse movie theater.

     But I'm not going to tell you if I liked it. I don't want to be self-indulgent. 



Olga said...

"...without any consideration whether or not anyone else in the world was interested in our lives, or our children or our pets"

Well, nobody is forced to read a blog (usually) so it's not quite the same as being stuck in conversation hell at a party. That's my oinion. So what do you think about my opinion??

Rubye Jack said...

Just before I came to your post here I was thinking about the variety of takes people have on various posts--how their comments are made up of different ways of seeing the same thing. I've been blogging for close to a year, but I have learned so very much in this short time that I have come to think of it as my blog education. Sure, most of my posts are about self but often they are about ideas picked up from other blogs.

rosaria said...

We communicate by taking turns as bloggers. One subject on someone's blog, as Rubye alluded, may be picked up directly or indirectly by other bloggers. The fact is that we are communicating as simply or as contrived as we wish. Nobody has to read; but, we are encouraged often enough to continue writing.

I enjoyed your ruminations!

Catch Her in the Wry said...

I agree with Olga. It is difficult to walk away from a person if the conversation becomes boring or irritating. Blogs are simply reading material that will interest some people and not others. No one gives a second thought about walking away from a newspaper or magazine or other printed word. If readers don't like what you're writing, they'll just go somewhere else and new readers will take their place.

After blogging for over five years, I still only write for my own amusement, not everyone else's.

Stephen Hayes said...

I don't think there's much similarity between a blog and a party, for many of the reasons already expressed. I choose to read blogs because I find them useful or entertaining. I tend to shy away from those that are pure gripe fests. When I want to complain about something I talk to my dog. She listens patiently to all I have to say and then she licks her behind, which helps me keep my ego in check.

Linda Myers said...

We get to choose which blogs we read, for one thing. I'm finding I prefer the ones without recipes, or stories about kids or pets, or even with lots of pictures.

I try to blog about things that will be of interest to readers. Looking back, I can gauge my postings partly by the number of comments. If I get more than the average number, it's usually because it's all about them as well.

Roberta said...

With a blog, if you don't like it you can "leave" the room. Not so lucky at a party. Although there is something to be said for face-to-face contact......something we bloggers can tend to neglect if we are not careful.

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

You've brought up some interesting points, Tom. Sometimes, especially when I am writing posts related to the painful aspects of my childhood (as a kind of rehearsal for my planned memoir) I worry I may be tedious. Usually, even if the post -- mine of someone else's -- is personal in nature, there is some theme that might apply to many others. I've found so many posts on other blogs -- including yours -- that are touching and meaningful for me. I think it's a matter of choice as several have mentioned: we can choose to read -- and keep reading -- a blog post. And it seems there is infinite room in the blogosphere for all manner of subjects and opinions.

However, if cornered by a person who is being a bore, it can be truly excruciating. It's especially painful if you actually like the person. I have a dear neighbor who just drives everyone to distraction when he launches on another long, intricate story about his days working for Boeing or his passionate interest in Custer. OMG!

#1Nana said...

I'm retired. At this time of my life it is all about me! I'm not tied to a job or childcare. I can do and say and write what I please. Sometimes it pleases my readers and they comment, and the blog has let me make connections to others around the world. I have been surprised by what I have learned about others and about myself as a participant in the blogging community....where we have all come together of our own free will.

schmidleysscribblins, said...

Oh Tom, but for what do we blog except to entertain others, and they in turn blog to entertain us. (With apologies to Jane Austen.) Dianne

I don't like nostalgia, I get depressed if I wallow in it myself, but if someone else wants to recall something they experienced, so what. If I don't want to read it I can go elsewhere. I read 'heavy' stuff all day long, a little light humor always works. As for pets, it depends. Some pets are sooooo cute.

Politics and religion are topics that can get us into trouble all the time. However, there too, if someone wants to talk about something and I don't want to read it, I don't. How's that for narcissism??

Dick Klade said...

Well, I think writers of any sort do their thing in hopes someone out there reads their offerings and responds.

I've visited hundreds of blogs, and chose to follow only a half dozen or so. One is yours. Feel good?