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The Blogosphere and the Postmodern Identity

Sitting on cool, moist, grass, under the comforting shade of a big, protective tree as the warming sun pierces through the leaves, I sit and scribble in my journal. Sounds enchanting, doesn’t it? While it is, this form of expression is getting beat out by new forms on the Internet. The blogosphere and networking sites are now millions of people’s new “journal writing under a tree” experience. But the blogosphere and these other sites offer writers something new and different. The blogosphere gives writers an audience, a global audience. And networking sites give users connection to one another. So while scribbling madly in a leather bound journal may give the writer an outlet, she can never receive feedback if it’s what she craves. Nor can she be so immediately united, bound to an online family who openly receives her. But when the writer sets down her journal, and picks up her laptop: what should she subscribe to; Blogger or MySpace? In my opinion, this might depend on what generation she comes from. To those born after the 1970’s, reared in the age of Postmodernism, MySpace will be more fulfilling to her needs. Because while the blogosphere is a land for intellectuals and even narcissists, networking sites like MySpace and Facebook cater to a Postmodern generation who ache for community, structure, and a place to build, erase, and rebuild their own identities.

Who is eligible to start their own blog? Everyone! The democratic quality of the blogosphere might be what attracts so many new users. But with so many new users, it must be said that not all blogs are created equal. Bloggers are judged by their work, and are always under the hot, threatening spotlight of their online “audience.” Blogs that stand above other blogs are ones that get more “hits,” or visits to their site everyday. Because of this, bloggers aren’t using their audience as a form of connection, but for selfish reasons. A section in Rebecca Blood’s book, The WeBLOG Handbook, is even titled, “Using Your Audience.” According to her, the two reasons bloggers should consider their audience are: “First, keeping your audience in mind will prevent you from damaging your reputation or your relationship. Second, and even more important, awareness of your audience will force you to be better at what you do” (Blood 66). So, according to these rules, as a blogger, I should be using you, my audience, to protect MY reputation, and to make MYSELF better at what I do. The potential connective quality of the blogosphere becomes obsolete, and is really an ego feeder. Part of the goal becomes “building a community presence.” One way Blood encourages bloggers to do this is by joining community events. One example of an event she gives is “‘Link and Think,’ an annual observation by webloggers and journalers of World AIDS Day” (Blood 87). This sounds noble enough, but the reason she gives for joining in the events? “Participating in events like these will bring you at least a little traffic immediately following the event.” And “joining a larger event can give you a nice sense of belonging to a larger group, but will not necessarily bring you many visitors” (Blood 88). Supporting a good cause, and even feeling like a part of a group, all become secondary to “building an audience.” This is evidence to disprove the theory that blogging allows users instant connection, because while it might, it isn’t why a writer becomes a blogger. A writer becomes a blogger because she wants to be heard, and because she wants to be “popular.” Sorapure, a blog researcher, concludes that the β€œselves” that blogs produce are directed to other readers, and so they are not like diary selves” (Rak 3). For this reason, only those willing to put time and effort into creating a successful site and into building an audience should begin a blog.

So, the blogger who makes her private life public isn’t writing for herself, she is writing for validation. As her audience grows, she becomes more confident that her life is intriguing. And her narcissism grows, swallowing her whole. She shares the same fate as Seymour Krelbourn, the looser who discovers an exotic plant that thrives off of blood, in the Broadway musical, The Little Shop of Horrors. First, he feeds it his own blood, and the plant grows. As a blogger feeds her audience pieces of herself she thinks they will want to hear, and her daily hits grow. Then Seymore feeds the plant his worst enemy, the man who stole his girl, and the plant grows famously large. So do bloggers become competitive with each other, wanting a bloody show to draw a crowd? Striving for a voice louder than the millions of other bloggers in the “electronic wilderness” can cause some bloggers to do irresponsible things. I feel that even though the blogosphere can be “man-eating,” it appeals to the Modernist. He is an individual, and autonomy is vital to existence. So while the there is a superficial sense of community, his real goal is to showcase his intellect and cleverness, as well as to win the approval of others.

Contrary, sites like MySpace are the perfect home for the Postmodernist. She longs to be plugged into a network, she longs for community, for a “family” who will let her express herself. She doesn’t need to worry about an audience, she can be whoever she wants, and she can absorb the variety of identities she encounters into her own. For those who aren’t sure what MySpace is, the article “MySpace: Design Anarchy That Works,” “the site is MySpace, a social-networking space where people connect with their friends and make new ones as they share their interests and personalities through the blogs, photos, comments, video, and audio they post” (“MySpace: Design Anarchy That Works.”). In contrast to the individualistic nature of Modernity and the Blogosphere, “postmodern consciousness focuses on the group. Postmodernists live in self-contained social groups, each of which has its own language, beliefs, and values” (Grenz 15). While MySpace itself is its own social group, within MySpace an user has a “friend list,” and can create her own groups and invite her own friends to join. To Postmodernists, “nothing has meaning in itself [but] meaning stems from relationships” (Berger ix). On a blog, few to no relationships are usually created; it is no wonder the postmodernist would get bored with a blog. On MySpace, people are finding one another everyday. Old friends from elementary school, summer flings, friend of a friend, new people are being added to one another’s lists everyday. As her friends list grows, she is immersed in growing diversity, and finds beauty in it.

Postmodern thought believes community shapes self identity. One’s self identity cannot help resist soaking up the endless variety of lifestyle choices. An identity can even blend and mix categories and genres modernity would never have conceived. Postmodernism reject that an individual can remain autonomous with a unitary identity. On MySpace, users are encouraged to create a profile that reflects who their personality. “MySpace permits users to do almost anything to the look of their profile pages, and the prevailing aesthetic is decidedly “more is more”: more color, more animation, more typefaces, more sound, more of everything makes a better profile page” (“MySpace: Design Anarchy That Works”). If she felt like it, a user could rebuild her profile everyday. In fact, “the system allows users to do almost anything to the look of their pages, whether it’s a good idea or not. Regardless of its aesthetic consequences, this customizability is one of the site’s most attractive features, and the do-it-yourself sensibility of the site resonates with the audience’s desire for self-expression” (“MySpace: Design Anarchy That Works”). A user’s identity becomes malleable: bending, melting, forming, and shifting from one stage of life to another, from one hair color to another, from one meaningful song to another, from one catchy “headline” to another. And as more friends are added to her “friends list,” more potential identities soak into hers. We are following Friedrich Nietzsche’s advice to “become the artists of our own experience, investing a word suited to our being” (Grenz 95).

If I were a faithful blogger, I would feel weighed down by the obligation it takes maintain an interesting blog, and the pressure to keep my audience faithful. But I do think that Blogs are valuable. Keeping in Postmodern thought, they encourage readers to determine their own truth. Also, though their voices may can become muddled, everyone has the opportunity to use their blog for their own purpose. Though to me many appear narcissistic, and reflect that we are still a culture in love with ourselves, I don’t want to discourage personal blogs. In fact, if I am going to maintain this blog, that might be the direction I would take, just because my life is what I know best. However, I feel that MySpace is a better home because, though there are just as many voices, they aren’t competing; they are connecting to one another. And though the concept of self is just as vital an issue, it isn’t self promotion: it is self discovery. While one’s identity is always changing inside the online community, it is a piece of the whole picture. “Just as bits and pieces make up a collage, so do our lives, postmodernists argue, reflect this fragmentation that has taken place in the postmodern world” (Berger 5). A collage is a celebration of diversity, and art that visually represents that while we are different, we still create a family, and have a voice that is worthy to be heard.

Work Cited

Berger, Arthur. The Portable Postmodernist. Walnut Creek: AltaMira Press, 2003.

Blood, Rebecca. The WeBLOG Handbook. Cambridge: Perseus Publishing, 2002.

Grens, Stanley. A Primer on Postmodernism. 1 ed. Grand Rapids: William B.

“MySpace: Design Anarchy That Works.” Business Week Online 01 May 2006 04 May

2006 <http://www.Business Week Online>.

Rak, Julie. “THE DIGITAL QUEER: WEBLOGS AND INTERNET IDENTITY.”

Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly 28(2005): 3.

[rockyou 23197664]

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Comments

  1. * oqm(iv) says:

    Tobi,

    Very insightful essay. I like the liberties you took, and incorporating the slideshow makes you the most daring writer of the semester. Nice use of the available technology. It’s nice to see at least one student push the limits of the essay in the 21st century.

    Well done, but that’s become a cliche with you, I fear. πŸ™‚

    Best wishes for the future,

    ~oqm(iv)

    | Reply Posted 11 years, 4 months ago
  2. * oqm(iv) says:

    Paper Grade: A

    | Reply Posted 11 years, 4 months ago
  3. * Tom says:

    Interesting Post and something I am struggling with. I recently started a collaborative blog about my home town in order to build a sense of community. Now people are bugging me to “get the hits.” One reason they are doing this is somewhat nice, they want me to be able to “turn pro” and make some extra income off of the work I am doing, but I have concerns about where the original goal will go if that happens. Thanks for the essay!

    | Reply Posted 11 years, 4 months ago
  4. * freevolition says:

    Very interesting and thought-provoking read. I accidentally hit the ‘go to random blog’ button and was instantly transported here. At first I was taken back for a moment until I realized what I must have done, and then I began to read.
    I do not know for certain if this was a writing assignment, but if I were the instructor I would undoubtedly give it an ‘A’.

    | Reply Posted 10 years, 11 months ago
  5. * freevolition says:

    I do wish wordpress would offer an ‘edit’ feature for comments. I meant to say ‘taken aback’. Oops!

    | Reply Posted 10 years, 11 months ago
  6. * kayo says:

    Kayo says : I absolutely agree with this !

    | Reply Posted 9 years, 3 months ago
  7. * Chair says:

    Somehow i missed the point. Probably lost in translation πŸ™‚ Anyway … nice blog to visit.

    cheers, Chair!!!

    | Reply Posted 9 years, 3 months ago
  8. Great idea, name, and post. I also think this is the best format you’ve ever had. Very clean. Come on http://tropaadet.dk/kristensnow82781081845

    | Reply Posted 1 year, 5 months ago


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