Wednesday, June 06, 2007

the inevitable conclusion

First, a confession: I don't like to read other people's blogs.

For many people, the bookmarks on their browsers (for Mozilla users, the tabs under the search box) are indicative of their priorities and paranoias. For me, the lineup parallels my "real" life mental activities: google and wikipedia (ego), gmail (communication), NYC subway map and weather (forethought), thesaurus (super-ego), thefacebook (belief in other minds), ebay (id), and this blog (self-justification). My homepage is the New York Times (delusional phobia), so that I seem conscientious when I open my computer in public places. None of my tabs, however, are blogs--not even my friends' blogs, which I do usually get around to reading eventually.

Like any buzzword (is "blog" even a buzzword anymore? Writing that phrase makes me feel like a forty-something columnist for Entertainment Weekly), the meaning of the term shifts: Blogs can be rambling diaries with lengthy entries, they can be collective endeavors, they can harp on a single issue or idea, and they can distill information. The only real qualifier for the medium is the need for a loose motif, either topical or tonal (sounds like I'm describing anti-itch creams). At their best, then, blogs present something that is both additive and coherent, offering a unique perspective, an original concept, or a novel way of organizing/filtering others' perspectives and ideas. ERC, of course, did none of these things (but hey, she did post some funny stuff about her family!).

Setting definitions aside, I'll admit that it seems narcissistic to keep a blog without maintaining an interest in others; if the computer is an analogy for the mind, and the browser corresponds to consciousness (the thoughts whose navigation we control), then my blog-solipsism would seem to translate into utter self-absorption--disinterest in the minds of others paired with an obsession with the workings of my own.

The reasons for writing a blog, however, are different from the reasons for reading one. A few months ago, an anonymous Yalie sent me a letter, asking me why I started ERC (i.e., asking me why I would openly expose my idiocy and megalomania to the ridicule of my ever-judgmental classmates and peers). I responded:
"Putting one's writing on the internet, like the construction of any online presence, is a product of two objectives: A localized, medium-specific utility (for example, the use of thefacebook as an address book or means of tracking birthdays) and a desire for self-representation (the use of thefacebook as a means of manipulating words and images to form a coherent portrayal of the self--an avatar, if you will). Depending on how much Freud you've read, you could attribute different purposes to the latter objective.

I suppose I blog for the same reasons. As someone who wishes to become a writer, having a blog is an impetus to practice my craft on a regular basis and a vehicle for me to hammer out the theoretical ideas that plague my academic work. You could argue that I could keep a diary instead, but writing with an awareness of audience is an entirely different animal. And, as with thefacebook, blogging is a means of self-representation. Obviously, the nature and content of my posts--the self-deprecation, the literary theory, the occasional pictures of myself--reveal both my insecurities and the aspects of my character I wish to project to the public..."
This probably seemed like an affected response, but, in retrospect, it's true: I wrote because I wanted to write, and I wanted other people to read what I was writing. It's pretty simple. And, over the course of my year at Yale, I tried to develop a style and a voice. Strains of thought emerged, sputtered, and evolved: theories of artistic and literary pleasure, a preoccupation with defending the value of postmodernism, an aversion to essentialism, and some ideas of ways to encourage people to read (check out this cool website that serializes books--looks like someone out there in internet-land was listening!) and to enjoy art.

So while I don't think ERC deserves a tab on anyone's browser (unless montages are an integral component of the way you perceive the world), I do think it was an educational (for me) and entertaining (for me) tool of procrastination. But now that college has ended, and I've left the Elm City for good, I'll also be leaving this strange little bundle of my neuroses and interests behind, a time capsule of my final year at a place where I learned a great deal.

My friend Adam likes to remind me of the first time we met, at Yale's freshman orientation, when I complained incessantly about having to study poetry to fulfill the requirements for the English major. While the story is embarrassing, having someone--or something--around who reminds you of how you've changed is also affirming, like a yardstick that shows how far you've come, and how much farther you can grow.

And even if that yardstick is a blog that no one reads anymore, it's still there.