Monday, November 07, 2011

The Intimacy and the Cost of Blogging

They say radio is the most intimate of all types of media.

If you listen to a lot of talk radio (NPR junkies represent) as I do, I suspect you know on a personal level what that means. Distinctive voices heard day after day from the clock radio alarm, during commutes, while cooking supper, lulling a listener to sleep. Somehow, those voices begin to take on meaning in our lives...they become good, comfortable friends like no television personality can.

If you're an NPR listener and traveling, "home" is as close as your nearest radio dial where Steve Inskeep, Renee Montagne, Carl Kassell, Robert Siegel, Scott Simon, Nina Totenberg, Ira Glass, Tom and Ray the tap-it brothers, Garrison Keillor (and so many many others) live. It can be so very comforting.

I'll admit. I cried the day Daniel Schorr died.

Radio personalities have a way of connecting with listeners in such a way as to almost seem as though they're having a one-on-one conversation with each and every one of us. Good radio personalities are consummate storytellers, reminiscent of a long ago time when the only kind of story was an oral history passed down through the generations by weaving words into luxurious fabric in which to wrap rapt listeners.

But there are other voices, other storytellers, making a personal mark that rivals radio in an even more deeply personal way.

They (we) are personal bloggers.

I come to you, ready to get cozy with you over a glass of wine, with this tonight because one of my favorite bloggers, Kris over at Not a Girl, Not Yet a Wino, has re-emerged after a lengthy blog hiatus.

I'd been following Kris for quite some time when she just...petered out with little explanation. And I was sad because Kris had become a sort of "friend" to me...someone I'd like to hug if ever given an appropriate chance. She had such a strong, clear voice and so many of her trials, tribulations, and triumphs she wrote about resonated with me that I truly considered her someone noteworthy in my life.

I know. That probably sounds weird and vaguely bordering on restraining order time.

But anyone who reads a lot of personal blogs and who, likely, blogs themselves totally gets that, right?

We connect with each other. That's why we read. That's why we write, right?

So when Kris magically appeared after having been largely absent for over a year, I was ecstatic! And she even said she was back so I've got actual hope that we'll hear from her more frequently than, say, every 6 months.

But that's got me pondering...

Do we, as bloggers, have any obligation to our Lovely Readers? What happens when life or writer's block or boredom gets in the way and we suddenly find ourselves unable to produce any kind of publishable content? Do we owe readers an explanation? Would we give a dear friend an explanation if we were getting ready to plunge into the depths of the no-contact abyss for months at a time? Is it the same thing?

There was another blogger, Cream, I followed for about a year. I'd link to it here but it's no longer available for public eyes. I found this blogger in the "Life Blogs" directory at BlogHer when I first joined the site. Over several months, I, more and more, looked forward to her posts. Not exactly because they were well-written - even though they were - but because her STORY was so compelling I couldn't stop reading. Religion, job/soul searching, and her attempts to find the ever elusive love were common threads throughout. She was able to convey all of these things in such a heart-wrenchingly honest way that, I confess, I was addicted to her story - not unlike how people get addicted to soap operas.

Her last posts became focused on a man. A man she'd fallen in love with and a man who, purportedly, loved her...he was married. There were probably ten or so posts about him. And then, out of the blue, she posted one last public entry to state that, because of the tenuous marriage situation, she'd no longer be posting publicly.



You cannot do this to me!!! Uh...right?

From that moment on, her blog posts - all of them, even the earliest ones that had been public - have become private. I continue to carry her in my blog reader anyway just in case there's a slim chance that, like Kris, she'll reappear and tell me how her story played out.

And, while I thoroughly understand why she locked her blog down as tight as Fort Knox, I'm still left hanging, painfully, waiting for some kind of resolution.

Is that fair?

Is it fair to put yourself way out there (beyond your mom) - and by that I mean go so far as to list yourself in a highly popular public blog directory like BlogHer - and then, just cuz you want to, pull the carpet from underneath dedicated, loving readers?

I understand about oversharing. I really, truly do.

But...what's the line? Do bloggers like Kris, Cream, and [redacted] (who also disappeared shortly after announcing his long anticipated engagement) get to disappear into the mid-day sun without so much as a "screw you"?

We think we're out here, blogging, for ourselves. But! The moment we advertise ourselves and gain a following...whether that following is 10, 100, or 100,000+...we owe something to our readers. Something tremendous. Something well beyond ourselves.

We owe our Lovely Readers a story and, at the very least, a solid resolution.

Don't leave me hanging. If you do? I'll never buy anything you might write.

And I'll recognize your voice. Rest assured.

Think. Care.


NGS said...

I hate it when they leave. They don't owe me anything, of course, but I still hate it.

And I cried the last day of The Bryant Park Project on NPR. That was the best way to do news on the radio.

Just Jane said...

We didn't get Bryant Park in Colorado but I did check it out online a few times. I was awfully sorry to see it go.

Xxx said...

Great post. Found you on BlogHer and following you now.

I feels personal when they leave, like somehow we the readers have done something wrong (not given enough comments, not visited their page enough, not commented on their page design, etc).

I am not sure how I would say goodbye to my readers, but I would never just stop.

Shelly said...

I love this post... (found through BlogHer). I made some life decisions recently that probably disappointed some folks (ok, I know they did because they told me), but nonetheless I had to do what was right for my life. BUT with that said, I can completely understand the idea that as a blog reader we want to know how the story plays out... the good, the bad, the extramarital, and so on. (If a favorite TV show just disappeared midseason, I'd start screaming at the network!) I guess I sit on the fence on this one because as much as my curiosity cannot handle not knowing the end of the story, I know that the story (in the blogging case) is real and someone's real life. Sometimes the hard stuff is just too hard to share with the world. Or my mom.

Just Jane said...

I think, because we don't comment as often as we probably should, we - as bloggers - forget that there are, in fact, people reading and caring who don't know where or how to find us and make sure we're ok.

Just Jane said...

Shelly: You're absolutely right about the story being someone's life. More than resolution, I'd really like to know, at this point, that Cream is OK. I don't need the details.

Also, my first boundary rule when posting to my blog is, "Would I tell my mom this story?" If I can answer yes to that, I know I'm in the clear.

The Onion said...

I am the kind of blog-jerk you are talking about. I have been on somewhat of a hiatus since summer and now feel whiny when I post and almost no one comments (Thanks, Mom!). No one likes a quitter. Flakiness, it's a layer.

Anonymous said...

Welcome to a global audience. You knew you had one already, didn't you? It's not a membership only blog! :p

The blogher site is awfully cluttered.

Angelia Sims said...

I have had so many "friends" that just up and disappeared. I even plagued a few by email, but they were done with the whole blog thing. Such a bummer! I totally feel your pain. And I wonder what happened??

Just Jane said...

Onion: You're awesome!

Anonymous: You are legion. And yes, I knew I had a relatively small global audience.

Angelia: I'm glad you e-mailed them. At least they knew there were people who were listening and cared.

Livvy U. said...

This raises such interesting issues. One of the best things to come out of my few but incredibly loyal readers is that they have kept me writing. Albeit erratically - but every time I stop posting for just that bit too long, one of them will post a comment encouraging me, or asking me how I am, or saying that I popped into their mind - and the effect of that kind of care from a reader is incredibly powerful. It is largely because of my readers that I decided to commit to NaBloPoMo, having had a lengthy time not writing. I love your last line. Thanks for posting, Livvy