Jean Dublog

Monday, November 28, 2005

Personal Business

I'm of the opinion that the nuances of the word "personal" may be undergoing changes as a result of blogging. My ancient American Heritage dictionary says "personal" means "of or pertaining to a particular person; private." OK on the importance of the individual here, but, private? To some people, especially older, personal will always mean private, but increasingly, it seems, the label of "personal" is meant to indicate a kind of stamp of authenticity.

I'm sure most of us have checked out Brett's Nonsense blog. This Nov. 28 blog entry seems incredibly personal -- I admire his candor and style here and in other posts. But is it private? Obviously not, since it's laid bare in the blogosphere. Are we intrigued and entertained then, almost salaciously, because he has chosen to make public details that should be private? Perhaps some are. But I think Nonsense is personal because it looks and feels authentic, a true expression of the soul. The same details buried in an overly written, rationalized account wouldn't feel nearly as personal, or as authentically bloggy. The personal detail of so many personal blogs may obscure the greater importance of authenticity, but it is there.

It's easier to separate the importance of personal detail and an authentic personal voice in other types of blogs, such as Colin's Courant blog. I don't think I need to go into a lot of detail about this, since I agree with nearly everything Dr. Papoulis said on the subject. In fact, I was on the same track myself (I know it's hard to believe) when I painted myself into a corner while trying to be brief and amusing in a response to this Colin post. I do believe that when you promise certain detail ("I'll post them on my blog") you have to deliver. But this kind of detail is generally of little importance, in the end, when blogging about community issues or about esoteric topics or about interesting odds and ends.

So, effective, resonating blogging does not require the airing out of anyone's personal business, but it is without a doubt a matter of executing personal business. As we've stated before in class, bloggers are in the business of self expression and making connections. I maintain the less personal, or authentic, the blogging voice, the more tenuous and fragile are these connections. We all know what corporations, thanks to their advertising dollars, have to say. With their political and media connections, government policymakers' points of view are well known. What we yearn for in the blogosphere is genuine interaction with people who think and feel. It's not a matter of four-letter words, though they may add to certain discussions, or online shouting, but it is a matter of uncensored, from the gut thought and feeling.

The reasons vary, of course. Some may seek validation; others the spirited interactivity of a verbal joust. But if we seek self expression and connection, the more likely we are to fail if we are met with the bland or the impersonal.

So, I'm going to look at the word "personal" a little bit differently from now on. After all, bloggers take it "personally."


  • John, I'm hooked by your observation that the less genuine ('personal') the blog is, the less connective power it has. As a populist venue (so far), one big thing the 'sphere has going for it is mass circulation without the layer of slick. I think that's what's resonating with people.

    By Blogger Pangiuseppe, at 9:04 PM  

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