yesterday

Teenage Blogging
[subtitle added after posting for search purposes]
I’m sitting at my computer in the HOBY t-shirt that I got yesterday as one of the gifts to the panelists at the seminar.
I can’t remember when I’ve been so wound up and tired at the same time that I can’t get to sleep. So, yesterday evening, I played cards with my mom, watched the tape I made of Smallville’s finale (Yup. I watch Smallville. Everwood, too. Something about never letting go of my inner teenager.) I remember having private drool over Tom Welling (Smallville’s Clark Kent) when he appeared on Judging Amy as a yoga instructor that Amy had a fling with.
Is this starting to sound like a teenage girl’s blog? (I’m so easily influenced!)
After the blogging panel part of yesterday’s program, each of us three panelists (SUNY Journalism Professor William Rainbolt, an HR person whose name and company I didn’t write down so I can’t remember and her name isn’t in the program, and me) sat down with a randomly selected group of the kids to chat.
I thought it was interesting that only a handful of the fifty or so kids in my group had a blog, and they were mostly girls. Before yesterday, I did a little Googling and found out that, a couple of years ago,
The average blogger is a teenage girl who posts every two weeks to update her friends on her life. Two years in blogtime makes a big difference, though, and I’m sure that the average has shifted. If anyone has stats on that, I’d love to know.
As you might expect, this was an energetic and lively bunch of kids — for the most part. I couldn’t help notice a few, though, who looked familiar — that holding-back and mildly defiant stare — the bright rim-walkers who sit in the back, watch, ingest, process, and somehow find their own way around the hypocrisy of systems. They weren’t the bloggers. At least not yet.
The questions the kids asked were not terribly insightful — but hey, future leaders or not, they’re still tenth graders. They asked me to elaborate about b!X’s current brouhaha (which I had mentioned earlier), about why I blog, how long etc. They seemed to be most interested in how personal they should get on their blogs. I shared with them many of the quotes from the comments I got about the guidelines various bloggers I know use for themselves. I also cautioned them about blogging information that predators can use to track them down. And I reminded them never to assume that they can hide behind anonymity. Everything on the Internet is public and can be tracked down by the persistent. I also recommended the various weblog handbooks in which Shelley Powers, Rebecca Blood, and Meg Hourihan contributed. I should have also told them to ask their school librarians to stock them if they haven’t already.
One young woman asked if I use music in my weblog. Admitting to being an absolute non-techie, I responded that I’m a “word” person, a writer, and I never bothered to learn how to import music because I don’t want to distract from my writing. I also told them all that I know about “audio blogging,” which is that it exists.
They asked me how “public” I am about who I am. I replied, as you might expect, that I didn’t worry about anyone out there wanting to harass a “little old retired grandma raising hell at the keyboard” — and that I am a performer at heart, and these days my blog is my one-woman-show. But they need to be a lot more careful because they are in a much more vulnerable position.
Finally, I stressed that blogging is an extension of one’s life — they should blog the way, I would hope, they live — with compassion for others, with respect for the privacy of others. What I wish I had thought to say is that rather than attack individuals and their behaviors (except, of course, if they’re public figures) phrase what you want to say in the form of questions. Question the validity of behaviors, comment on the effects of certain behaviors. The point will get through without naming names or crucifying with specifics.
When they ran out of questions, I just shared my blogging experiences — how my blog gives me an identity, a place to be creative, a way to meet kindred spirits (I tend to interact mostly with bloggers who identify themselves as real people with names, locations, and histories). I told them that I usually write a draft of what I’m going to post before I post it so that I can make sure it’s what I really want to say and check for typos, etc. Usually, but not always. And when I don’t, I’m usually sorry I didn’t.
Finally, I urged them — if they want to make a difference in their communities, change their little pieces of the world, become a voice for the causes they espouse — to try blogging. And I told them to check out theonetruebix.

7 thoughts on “yesterday

  1. Yeah, about making a difference. I don’t know how much difference it makes, but I have contributed financially to some things (drought relief in Africa, greyhounds, family in distress) that I wouldn’t even have heard of had it not been for the blogging thing/internet.
    My own pieces are directed at humor, not causes. Though I manage to stick a jab here a there. But I think people who get into causes at least have a chance to make a difference, and that’s a good aim for some people.

  2. I believe those kids went away with a sense of blogging’s rewards and responsibilities, to say nothing of a sense of admiration for this woman who came to talk with them and dealt with them as human beings with brains and an importance in the world. Good for you. That’s the joy of teaching, isn’t it: knowing you’ve made a difference inside those who’ve had the experience of you. Brava.

  3. I went searching for your page today after hearing you speak on Friday. I was one of the adult staffers and, actually, the one who proposed having a panel on blogging. My group (who didn’t get a speaker after the panel, as it worked out) was split on blogging: about half felt it was their first amendment right to write whatever they pleased, and the other half simply couldn’t understand why anyone would want to post their lives online, and why anyone else would want to read it. A blogger myself (I’m on LiveJournal and recently went completely “friends-only” so as not to worry about potential employers digging it up), it was interesting to hear their perspectives.
    I just wanted to say hi. I’m thinking about starting up a public blog that deals more with generic social commentary rather than my personal life. I blog for therapy on LJ – I’d kind of like to blog for fun publicly, too. Blogsisters might just inspire me to actually DO it. 🙂

  4. Thanks for leaving your comment, Jen. It was hard to tell whether the students were interested in blogging or not, but it was a good idea to have it on the program to make them aware. Blogging enables grass roots, democratic discussion and, eventually, action. I think it’s going to become a bigger part of the political scene, thanks to Howard Dean’s use of the medium.
    I’m wondering what the kids had to say afterward — if anything.
    If you start a public blog, let me know. Otherwise, Blogsisters is a good place to blog publicly.

  5. Whew! Congratulations, Elaine! Now, that wasn’t so tough, was it? Lol… I can just see you in front of a class. The world would be a much better place with you in the frame, imparting your wisdom and life experiences, one on one … or, one in front of thirty.
    You are the One True Blogger that got me started blogging: “Just DO it!” she said.
    Simple.

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