Sad events tend to make me turn introspective.
More introspective than I already am, that is.
We grieve, and we try to make sense of the senseless. The questions start to pile up: Did this have to happen? Could this happen to me? Is there a lesson I’m supposed to learn from this?
When others suffer misfortune, we are called upon to comfort, to be there to listen. We’re supposed to keep ourselves out of it. After all, it’s about them, not about us.
Except that it is about us. It’s about our relationship with the ones suffering the loss. And it’s about how what happened causes us to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Misfortune ridicules the faux importance of the minutiae of our everyday lives and tends to help us obtain a clearer idea of where we’ve been and where we’re going. For once, we get to ignore the trees and see the whole forest. What’s the meaning of it all?
Here in the blogosphere, we enjoy opportunities to share both laughter and tears with fellow writers whom we have come to know and love. Indeed, it is this sense of community more than anything else that has kept me reading and writing on WordPress.com.
I have yet to meet any of my bloggy friends in person. And yet I feel that I know them better than some people I have known offline for years. Sure, the anonymity and distance between the writer and the reader of online blogs makes it easier to divulge details of our personal lives that might be difficult to discuss with someone who we had to look in the eye. This draws us closer to our fellow bloggers than we would ever likely become in person.
Most of us long for deep, abiding connections with others, connections that we often miss due to societal taboos as well as the personal and cultural roadblocks that all of us erect on the highway that is our lives. “Don’t talk to strangers” is one of the first rules we learn as children. It’s just too dangerous. Others will hurt you if you let them. Don’t wear your heart on your sleeve or it’ll just be broken. I think of my elderly parents, who have learned to use the internet as a tool, but still try to keep it at arm’s length. To them, it’s not “real,” just letters and words on a screen. People are fakers who can pretend to be anything.
I get it that we can’t throw caution to the winds. There will always be “bad” people online just as there are offline. Those with malicious intent or a desire to misrepresent themselves can certainly use the internet as a means of doing so. But that doesn’t give us license to dismiss the entire medium as duplicitous or illusory. To me, the bloggers I follow have become family.
And so today I was saddened to learn that one of my favorite bloggers has deleted his blog. Simply picked up his marbles and went home. I felt a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach when I clicked on his goodbye post and received the message “(Blog name) is no longer available. The authors have deleted this site.”
Some of you may know to whom I refer. He was a popular blogger whose work helped to give me a sense of what our electronic community is all about and what sorts of things are possible on here. In the early days of my blog, I paid close attention to those of his posts that referred to the hazards of blogging and how difficult it can be to strike a balance between one’s public and private personae.
As I started out saying, this sad event (like any loss) makes me introspective. When a popular blogger who has been working at this for a hell of a lot longer than I have makes a decision to simply vanish, I feel compelled to take a step back and ask myself what exactly I’m trying to accomplish here. For that manner, what does any blog hope to achieve?
We blog for many different reasons. Blogs may be a method of doing business, a gallery for displaying photographs, a travelogue, a forum for political debate, a poetry slam, a cooking school. Or an intimate journal.
But all of these reasons come down to one lowest common denominator: We want to share a little piece of ourselves. And no, we don’t want to talk to the wall. We want to be heard and we want feedback. We go to bed praying for “likes” and wake up with squeals of delight to find we have comments, reblogs, new readers and followers. We want to start a discussion, an argument, a dialogue, a movement, a revolution. We want to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. We want to break out of our little worlds. We want to make a meaningful connection with others.
My WordPress.com Reader brings widely scattered friends into my living room for a chat on a daily basis. Pull up a chair and have a cup of tea, dear ones. There’s one mother who has been feeling depressed and another who is dealing with her husband’s infidelity. There’s the divorced one, the one coping with a sick child, the talented artist, the cancer survivor, the published author. There’s a French teenager who manages to crack me up in two languages from the other side of the world. There’s even a cat and a dog that I follow.
All of these and many more have become valued members of my online family. For, in the end, that’s what we are, isn’t it? One big, noisy, crazy, delightful, loving, extended family.
And the loss of any member of that family leaves a gaping hole that diminishes us all.