Monday, August 14, 2006

On Blogging and Connectivity

I realize that I spend a great deal of my time either thinking about blogging, talking about blogging, or actually writing on my blogs. I am a great proponent of the medium, have now appeared in at least one article about nurse bloggers, and participate in two ongoing and regular blog carnivals which gather together the "best" of the bloggers in the medical, nursing, and allied health fields.

In the mainstream media, "blogger" or "bloggers" are generally lumped into one category---the political blogger---that pesky nuisance (or brilliant iconoclast, depending upon your opinion on the matter, of course) who breaks a story faster than ABC and makes Dan Rather look like a dinosaur (an easy task, I know, but still laudable, in essence).

Aside from the political pundits who inhabit the blogsophere, there are countless categories of bloggers filling the Web with what some might call drivel, but which I consider a portal into the lives, loves, longings and interests of millions of souls staring at a screen, fingers typing with intention. While some blogs which detail the ins and outs of rechargeable batteries may not be my cup of tea, the fact that an individual feels strongly enough about those batteries to publish his or her thoughts about them and share them with the world is, by nature (at least in my mind) a worthwhile task. Whereas some might postulate that the "battery blogger" needs to get a life, perhaps his life includes time devoted to filling one small mini-hectare of cyberspace with his opinion on the merits of various batteries. Is this in itself bad or good, productive or not? The person shopping for the ultimate rechargeable battery would certainly be grateful for the information on offer.

Strolling through any blog search engine will reveal that there are many, many people with something to say. The worth of those words and pictures are completely subjective, but the sense of connection and community which these communications can foster is certainly worthy of exploration. I'm interested to see what scholarly and popular tomes are written (on real paper) in the near future, examining the effect of blogs on culture, social connectivity, and the dissemination of information and opinion on a global basis, be it about batteries or Babar.

To some, sitting in front of a computer to "connect"with others might seem somewhat of a conundrum. Why not meet like-minded others in a cafe? A bar? A local gym? A meeting or club? Yes, all of the these are distinct possibilities, yet meeting people these days and forming friendships can be a slow and painstaking process, especially as life has taken on a propulsive velocity that precludes the practice of sitting in the town square and watching the people go by as we chat with neighbors and friends, making new friends and acquaintances in the process. The fact of the matter is that meeting for lunch, then going out for drinks, then getting one's families together to meet one another, is often a prohibitive experience for many new friends. If one is a parent, the taxiing and ferrying of children to and fro---and the complicated social lives of children---make it even more difficult for working adults to simply spend time over coffee, chatting and deepening friendships the old-fashioned way. For better or for worse (probably for worse), our culture has changed, and this type of easy social discourse is much more difficult to achieve, perhaps even in smaller towns previously untouched by the speed of life in the 21st century.

With blogs can come community, connectivity, and a sense of belonging. Nurse bloggers "meet" on-line and form strong professional and personal bonds. Posting comments on one another's blogs leads to personal email transactions, then telephone conversations, even face-to-face meetings. After a year of blog and email communications, my wife and I actually visited a blog-friend of mine in her hometown and we have begun a friendship built upon the foundation of the multitudinous and deep sharing we have done in the digital realms. The friendship moved from the virtual to the physical plane, and we are richer for it.

Beyond blogs, on-line social networking communities have created even more cohesive groups where individuals find like-minded people and congregate to discuss topics or issues of interest. often leading to "real-time" meetings, even international conferences and the like. Tribe, MySpace, Zaadz, Care2---these sites all carry the promise of connectivity, community, a sense of belonging, and a way to find those who share your interests without standing at a bar, ordering a beer, and asking the person next to you if they happen to like Jean Paul Sartre and would be interested in discussing Nausea with you for an hour or so. Zaadz is where I put my attention, a place dedicated to bringing together people who want to change the world. I also concentrate on the relationships fostered between myself and other bloggers, and the sense of true connection is something only the initiated can truly understand and appreciate.

I am by no means covering all of the aspects of blogging and social connectivity which could be put forth in such a missive. These are simply the late-night ramblings of a dedicated blogger and admitted email addict who sees that much good can come of such predilections, as long as one maintains normal real-world social discourse, takes time to read real paper books, drink coffee unhurriedly with friends at outdoor cafes in dappled sunlight, and delight in the scampering of a puppy pursuing a stick thrown by its owner in the neighborhood park. There is room for connectivity of all kinds in this world, and we all know that too much of any good thing---blogging included---can only myopia make.

So now I will peel my eyes from the screen, pick up my book, pour some tea, and connect with myself through the magic of literature and the fire it lights in my imagination. Meanwhile, millions of bloggers fill the ethers as they share their lives and loves and inspirations, digital tendrils snaking around the world, connections made, severed, reconnected and strengthened. What a tangled web we weave......
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