Wednesday, February 25, 2015
One of the assigned readings for this week, "Maneki Neko," is a short story by Bruce Sterling. The link to the story in the syllabus was broken but should work now. I figured you would enjoy the change of pace reading about ideas in the form of fiction (we've had a lyric/spoken word performance, there's another story and a film in coming weeks for you to look forward to, among other things), so do be sure to read it. Like so much Bruce Sterling it's got a satirical edge and a serious mission, so you'll have to decide for yourselves how to take it.
Friday, February 13, 2015
I want to talk about how blogging makes me anxious in the hope that once I share it with you, I might be able to post more blog entries… In this sense, I am embracing the journaling aspect of blogging to talk about my personal experience.
When I talk about blogging, I am also including all kinds of “sharing" on internet, I am not only talking about posting an article on a blogging website like this one, but I am expanding this idea to sharing links on twitter, writing and sharing publicly on Facebook etc.
Blogging makes me anxious, EXTREMELY anxious. And I have been ruminating on this feeling for days and here is my attempt to articulate what I think I understand:
As much as I enjoy reading what other people write on internet, it puts more and more pressure on me to respond, engage and contribute in the same way as they do, which is not an easy thing to do.
In the past, when something happened in the world, I would discuss it comfortably with my family, my friends and closer circles; we would debate privately and make up our minds about it. But today, even those closest friends are posting publicly on internet, “Oh by the way, I posted an article about that event, check it out”, asking me to also react and respond publicly as if it were the most natural thing to do. This shift from the private to the public realm is not automatic and trivial to me, and there is still a part of me that says: “why should I be talking publicly to strangers? Who said I like it and need it as much as other people do? I never asked for it.”
In that sense, the sentence from “The nihilist impulse” that says “We could say that blogs are a gift to human kind no one needs” made me smile.
I feel this pressure even more on platforms like Facebook. As soon as an event breaks out, people start immediately posting and sharing links about it. I wonder when and how they found the time to digest the event, figure out what is true, what is biased or not and how they can boldly make a statement with their posts in less than five seconds.
For me, this supposedly unconditional need to make oneself heard, is pure peer pressure and a desire to blend in and be part of the game (whatever that game is). Today, since everybody is always saying something, the fact that you don’t, tells things about you, or more precisely, people start making assumptions about you. So in this world of blogging, even if you want to keep your thoughts private for many reasons, or even for a while until you figure out the complexity of that which you are thinking of, you are no longer allowed to. We live in a world where emotional simplicity is preferred over intellectual thinking. We are asked to respond immediately and publicly on things, we are asked to pick sides and stand up for matters that are far more complex than we suspect. I think that this is one of the reasons why blogs become “echo-chambers that police conformity” (like we discussed in class). When I finally made up my mind about something, it becomes even harder to make it public because of this ongoing conformity and just because people loose interest very quickly and move on to a different scandal. And this, makes me anxious.
Last but not least, as outrageous as it may seem, I think that my anxiety comes from the fact that I grew up in a country with a dictatorial regime, where censorship and the surveillance of individuals was a common practice. I have seen what a government is capable of, from kidnapping, fake trials and prosecutions, torture and the use of psychiatric asylums, in order to silence ideas and opinions. Words do have consequences that can extend not only to the individual but the people you care about. Even if I am no longer living in an openly recognized dictatorship, I remain suspicious of how your own words can be used against you at any given moment of your lifetime, either by governments or professional entities and institutions, and I am not sure that everybody is aware of the risk that can be involved in that. Having said that, even if I despise those who blindly and naively say whatever crosses their minds as if they were in the privacy of their homes, I highly admire those who make bold and inspiring statements while fully aware of all the possible outcomes, and those are the people I look up to.
Some people might probably think I am just being a coward. But I do believe that not everybody is born with innate super powers that allow them to transition from private to public, to articulate a social political and religious statement in 5 seconds and feel invincible at all times.
So, am I the only one having blogging anxiety?