Blogging is one of the twentieth-first century’s major inventions. It allows us to express opinions, to share common interests with people all over the world, and to refine our writing technique. It gives the established author a forum to dialogue with readers; agents use it to hook new clients, and for novice writers blogging can be a way to display their work or to kvetch about the apprenticeship’s pitfalls and woes. But as it happens with everything on the net, blogging forces you into the public light which has its dangers.
Several governments are creating policies to restrict blogs that, according to them, promote “social unrest. Since “social unrest” has a very broad meaning, we could all be guilty of such crime. The term already shows us how blogging could easily turn into a high-risk sport.
Recently, a friend of mine told me about her fears of blogging on the subject of an incident involving an agent she was hoping would represent her. Suddenly, I realized that a blog entry could be as risky as posting a compromising photo on Facebook. Anybody could read you: the FBI, your boss, a former boyfriend or your mother-in-law. Anybody could misinterpret your opinions and distort your public image. Blogging unwisely might shorten your chances of getting published or getting a job or might help you lose the one you already have.
Aside from collaborating with the Sisterhood, I own a personal blog and manage a professional blog at work. The three of them deal with different subjects, nonetheless I always use a pseudonym and even in my private blog, I seldom give my e-mail to people. So much secrecy could limit your attempts to expand your social network but in the long run it‘s for the best.
It´s every blogger’s goal to gather a large audience and plenty of comments, but sometimes we draw in the wrong type of visitors. Remember, trolls abound in the Internet. Of course, the blogger has the power to veto them, but what happens when regular and friendly followers become trolls? It could happen. Hear this story. A friend of mine started a personal blog that eventually took a political stand. She called herself a “social observer” and started to treat her blog as a column to discuss current events.
In time, she collected a circle of faithful retainers with whom she debated at a personal level, certain they shared her same views. But one day, she wrote a post that bothered several of them. Something hit the fan, the debate heated up and turned rude, reaching the point where my friend received remarks that amounted to racial slurs. It was an eye-opener for her to know that people she had grown fond off were, in fact, hostile strangers.
Even anonymity has its drawbacks. Many a time, I have been taunted by users who accuse me of cowardice because I hide behind a nick. Whatever! But another friend in her incognito efforts had a bizarre experience. Not only did she blog under a pseudonym, she made an avatar using a snapshot of a character in a well-known soap. Then she met a fellow blogger who started to come frequently to her place. In a nutshell, they became friends, and he began to court her. She was very flattered by the courtship until she realized he had fallen in love with her avatar assuming it was the blogger’s real likeness!
Finally, a word of caution to authors. Beware of growing too chummy with readers that flock to you blogs. We are all very protective and sensitive of our work, so, let´s keep off harm´s way. I know of agents who had been harassed by disgruntled clients; authors’ followers who pester them with requests, and novice writers hurt to no end by biting comments about their manuscripts.
Oh yes, you can block them, but even reading nasty comments is a hassle you don’t wish to endure. I was tickled pink to have a published Argentine writer reading my blog, but I made one thoughtless comment in Facebook, and he departed for friendlier meadows not to be heard from again. That incident forced me to understand that there should be a certain distance between readers and their favorite author, just to keep the balance.
Finally, I came across an article that alerted me of another blogging hazard, one that affects writers in particular. In blogging you might lose, rather than gain, writing skills. Proper language and style are bypassed in favor of quick, brief, witty exchange, pretty much like it´s happening in Twitter. You don´t want to be pedantic, you don´t want to write over the heads of potential followers so you lower your writing standards. Ouch! I never thought of that danger.
I want to hear your opinions, bloggers and readers. In which ways do you think blogging could help your writing careers and in which ways being a blogger could jeopardize your work as well as your mental peace?