Sunday, August 05, 2007

How The World Is Really Divided

Not just between the haves and the have-nots; nor the saved and the damned:

The world is divided between the bloggers and the non-bloggers. It's struck me recently how integral this blog is to my life. And only the bloggy types really get it.

I have six best friends: two from high school, three from college, and one from law school. None of them are actually friends with each other: I'm not into cliques or groups, making me wonder what the hell I was thinking last year when I tried to join an International House of Coffee commercial. Or what I was thinking in law school when I had the brilliant idea to co-chair an ethnic student organization. Repeat, constant reader: never again. Anyway, I talk to any of the sextet every week or two (at most, a month goes by), as they're all spread out across the nation and busy in their various professions. (there are best-friends-in-training, e.g. The Roomie and, more equivocally the French Dandy Dude). But really, I have few friends, although I have a handful of acquaintences and nascent friends in Liberal College City.

I hardly see my best friends, and talk to them relatively infrequently compared to my loquacious teenage years (when, for some reason, I had to talk to people 15 minutes after having seen them). I email every few days or weekly with some news, but they occupy a special exalted status as "phone friends," so I'd rather call than write. I disprefer talking on the phone to any but those I truly have a close relationship with and do not feel awkward about calling, so I hide behind the arms-length medium of email with most people (I actually ask new-ish friends if they don't mind that I call them to chat). But after 8-14 years of friendship, it feels more strange to email your closest friends news in a mass email than to pick up the phone and call them (even if that is a more efficient delivery system). So you'd think that they'd keep tabs on me by reading this blog. No, constant reader, you'd be wrong! Only one is a devoted reader. The Best Friend reads sporadically. The rest hardly ever read my blog. They may read on occasion, but once I started writing hard-core law-related posts more frequently, they lost interest. Dude! Just skip the precises and legal academia posts! This blog is still a personal blog, after all.

So it is strange to tell my friends about my blog, and what it's brought me. I really like blogging. It's fun. I stay up late to blog in order to get into people's RSS feeds first thing in the morning, ensuring a captive working professional audience (my biggest crowd, which is cool considering I really am a pajama blogger). Some of my friends wonder why on earth I do this, especially after a long day's work. Because it's worth it, in many ways! It's my way of writing in a decompressing, "fun" way. I like writing for an audience, however small. It's nice to be read, and I have pretty responsive readers and some very devoted ones. I've met some great people through the blog, at least four of whom I consider close friends (again, not yet phone friend status, but that may be due to my insecurity than their feelings for me). I have daily email exchanges with TC and Hipster Law Prof that provide me with great entertainment and support. I'm even beginning to confide and share with these blog friends, and so in my mind, and in my regard for them, I feel the same for TC, HLP, Dynamic Law Prof and The Midwestern Medievalist as I would for any of The Best Friends or The Roomie.

I'll admit, sometimes the blury line between the blog world and the real life world is a discomfiting place to occupy. I'll meet blog friends, and say "oh yes, you like _____, don't you?" and realize I know that because I've been creepily lurking on their blog for years or have spent a week reading 4 years of archives. I don't comment on blogs much--but I like to read them, and I read pretty thoroughly once I've decided that I like a blog. Big group/professional blogs--bah, they don't count. (although I do know a bit more about people, like what Dave Hoffman reads and listens to.) I get just as weirded out when I meet people for the first time and they know all sorts of random things, like the fact that I'm allergic to mustard, or that I have a thing for glasses and what my favorite love poems are. I'm even more over-sharing in my emails, and so I'll start an intense epistolary friendship and then meet my friends for the first time after several months--and oh boy do they know more about me than any of you do. It can make for an awkward first lunch. I mean, they know you well, but you have to shake hands upon greeting because, again--this is the first time you've seen each other's faces. And people always look/sound/act differently than you expected, often in good and surprising ways. But you part with a hug. That's always nice.

Personal blogs are as much a reflection of the blogger as any first-person writing. Even if you write for an audience and cultivate a blog persona (which may be a bit exaggerated or embellised)--essentially, the blog is an extension of the self, like some freakish third hand waving for attention with spirit fingers. I figure, if I like the blog, I like the person, and vice versa. TC knows that this is true, and that my affection for her is at once compulsive and perfectly rational (and why she's called TC).

I feel that same way about my blog: if you don't like reading me, you probably won't like me! If you are weirded out by what you read--well, definitely we should not hang out. I think I am even stranger in person. And I've taken an unscientific poll of my blog friends, and apparently they think I'm weird in a "cute but forgivable" way, and that the inherent weirdness of being long-distance blog friends (explaining how we've "met" or how exactly we conduct our friendship), or me blogging about them (or blogging about other real life people) is part and parcel of being a blogger. I have a hard time separating these two parts of myself--if you are a part of my real life, you inevitably become a part of my blog life too. I have the bare minimum of discretion, but in general, most of my life is fair fodder for the blog. That doesn't mean your life is, but yeah, I may mention you on this blog if I know you. Most are flattered by this, some are weirded out, and I try to leave out those who are weirded out. The Best Friends rarely make it onto this blog. Mostly because they wouldn't read it anyway, and more because our friendships are conducted offline. And there's no drama to blog about (this is why they're The Best Friends). Drama is good blogging material. Too much of it, and I'd probably get into trouble for blogging on it though. Did I mention that I'm down on France right now?

The Roomie was asking me how I navigate that weirdness, and whether or not a new friend reading my blog might be weirded out by something I've written. Too much information too quick and all. There is some element of truth to that. Most social interactions, whether platonic or romantic require an initial stage of suspended disbelief and naivete--the less you know about someone the better. At the initial stage, mere friendliness and superficial interaction are enough to hook you into believing (a belief that may and probably will be disproved) that you've just found someone special. Clickage is key, but clicking doesn't mean much months or years later. But in those first few moments, that's all you want or need, and at that moment, everyone could be your new best friend or the love of your life. Blogs kind of get around this though. You learn, with just a bit of archive combing, whether or not this person really could be someone you could talk to for longer than an hour.

This sounds cynical, but its borne from experience. Most people I meet I get along with well enough for that hour or day or for the length of that academic program. But the fact remains that from twelve years of schooling I only have about ten friends, and six of them are close enough to be sisters. At any point during those twelve years, I probably had a dozen extra people I called "friend." Forget about boyfriends, which numbered even fewer. This is the danger of slipping into "just friends" territory, which most men find themselves in ("no man's land") if they wait too long to act. I find the window of meeting someone you'd think that you'd like to date to be the first 3 weeks of meeting them, before you learn too much about them and become persuaded that they're all wrong for you. Seriously, ignorance is not only bliss, it's what helps the earth repopulate itself. If not for that brief window of blithe ignorance and naive self-deception, the rate of human reproduction would fall.

Blogs cut through all of this. Blogs are extended CVs for professional bloggers; and personal blogs are extremely long and wordy profiles for personal bloggers. If, after reading me and my archives, you still like my weird, poetry and law loving, oversharing self--well you'd probably be a candidate for a friend and maybe then some. And if, after reading you I still like you, well then--we should probably meet! I wish every person I met had a blog, just to make social interaction more efficient. It would probably save me a lot of drama and eventual disappointment. Or maybe, just so that they get why I do what I do. It's not to troll for dates or get new buddies--it's just what I do, it's a part of who I am, and much of myself is in my blog. If I didn't like it I wouldn't do it, and I like what I do. I like my blog. I hope you like it too. And I hope that means you might like me, by extension.

P.S.: personal post today, which means law-related post for Monday for all the professors, lawyers, and government people who read my blog--there is a reason I shove the weirdness to the weekends. I profoundly regret mid-week weirdness for other reasons, but there's nothing to be done about that. Again, get over it if you're weirded out, or stop reading me. And if so, you should probably avoid hanging out with me.