Thursday, May 15, 2008

Do We Blog to Get Attention?

I can be a real cynic.

Campaign slogans do more to repel me and encourage scrutiny than they do rally me. A mob jumping on a bandwagon raises my hackles to an irrational level of avoidance. Family and friends constantly ridicule my hatred of Independence Day (a movie I liked when I saw it on opening night, and hated by the end of that summer, after everyone else had). This same inclination keeps me watchful of organized religion, social movements, and other cultural "phenomenon" in general, that I suspect many can just enjoy for the harmless ride (C'mon, at least one of you reading has done The Macarena, right?).

So often times, I have a hard time explaining - to those who know me well enough to have experienced this quirk in me - why I want so much to see a movement sweep the nation, and reclaim our institutions of people powered politics. Why do I not have the same reservations about such a collective experience as a grassroots uprising as I do dedicated fans of American Idol?

I don't know for sure, but when I read things like this, I think it must be close to an explanation:

Dave Neiwert and I were talking yesterday about the need for an AA for bloggers, because you get sucked in to the constant stream of information and research and debate. And the next thing you know, you've lost several hours on the computer or with your nose in a book or magazine. My suggestion was that there needed to be a further chapter of Blog-Anon for family members of bloggers who need to vent about their computer-addled spouses. The worst part is that sometimes it feels like no matter how much time you put in, how many hours of research, how much discussion or calls or...well, it just feels like you are running in place in quicksand some days.

And then I got an e-mail from a reader with a link to this YouTube, and I wanted to work even more. You'll see what I mean when you watch it.

In case anyone is wondering, this is how we get more and better Democrats -- better educated voters, found and nurtured one at a time, registered and ready to vote. People who, through the magic of human contact and a spark of inspiration from talking to someone else who is willing to put themselves on the line for a cause greater than themselves, also see the possibilities in a collective push to make things better.
There is nothing superior in my tone. I'm just admitting a difference I feel between myself and a good chunk of my own generation. And perhaps bandwagons, in and of themselves, are not evil. Perhaps the mob isn't always out to squelch dissent. And perhaps the distinctions we must make between lazy acceptance of our leaders - excused away by our individuality in a sea of individuals - and over zealous quests for influence is simply to question the intended result.

In being mutually cohesive with one and other, are we in search of like minds to justify our weaknesses, or are we banding together, as this brilliant woman writes, in a "collective push to make things better?" Do we do "things" to get "things," or do we follow what we feel is right? Do I blog to get attention, or do I want to make a difference? Maybe all of the above? I think all of this is worth a pause, now and then, to ask.

Don't get me wrong, I read Harry Potter and liked it, and I tap my foot every time I hear my boy JT singing "Sexyback," just like anyone else (with rhythm in their soul, that is, cause dammit, it had a beat), but that cannot, possible, be enough.

No offense, Justin.


  1. Really, you want to walk away from that post in defense of Timberlake?

    This IS America, after all, so I won't say that you dont have the right to do it, but ...

    Really, that's how you wanted to walk away from this post? THAT'S the gauntlet you throw down? I think I'm going to have to squeeze your cheeks and go "Oh, so cute, cute, cute," the next time I see you.

  2. The Interweb has certainly bred a large number of attention whores and there will always be those who intentionally seek validation from the echo chamber. Their popularity, however, is fleeting; sooner or later, they will misjudge what the audience wants to hear and be replaced with the next individual who preaches to the choir.

    Those who stand the test of time are those who pay little attention to their audience when it comes to creating and selecting content. That produces an individual style that attracts and retains long-term readership. This isn't to say you can entirely ignore or insult your readership (I think only Maddox can get away with that last one), but trying too hard to please them is a not a sustainable strategy.

    When you write what you think is relevant instead of what you think readers want to see, you'll attract those who agree with you and won't be driven away when they find points of contention. That's my $0.02.

  3. Jesse, I'd say your 2 cents are probably invaluable as advice.

    And JM, which cheeks?

  4. Considering the whole "SideTrack TimberlakeGate", I can see why you'd feel compelled to ask that question.