RuPaul, America’s favorite drag-diva, had a cold last week that left his “poor nose-e-poo” raw. Hillary Duff, teen diva of the nanosecond, is a fan of the triple exclamation!!! And Eliana Johnson ’06, alias “Yale Diva,” thinks Howard Dean is a “bumbling idiot.”
How do I know all of this diva-licious trivia? Why, daahhling, I’ve been blogging.
Short for weblog, the blog is the latest coup d’Internet. These days, minor celebrities, gossips and political aficionados have begun shelving their soap boxes and opening their laptops. The rockstar rant is moving off the stage and onto the blog.
Ever the trendsetters, opinionated Yalies have begun posting their daily thoughts for all Internet traffic to read. Lured by free blog-hosting sites like Xanga.com and LiveJournal.com and fueled by the desire to spread their musings to a wider audience, these Yalies have joined the diverse ranks of RuPaul, Duff and political pundits such as Andrew Sullivan and Nathan Newman.
At Yale, as in the rest of the blogging universe, there exist two breeds of live journal: the politiblog and the daily diary. The former provides an arena outside of the op-ed page for politically aware Yalies to voice their opinions while only sometimes alienating their friends. The latter serves as a sort of social device, an expanded Instant Messenger away message.
“Yale Diva” Johnson spans both spheres. She’s a fashionably aware politiblogger.
After more than two years of reading other people’s blogs on the internet, Johnson launched “Yale Diva: Vast Right Winging It. All the Time.” She said that blogs provide a less regulated forum for her opinions than more traditional media outlets, such as print publications.
In her blog, Johnson pulls chunks from articles in periodicals like the New York Times and then spices things up with her own commentary. She blogs about everything from Dean’s campaign follies to her second love, fashion. An entry titled, “Big Butts are ‘Fresh'” discusses the merits and detractions of a new type of clothing mannequin.
“You can write however long or short you want,” she said. “You don’t have to have an editor, and the stuff goes up just how you have written it.”
Being a blogger, Johnson said, gives her the leeway to cover a wide range of unrelated topics and the chance to express her conservative opinions for a primarily conservative audience.
“I think the people that tend to read blogs have a similar political bent,” Johnson said. “Mostly conservative, but decreasingly so.”
Those students of the daily diary persuasion tend to congregate on Xanga.com’s “Yalie Zone” BlogRing, a community of connected live journals, where Yale students ponder such meaningful issues as: “is it possible for snot to freeze?”
Or: “The potbelly’s back… yay!Ê You dont realizeÊhow much weight you can lose by just walking between classes, especially the way I stupidly scheduled them.”
The Yalie Zone has links to 117 Yalie-run blogs, where, oblivious to issues of privacy, many of the online diaries contain the author’s entire name, school and hobbies. Unlike celebrity bloggers, who are used to performing for a very public audience, ordinary bloggers sometimes grapple with issues of unwanted publicity. The very phrase “online diary” is paradoxical, blurring the line between private and public.
Tiffany Wan ’07 keeps a blog on Xanga.com, recording her daily life at Yale and at home.
“Basically I figured that keeping a journal on the Internet where I can type things takes less energy than writing things down,” she said. “But I came to realize that I don’t write personal things on my online journal.”
A sophomore in Timothy Dwight College who keeps a blog said that she also tries to stear clear of posting personal information or thoughts because of the “drama” that it can create.
But however cautious a blogger may be, unsolicited readers will inevitably find out about the site.
Josh Eidelson ’06 said that both his rabbi and his parents discovered his blog. Now, he said, his parents use the blog to keep up with life in New Haven.
A politiblogger, Eidelson confines his online writing to political issues, rather than his everyday life. But as a politically active student on campus, Eidelson cautioned that many politibloggers fall into the trap of mistaking them for vehicles of change, rather than as modes of personal expression.
“I think that a political conversation is worthwhile wherever it starts, and what’s important is that it continues beyond that space,” he said.
The Yale unions, who keep a blog at www.YaleInsider.org, have certainly carried that political conversation beyond their website. During the strike, Antony Dugdale, Webmaster and research analyst for Local 34, said the site fielded around 1,000 hits a day.
Although The Yale Insider is called a blog, the fact that it represents an organization rather than an individual makes this live journal an unusual case. Updated daily, the Insider focuses on Yale University and Yale-New Haven Hospital and covers issues pertaining to the unions’ goals. Dugdale said the site serves as a sort of “filter” on the media, pulling and then commenting on relevant articles.
“I’ve been impressed by how blogs have really held the media accountable,” Dugdale said. “And also [by the way they give] the behind the scenes explanation that usually only insiders would get.”
Perhaps it is this sense of intimacy that makes blog reading and writing, like gossip, so addictive. Most Yale bloggers said they began by reading other blogs and continue to do so on a regular basis. Whether your interests lie in politics, or you’d simply like a little entertainment a la RuPaul, there are blogs waiting to suck you into their little world.
And this reporter’s blog can certainly use the extra hits.