Creating a catchy yet meaningful URL for one’s blog must be one of the most popular first-world problems of the day. In fact, the need to establish an online presence has been spreading so quickly there is hardly any young person in Western society who hasn’t come across Tumblr, WordPress, or any other widely known blogging platform.
But while we “tumble” away photographs and spill details of our weekend adventures to our “followers,” we rarely stop to think about the psychological underpinnings of the virtual community our posts perpetuate.
Ultimately, this universal blog culture exists in the form of a fascinating paradox: While enabling each blogger to immortalize his individual history in the borderless online world, it has, at the same time, created a collective online identity which all bloggers — regardless of their location — can relate to.
Before I came to Yale, for instance, I had perused the blogs of some of my future classmates. Their posts about transition and saying goodbye, the value of family and the meaning of education, awoke in me an acute feeling of recognition. So now, when I see any of them on campus, I immediately associate them with a specific feeling — whether enthusiasm or fear — we both shared at a certain point in our lives.
This small, pre-Yale blogging community engendered a very specific kind of togetherness among the people who had the will and opportunity to participate in it. It is important to note, however, that whether or not one was a part of this virtual phenomenon has become largely irrelevant, and rightly so, in the larger context of a real-life Yale social scene.
Whether over something as lasting and significant as college education or as fleeting (but just as significant) as a Gossip Girl episode, bloggers bond and glimpse into each other’s lives whenever a common interest or pursuit connects them. So what one initially envisioned as an intimate post, when released into the blogging heterotopia, can give birth to a virtual yet profound connection. And while I am not saying that each time we find someone whose blog posts indicate interests similar to ours we need to befriend them for life, I do value the brief moments when I realize that someone else is thinking about similar things at a similar time.
It is at this intersection between individuality and universality that contemporary blog culture assumes its true significance. While it is clear that the proliferation of blogs has a lot to do with the omnipresent modern emphasis on self-expression, I think it also has to do with the deeply human need for empathy. In other words, we want to be heard, but we also want to be understood, which renders blogging a jointly selfish and selfless pursuit.
In that vein, it is noteworthy how many people choose to dedicate at least a portion of their blogs to promoting various social causes. I have yet to witness a major event passing by unnoticed by the online community; on the contrary, this community is apt in both fostering discussion and promoting action with regards to ongoing issues. While Tumblr, for instance, might be commonly perceived as a platform mostly associated with popular culture, my dashboard is often full of awareness-raising posts concerning issues such as teenage suicide and LGBTQ living.
Such cases have convinced me that blogs should never be discarded simply as modern venues for wasting time. While I do recognize that each blog post found on the internet might not always be the most profound thing in the world and that there indeed exist blogs with no meaningful content and purpose, I still believe in the participatory strength of blog culture, especially among young people eager for informal education.
No one can deny that we should always prefer real contact over any of its virtual counterparts. But with the advent of a new age, we need to give new sharing platforms a chance. Blogs, if managed properly, can provide us with a multiplicity of sentiments — intimate and public, personal and universal. The trick, as is often the case with writing, is to find the right balance and, of course, to find the time to blog.