Blogging Etiquette

Have you ever thought about the reasons that blogging has become so popular? Enter the word blog into any search engine, and the results are overwhelming. The phenomenon known as blogging has become one of the fastest growing features of the internet. It’s an advocate for free speech, a chance to imprint our thoughts and – ultimately – our individual selves on that vast unknown entity called cyberspace. By blogging we become part of the internet. It may be a minuscule part, but our blogs establish and affirm our presence in cyberspace.

My blog was born on 24 March 2005. I had no idea how the seed I planted would grow, nor the direction it would follow. Today I read through my first entries, and I see it hasn’t changed radically in the first ten months of its life. I think it’s become a bit more refined… but that’s my humble opinion! The inspiration for that first entry was the cell phone ring tone advert on VH1, featuring the character called Crazy Frog. Two days later I wrote about Easter in Greece. I followed that with a piece about reviewing on WDC. The fourth entry was about the news channels on TV, and the final one spoke about Zimbabwe.

Looking at the beginning of my blog I see it’s like a diary. The first entries covered Michael Jackson’s trial, Terri Schiavo, Prince Rainier of Monaco and Zimbabwe’s elections. I sit here, amazed that all these things happened almost one year ago – where has the time gone? And if it wasn’t for my blog I wouldn’t have a record of the events and the way they made me feel at that particular time. I suggest you all go back at look at the first few entries in your blog. You’ll probably see your writing has, over time, become more confident and more streamlined. Mine certainly has.

Blogs are representative of their writers. They reflect our thoughts, our minds and our attitudes at a specific moment in time. They are also a permanent record of the events at that particular time. There only limit to a blog is your own mind – how far are willing to let your mind go and how much of yourself you are prepared to divulge? You can write about any subject that interests you and take your writing in any direction. Bottom line – how much of yourself are you willing to share with the World Wide Web?

Which brings me to the most important feature of blogging – the readers.

They are the reason for the rapid growth of the blogging phenomenon. Without readers blogs would not exist – they’d be diaries or personal journals kept under lock and key. The comments and contributions to our entries feed the blog, inspiring our own entries and helping it grow. I find the feedback I receive encourages me to keep writing. The same applies to the blogs I read and to which I contribute. I can’t tell you how many blogs have inspired one of my own entries. Over time a blogger develops a fairly close relationship with regular readers, and the way these relationships are conducted are important if you want your blog to grow.

I recently read an entry in an offsite blog where a blogger’s entry claimed he didn’t care about the kind of responses his blog attracted. His reason: “the people contributing aren’t my kind of people.” My answer – and I did actually post this – was: “So why are you blogging? Keep a private journal if you don’t want or need interaction from other web users.” I stopped reading his blog after that, and when I checked yesterday I saw he’s still writing, but he’s removed the offensive entry!

Those who take the time to read a leave a comment in a blog are people, whether we agree with their opinions or not. I know – the difference is that we’re interacting in cyberspace with a screen replacing the face of an actual physical presence. But that doesn’t mean we have to lose our manners! Someone who’s read through an entry that’s made enough of an impression upon him or her to want to write a comment deserves some respect, even if his or her opinion is contrary to our own. Think about how you would answer that person if he or she was physically in front of you before committing fingers to the keyboard and pressing submit. Words typed and sent in anger are even more damaging than the spoken word, because a record remains in black and white for as long as the blogger chooses.

Let’s put the shoe on the other foot for a moment, and consider our response to an entry we find offensive. Perhaps it goes against our moral, political or religious beliefs. It may also be written in a way we personally find insulting. Instinctively the first reaction is to fire off an angry, critical response – but that’s not necessarily the right action to take. Many a time I’ve found myself wanting to respond immediately to an entry containing an opinion contrary to mine, but I’ve managed to restrain myself. Words spoken in the heat of the moment can be very damaging, and in this case attack is not necessarily the best form of defence. The chances of saying something you may regret later are very high indeed, so I suggest you think about what you want to say before responding. Ask yourself if the words you want to write are something you’d say to a person standing in front of you in a room full of bystanders. Remember the blogger isn’t the only person who will see your comment – everyone reading the blog will know what you’ve said. And once it’s there you cannot take it back. Only the blogger can remove your comment.

Conversely there should some respect afforded to the blogger. It takes courage to share one’s beliefs and deepest thoughts. My husband often says: “consider the source”. It’s a good guideline to use when reading blogs. We’re all “victims” of our own personal circumstance, products of different cultures, ethics and traditions. We bring our different personalities and beliefs to the world of blogging, which is one of the reasons blogging is so exciting. My own blog is a link to people from all over the world, and the fact that I would never be able to interact with such a diverse group in my daily life makes blogging a truly exciting experience… well, for or me anyway! When I write a potentially inflammatory blog it takes me a while, because I try to convey my own opinion in a frank and honest manner, without offending those whose beliefs may be contradictory to my own. It’s not easy, and requires a lot of tact and diplomacy – not to mention forethought! That’s probably why I don’t do it very often…


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