Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Lopsided Relationships

Isabel Swift asked Are you my friend? Like much writing, sometimes a blog post takes your mind far away from where the post meant you to go.

She was talking about how she's not using social networking for business, but to stay in contact with friends. She was complaining about strangers--going for quantity in friend numbers--asking for her to friend them without so much as a how do you do?

It got me to thinking about the lopsided nature of relationships online and of relationships between readers and authors.

I remember when I was in my twenties, I was sick for a long time, and most of my social time was spent in bed, or at least in front of the computer in my jammies. I lurked on two discussion groups, never commenting because I hadn't reached that stage of my online comfort level yet.

However, watching these people day in and day out, reading their hopes and dreams, their ups and downs, I grew to care about these people, these strangers. I'd even go so far as to say they were my "friends," even though they didn't even know I existed.

Year later, I did actually run into them again and was my more prolific commenting self. That group even had a big party offline a couple times!

But still, in the beginning, they were my friends even though I was a complete stranger to them.

This is like the relationship between readers and authors, between bloggers and those people who read your blog every day but never comment. They know you. They come back and read your stuff.

You might not know they exist, but you are part of their daily life! They know every last intimate detail you share, while you know nothing about them.

Same with readers. When you write, even fiction, you share some essence of yourself quite intimately. They go on an emotional journey with you.  They know some part of you that you might not even recognize.

So when they write you, if they write you, it always feels like I don't know them well enough. I love it when readers write and share bits about themselves and their lives, or how my story spoke to their life. Because sometimes, when they just write thank you! or Love this guy, I want him! or something like that not, I'm still in the dark; the relationship is still lopsided.

There are many blogs I read that I don't comment on. Sometimes because I just haven't been invited (isn't that silly?), sometimes because they write things that just make me nod my head, and there's not really room for me to add any thoughts. Sometimes for no explicable reason at all.

But I care about those bloggers. I care about many of the authors I've read that I've never written.

It's all very strange, the internet and writing. It does create lopsided relationships, where you can be someone's dear friend even though they're a stranger to you.

I think that's really cool. What about you?

22 bonus scribbles:

Melanie Avila 8/06/2008 12:33:00 PM  

Eek! I forget people read my blog and know all about me, even though they are completely anonymous. :) That freaks me out sometimes.

I feel the same way about needing to be invited to start commenting on certain blogs. There are several that I read every day but rarely post at because the couple times I have, my comments went unnoticed. Or the poster responded to everyone but me. I start to feel like a PITA and keep my thoughts to myself.

I think we do form lopsided relationships here. Some people share more than others and you have to take what they're offering. But, when someone lets you in, tells you something in confidence, that bond is even stronger because you now have trust.

Does that make sense?

Avery DeBow 8/06/2008 12:49:00 PM  

Good post. I have six or seven thoughts about this swirling in my head, but I can't seem to get them organized. The best I can do is: if the societal relationship is equal (writer:writer), the online relationship should be equal. If the societal relationship is not equal, then there should be a little more caution in sharing, a little skew to the balance.

Robin 8/06/2008 01:05:00 PM  

I love my "blog friends" and blog relationships. In my own blog, I must admit that I share parts about myself but only to a certain level. It is the same in my book. I share personal scenarios but never too personal. When people ask my boys if they mind me writing about them they laugh, because it's never too deep or personal. It remains safe with my comfort level (and I guess, theirs!).
Even your blog, Spy, shares a lot, and is very thought provoking, but never goes to an uncomfortable interpersonal level that only "soulmates" as Anne of Green Gables would call them, and not blog friends should share. I mean that as a compliment.

spyscribbler 8/06/2008 01:32:00 PM  

Melanie, I don't comment much when the poster doesn't respond, either. It feels weird, doesn't it? It's like talking to a wall in an empty room, and I end up feeling foolish and a little embarrassed!

And that makes total sense!

spyscribbler 8/06/2008 01:34:00 PM  

Huh, Avery. You know, I'm so sorry, I feel like such a dunce, but I'm not sure I got what you meant this one time. *blush*

I've only gotten 11 hours of sleep this week. That's my excuse and I'm going with it!

spyscribbler 8/06/2008 01:39:00 PM  

Thanks for the compliment, Robin! I actually worry I sometimes am a little over-sharing, LOL. I'm glad it seems to work!

I'm embarrassed I haven't bought your book yet, but it is SO on my list. The opening was HILARIOUS! Your blog is the same way. Sometimes just admitting to some of the things we think and do, even the funny things, put us in a little bit of a more vulnerable position. I've always thought vulnerability brings intimacy like nothing else, you know? Even amongst blog-buddies!

Zoe Winters 8/06/2008 01:45:00 PM  

hahaha way to freak me out there, Spy. :P

Christina 8/06/2008 05:16:00 PM  

Wow, that's really deep. I think that might be true because sometimes I get people writing me that I've never seen before, but they seem to be readers of mine. I'm guilty of doing that too though, I go to blogs and sometimes don't comment.

Edie 8/06/2008 07:20:00 PM  

First of all, Spy, I'm so glad that you're well. It must have been horrible for those 7 years. Maybe that's why you're so insightful and, like Zoe says, endearing.

Sometimes I feel like my internet and my writing friends know me better than many of my relatives. But there are a couple that I don't connect with. Just like in real life.

lainey bancroft 8/06/2008 08:13:00 PM  

Wow, Natasha! Just wow! I don't think I've ever come here where a post didn't 'speak to me' but this one 'sings to me'!

I get that the whole thing is to social network for business...and yet, I continually gravitate to the people I LIKE! The blogs getting 30-40-70 commenters? I don't 'know' them the way I know my 'circle'. I don't feel comfortable expressing myself. And as you said, if you do drop a line that gets ignored, you feel like the party crasher. :(

I have had emails from readers and I always try to encourage them to comment 'live' and welcome them to the 'blog family', because that is what I feel I have going on. People I care about and am interested in, and they in turn are intersted in me and what's going on.

When I don't comment on the blogs I read regularly, it is always about me and whatever is going on in my head (or not going on, as the case may be) NEVER about what the blogger is saying!

Melanie Avila 8/06/2008 09:27:00 PM  

*runs off to check out Robin's blog and find out about her book*

Melanie Avila 8/06/2008 09:27:00 PM  

Well that didn't work.

Spy, do you have that recipe for the no-bake cookies?

lainey bancroft 8/06/2008 09:43:00 PM  

Yep. Just like Melanie said, ran off to check Robin' blog an um...um?

Bernita 8/07/2008 07:28:00 AM  

There are many, many dear people on the net.

Aimless Writer 8/07/2008 01:50:00 PM  

I think there are some bloggers I feel more connected to then others. Sometimes I read their posts and think "Yeah, I get that." Others I read because its like exploring a new place. They live so differently then I do.
If some of them just disappeared I'd be really upset. Checking their blogs everyday is like looking in on and old friend.
:)

spyscribbler 8/07/2008 02:35:00 PM  

Christina, that's so true. I do the same things. I'm not really certain why I don't comment on some blogs.

spyscribbler 8/07/2008 02:37:00 PM  

Edie, my relatives are complete strangers to me. Outside of DH, my family doesn't know me at all, so my friends definitely know me better. :-)

Interesting that you say that. I find that there are some students I don't connect with, inexplicably. I like them perfectly fine, they seem to like me, but... there's no deeper connection beyond the surface. It's strange.

spyscribbler 8/07/2008 03:03:00 PM  

Lainey, I know what you mean. Totally. And sometimes I don't comment just because I'm tired that day.

I definitely feel like there's a blog family out there. I love that term!

spyscribbler 8/07/2008 03:03:00 PM  

I count you among them, Bernita!

spyscribbler 8/07/2008 03:04:00 PM  

Aimless, if some of my favorite bloggers stopped blogging I'd be heartbroken! I remember a couple years ago, several of my favorite bloggers stopped blogging. I was depressed!

Avery DeBow 8/08/2008 09:33:00 AM  

Yeah, I knew I probably wasn't saying it right when I wrote it. I have some version of the plague going on, so let's just blame it on cough syrup...