Thursday, December 08, 2005

To Blog or Not to Blog

Well, here we are...the end of the semester, the end of the year, and I'm faced with the question of whether to maintain my blog or let it fade away into the ether. Years ago, I kept an Open Diary, back in the days when blogging wasn't the thing it is today and when OD hadn't fragmented into paid and free sections. I forget how I found out about OD, but I've kept diaries on and off as long as I've been able to write, and I thought an online diary that other people could read and comment on would be a novel twist.

I kept my OD active for maybe a year, right up until the paid/free split. It was really my first experience with an online community. There was a circle of friends -- all people I'd never met face to face -- who read my diary and whose diaries I read. We commiserated about broken relationships, rejoiced in happy events, laughed at the silly things that happened to us. I was sad to see my friends move over to the paid site or drop their diaries; I let mine slide until it was deactivated and my entries were gone like so much smoke. At least a hard copy diary doesn't disappear at an autocommand.

Blogging has been an interesting return to semi-familiar territory for me. Honestly, the thing I've enjoyed most about this blogging experience is reading the blogs of my classmates. I always enjoy collaborating with good people, and my classmates are some of the best. Whether I was reading about educational theory or someone's latest exercise program, I liked hearing their voices and getting a peek at their thoughts and lives.

As for writing a blog...well, the thing that interested me most was posting photos. Trouble is, I have to actually take the photos, then download them, then post them (not always an easy task). Who has the time? Yes, I suppose I could make the time, but then I would have to bump my blog several spaces up in my priority list, and I'm not at all sure I want to do that. I'd much rather be playing with my daughter...or knitting...or spinning...or, for my online fix, participating in my fiber listservs. I'd even rather be trolling ebay for a cheap loom or interesting bit of fiber.

The fact of the matter is, I like the idea of blogging better than the reality, the same way I like the idea of keeping a diary better than the day-to-day writing. After all, how much is there really to say?

When I lived in Japan, everything I did took on a strange, new importance simply because I was doing it on the other side of the world. I could jot a postcard -- "Went to a lovely onsen today; sat in the outdoor hot bath for hours watching the snow fall on the thatched roof of the rotenburo" -- and it sounded exotic and wonderful even though I'd only gone to the equivalent of my city's Brooklyn and spent an afternoon hanging out in its equivalent of a public bathhouse. I kept a diary then, and also when I traveled. Every day there was something to write: a new place explored, a strange custom observed, funny and scary and sexy things happening at every turn. This, I realize, is because everything was strange and new to me. What would I write about here at home? "Went to Cold Spring for lunch and window-shopping. Sat by the Hudson and watched the boats float by. Counted nearly a hundred boxcars pass along the train line by the river." It's not bad, really, just not exotic. Not something I'd make a priority of putting down on paper the way I bothered to record "Staying in a youth hostel that was a former Chinese bomb shelter. Last night saw a rat in the hallway. Glad we have lead-lined doors."

Having said all that, I must admit that I like blogs as an ESL tool. I'm trying to think of how I can work them into my classes this spring. I think they would give my students some much-needed writing practice in a low pressure/low stress environment, not to mention that all my students are internet denizens of one stripe or another and would probably get a kick out of blogging in English.

What does the future hold for my blog? I'm not sure. Maybe I'll keep it up, at least for awhile. Maybe I'll morph it into something I can use in my teaching. Maybe I'll get my ass in gear and take some more photos of my knitting to post as well.

If nothing else, this experience has gotten me past my ignorance-driven dislike of blogs. Thanks, Joanne.

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