The joys and pains of personal blogging

Internet technology has made it possible for thousands of people to have their personal spot in cyberspace, be it on Blogger, WordPress, Typepad, or any other blog platform. Thus, the proliferation of online journals, popularly known as blogs. Everybody, it would seem, wants to be Doogie Howser, M.D.

These past few years, we have seen the birth of all sorts of personal blogs created by people of diverse backgrounds — from the excited mom updating the world on the growth of her one-year-old son Tommy to the Australian backpacker blogging about his misadventures in Southeast Asia to the Chinese American expat writing about her struggles in living in Europe. One freely blogs just about anything and everything under the sun. To blog about, say, the tasty cheesecake at Starbucks you just ate this afternoon is not considered trivial anymore. After all, it is your blog, and you have the editorial control over its content. While this trend is quite common in the blogosphere, it is something that mainstream journalists scoff at, in general. But that is another story.

As much as we extol the fun element and the therapeutic powers of personal blogging, it does have its pros and cons.

One of the advantages of personal blogging is, it affords you to express yourself in a fun way; it lets you exchange ideas and insights with your avid readers (“fans” and critics alike) in some meaningful interaction. And yes, it even allows you to practice your writing skills! There must be something about blogging that nudges even celebrities and ‘traditional media’ people to give blogging a try. To date, notable media companies like CNN and BBC have already integrated a blog system in their news websites, seeing its vast potential.

Blogging can also prove to be a productive endeavor, as far as expanding your social circle goes. Some bloggers, who immensely enjoy meeting up with other bloggers for networking purposes, have blogged about the joy of having lots of online friends, who eventually become their offline pals as well. But this is not really the style of more wary bloggers, who opt to blog their thoughts and tales anonymously — for very good reasons.

Career-wise, a number of bloggers have already reaped the financial benefits of going into the next level: “problogging” (professional blogging), which basically means you get paid for blogging about your area of interest, be it technology, travel, fashion, music, and the like. While these blogs can be personal in nature, they are now considered more as niche blogs. A handful of these personal bloggers, who have gone pro, have eventually decided to separate the simply personal from the purely business.

The downside of blogging is — well, as far as personal blogs are concerned, that is — it exposes your inner self to strangers who can either be your friend or your enemy. Information is power, as the cliche goes, and if given to the wrong person (e.g. a malicious soul out to get you), the result can be quite harmful. Besides, everything is “Googable” in this day and age. And if, for instance, a surfing pervert stumbles upon your cute picture showing you in a skimpy bikini complemented with texts that give away so much info, well, online stalking is not far behind.

Don’t forget as well the wily ex-lover, ex-friend, ex-neighbor, or the ex-boss who is out to get you. Gossip is never a good thing. So think twice — nay, thrice — before you press the Publish button on your blog’s control panel. Do you really have to blog about your recent nervous breakdown at the mall? Do you really have to rant about the unfairness in your current workplace? Do you really have to blog about your lack of finances caused by the credit crunch? Sometimes, without even knowing it, we empower our enemies with classified information best kept as secrets. There is a very good reason why those good ol’ personal diaries come with a lock-and-key set.

And then, there are the destructive and annoying comments from Anonymous that creep into your blog’s comment boxes. Comments that don’t edify. Comments that give unsolicited advice that doesn’t really help. Comments obviously meant to pull you down in the online presence of the entire blog world. Comments that deliberately take your blog entries out of context. Comments that are simply soaked in arrogance, intended to say “I know things much better than you do.” Honestly now, who wants/needs such poisonous words when you are just enjoying your favorite pastime? Life is less complicated without negativity in all forms.

It is no wonder then why a number of bloggers have decided to moderate comments — a time-consuming task, but well worth the trouble, they say. Other bloggers, meanwhile, have gone for the more drastic solution: to shut down their personal blogs altogether in quest of online peace.

So the bottom line is, one blogs at his/her own risk. When you create and maintain a personal blog, you somehow agree to be vulnerable in a public place like the online community. People can and will find you. Having said that, one can still control the level of personal info-sharing in his/her blogging. This is, of course, recommended if you value your privacy. However, doing so can stifle your writing sometimes. Safe topics can be one-dimensional and, thus, boring. That said, it is still much better to be safe than sorry.

At the end of the day, you only have yourself to blame for giving too much unnecessary personal details on your blog for virtual voyeurs to feast on. But then again, maybe you have not yet realized in full how mean people can be on cyberspace — especially on cyberspace — until you yourself have reaped the negative consequences of your rather unwise “blog sowing.”

So the next time around, think before you post, as this YouTube video implores.