Connection

Hello again, friends.

Ever since I’ve started blogging I’ve been looking at things in a different, more selfish light: every bad thing that happens to me in game, every silly or stupid person I meet in a random, every interesting quest I do all make me wonder “is this blog-worthy?” As in “how can I exploit this situation and write about it later for the enjoyment of the few people who will read this?” I’ve heard from a few other bloggers that they’ve felt the same way and thought the same things. I can’t speak for them, but I’m not that ashamed about my new mentality. Blogging, as well as most (if not all) social media, is masturbation – you get something and you put it in public view as if to say “what I have done/made is pertinent enough to warrant your attention”. Given this I’m not surprised I’m looking for new ways to stroke it for my readers.

Something else that’s come from blogging is something I’ve commented on before on Twitter: it involves how much we perceive to know about people when our only contact with them is their blog. I blog about leveling a bear tank through World of Warcraft’s Random Dungeon Finder system. How much, from that, can you glean? Forget for a second that I’ve made comments about being a heterosexual male – what does my blog tell you about me? Do you know that I’m tall, skinny, that I work at a restaurant as a shift manager, that I’ve a love of alcohol and cigarettes, or that my actual name is one letter? Most of you would say no, and that’s the correct answer.

IDENTITY

So when I get told that I’m a literal masochist for leveling a tank through RDF, what should my response be? Do I try to tell them that I tank while leveling in order to know my class better? Should I not give a shit and just let it alone? In all honesty I went with the second option, mostly because it’s low on the list of things I need to pay attention to at this point in my life, but the thought that they know me because of a few posts I’ve written stuck with me for a while. (This is how my brain works: someone says “man I love frogs” and I think about that phrase over and over again until I have this cool idea for a cybernetic frog fanclub I want to start at my local town hall. Basically I take small things and make them big things. I’m an engineer of mental jetsam.) I mulled it over at odd times in the day, wondering how much of me they saw and how much they filled in the gaps, about how people outside of the internet do this all the time, and about how it was kind of sad that we can find people on the internet we think are pretty cool but don’t really know much about.

Like, let’s take me for a moment: one of the people who got me into blogging initially was a man who goes by the name of Rades. He runs a website that, in the past, chronicled his character’s journey in raiding as a Beast Mastery hunter. He DPS’d ToC/ICC when they were relevant in Wrath and talked about how cool it was and how neat BM hunters were. He took a subject as mundane as that and made it really interesting through some kind of literary witchcraft. With time I was a very frequent guest to his website, never commenting but always reading what he had to say. Without him knowing me I grew fond of him, grew to appreciate the things he said and his views on certain subjects.

Eventually I caved and got a Twitter account and, with time, caught the bug known as blogging. I got to know Rades as well as two separate people on the internet can without extensive Q&As (which, in my case, is not very well) through Twitter and comments on his blog. I’ve gotten acquainted with a few other people via Twitter and blogs, but that’s the nitty-gritty: I’ve simply seen the very shallow surface of what they portray on the internet. I do not know them all that well. I would not call them if my car broke down and I needed a lift. I would not ask to borrow money if I was in a bind. All I know is that sometimes I put things on Twitter, they respond, and I am happy.

For others it isn’t so simple. Going back to my previous example, Rades recently made a main change to his Death Knight. I could have commented saying “this isn’t you Rades, this isn’t the Rades I know”, but that would be disingenuous because I do not know him. In a hypothetical, he could post about something I strongly believe in and take the opposite side as me – once again, I could comment saying “oh wow really Rades? I never would have expected this from you”. Time and time again we come back to the point that I know of Rades, the internet persona, not the man behind the keyboard and his mannerisms or beliefs.

I don’t find this to be a bad thing, though, just a cautionary tale. Via other forums I have met people I came to be good friends with, that I’ve taken trips across the country with to hang out and drink with excess. People meet on the internet and get married later. I personally know people in long-distance relationships with another person they have not met, who are madly in love as any other couple. Shit like that happens, but it takes something that the hypotheticals I’ve mentioned before don’t have: a willingness from both parties to connect on a level deeper than the one we come across in our day-to-day internet life.

WE DO IT TO OURSELVES

Here’s the kicker, those of you reading with blogs: we do it to ourselves. We wax pedantic into a metaphorical microphone and hope people respond to our thoughts or data. We want the attention, we want people to talk about the things we’ve thought, we want people to see what we see and then look inside themselves. Some of us want to help (that is the foundation of our soap box) while others, like me, want to entertain: both options involve the same amount of time and energy put into our craft and both groups will feel a general sense of self-pity when no one comments on their thoughts or it seems that no one even sees their thoughts. We do this thing we do and hope it gets out there in the stream of the internet to be fetched up by bears like any ordinary salmon and yet some of us get upset when others deign to understand our minds.

I can see no problem with either group. They pander to different audiences and so I can understand why some would think they are different. Some fail to notice, though, that there is nothing different about We Who Blog: we are the same because we want the same thing. We want to belong to a community who accepts us. We pander, we tell stories, we show pictures, and we do it because there is love inside that we want to share. We love books or WoW or dragons or turnips. We love things and want others to love. There is nothing wrong with that.

I’ve seen a few people (mostly non-WoW bloggers) get upset at these things I’ve talked about, as I’ve been, and in all cases I wonder what we thought would happen? We put the gun barrel into our mouths and were surprised when a bullet slid down our throat. We want the commercialism without the intimacy, we want the sex without the cuddling, we want to be seen and to be hidden at the same time. Is this fair? Can you get into the public medium and stay hidden at the same time? It’s no surprise that the answer is a resounding yes, you can blog and have no one know a lick of shit about your real life. But know that people will see you and really try to see you, be it with love in their hearts or something else entirely.

THE MIRROR

I’m almost done, but I wanted to touch on a subject that I’ve also thought of for a while: how people construct the form of others without knowing the shape. Pretend there is a blogger who writes about turnips and how amazing they are and did you know that turnips were used by the South to lure dragons into caves where they would harvest their flames for time-traveling Nazis? Also pretend that all of this fascinates me so and I read her work for a year or a few months and then she’s all “man I’m so allergic to turnips now so I’m gonna blog about carrots because they’re like swords you can eat how awesome is that shit”. (Sound familiar? This example is almost an exact rehash of my aforementioned example concerning Sir Rades. Repeating it seems odd but I need to make sure that the situation is understood and that there is no confusion.) I don’t like this and I inform madam blogger about this terrible assault on my senses. Maybe I say mean things and maybe I’m very calm about it: the tone of my message is not the focus but how I’ve come across the conclusion that it is unacceptable for her to blog about anything other than turnips and dragon’s fire.

I know that this phenomenon is rampant in the psychology field and I’m sure they have a name for it, but I call it The Mirror. It’s what we use to fill in the blanks concerning other people when we have little knowledge on them. We see that they enjoy turnips or raiding as a Beast Master hunter and we pick up our spyglass to peer into their depths not knowing that we are looking at a mirror and not at the real person. We fill in the color-by-numbers with our own paint instead of with the colors they provide for us. I am angry about her not blogging about turnips because that’s all I care about and want from her without conceding that this is her past time, her enjoyment, and that she should do whatever she feels comfortable doing. I am imposing my morals and my bodice into her clothes and pretending that all of it is her. When we do this we effectively kill them and put ourselves in their place. By the time that happens there is almost no turning back until we get an in-depth view of her life from her.

There is no moral to this story. This is a tale sung because I see this and I thought others should think about how they view others. Do you see them for who they are or are you selfishly looking at yourself with a wig on and pretending it is someone else? This is not a chastisement but it is something that you should think about, my dear reader.

3 responses

  1. I still find it hard to think of you as a druid, despite the fact that you’ve probably always been a druid, simply because I “knew” you on Twitter before you started blogging as the guy with the bug icon and the funny name.

    I think it’s important to be honest when it comes to a blog that changes its focus. As a writer, I feel it’s important to stick to the motivations that made you begin writing. For example, I wasn’t digging the new Focus system for hunters, so I changed mains. Perhaps I’ve lost some readers who don’t care about DKs and only liked hearing about what BM hunters were doing. But does this mean I should write about what my audience wants instead of what I want to write about? Personally, I don’t think so. But I know traffic and audience is very important to some bloggers and that is one of their main reasons for writing, so in their case maybe that’s what they do. And if that’s why they’re writing to begin with, hey, power to them.

    On the other hand, from a reader perspective I think you should also be honest. If you no longer like a blog’s direction or are confused why a blogger may have changed gears from what you like, by all means, ask them or bring it up! Chances are they changed topics for a good (perhaps unknown) reason, or they may have had no idea some of their readers preferred their old stuff. Maybe that turnip blogger thought no one liked their ongoing stories about turnips, and dejected, was trying something new to get some readers! A comment explaining your sadness and disappointment upon learning that there would not be any new epic turnip tales would at worst, probably get you an explanation of why they switched, and at best, the happy resolution that the author goes back to turnip yarns, making both of you happy.

  2. I’m usually fairly aware that I’m mentally playing a lot of “fill in the blanks” about people. It results in me coming up with some views about them that are completely wrong, but it also means I adjust easily as I get to know more about them because I knew I was just making a guess until that point. Also, I’m rarely disappointed unless I find out they’re try to push their views down my throat. I don’t care what religion someone is unless they make it their quest in life to convert me. I don’t judge a vegetarian for not eating meat, but I’ll get my knickers in a bunch over it if they start judging me for eating meat.

    Rades will probably always be an orc in my mind because I started reading his blog before I was following any WoW people on Twitter. Even then, it wasn’t until NaNoWriMo came around that I actually saw someone mention him. My husband just looked at me like I’d been possesed by something when I blurted out, “OMG! The guy who writes Orcish Army Knife is on Twitter and he’s doing NaNoWriMo!” And then I was horribly intimated by how awesome his NaNoWriMo writing was. And that’s all I knew, and all I thought I knew. Then there was SPIDER PRIDE >8<, and a tweet of support when I was miserable over the Malygos, and lore discussions, and I'm scared of what I'll find if I mentally backtrack any further. But what I *think* I know about Rades now is that he's a kind of geeky-cool guy who is friendly to people, and he's probably been called "really smart" more than a handful of times. Those are safe guesses. I also tend to think he's not real big on authorities pushing people around because they can. I guess that based on his reactions to lore. But, at the same time, I play on a RP server and have had people assume all kinds of things about me based on how my character reacts to things. So I wouldn't be entirely surprised if Rades turned out to be a guy who thinks authorities in the real world shouldn't be viewed like authorities in stories. After all, I *know* I'm just making guesses.

    I would say I have no guesses about you. I've been following you on Twitter for something like two days. How much can I think I've learned about someone in two days? But then I realized I do have some guesses already. I'd guess you don't worry too much about what people think of you, not enough to let it rule your life, because you'll come right out and say that you have a love of alcohol and cigarettes. I also took note of some subtle occurances of the numbers twenty-three and five on this blog, and that encourages my mind to make certain guesses. Mostly about the subtlety. It either says you really do "get it", or it says more about me than it does you. And I'd guess you're kind of the "class clown" personality, but that you when to turn it off and take care of business.

    I think it really is just something wired into us to do things that way. Maybe some watered down or mutated version of a surival instinct from ages ago. And I don't think it's a problem as long as people know they're doing it and don't get too worked up over it if/when they turn out to have made a bunch of wrong guesses. On the other hand… of course I think that. Don't most people think *their* way is a good way?

  3. When I met a friend from Twitter in-game for the first time, he looked over at me and said, right in the middle of the Dwarven District, “I thought you’d be taller.”

    I laughed a lot at that one.

    in general, I don’t do a lot of writing about the blogging process, or how being a blogger changes how you play WoW. Perhaps my reticence is due to my dislike of rock and roll songs which are about being a rock and roller; though the scale is far smaller, talking about the pressures one’s public image puts upon you seems gauche, like it’s abusing the relationship of author and reader, it’s not something a non-blogger would want to hear about.

    But it’s still very real. Writing a blog makes you approach the game differently. Your public persona – excuse me, what you THINK your public persona is, a subtle difference – ties you down. You may be able to look at a pug and go, yeah, I’m getting great stories from this, but the flip side is the pressure to know what the hell you’re doing, to not be an idiot, to not be free to just walk away from something and say “pfffft, I’m tired of that warlock, let me go play a pally.”

    I’m reminded of something that Scott Adams (I think) said about being successful. It’s hard to be the best in the world at one thing, I mean, it’s *really* freaking hard. But if you can be good in that thing, good in another, unrelated thing – and combine those two things in a way people haven’t seen before, you are suddenly the best in the world at the thing you do. For him it was office humor and cartooning.

    I am not as good of a PvP player as most people likely think I am. I’m a decent PvPer who is really good at analyzing WTF is going on in a fight (the first thing) and then teaching and explaining it (the second thing). That’s it.

    I find this discussion interesting because of how people use the mirror to fill in the blanks about me, and that makes me wonder about how I fill in the blanks with other people.

    I enjoyed this post. More!

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