Flipflops in the Rain


Community Through Blogging

Editor’s note: I wrote the following essay for a class about social dynamics through communication technology, which is why it’s a bit longer than normal. If it’s not your cup of tea, my feelings won’t be hurt, but since it’s about the community I found through blogging, I’d recommend giving it a read. If you still don’t want to read it, then go watch a Pirates of the Caribbean marathon instead.

The world is becoming a smaller place, thanks to computer-mediated communication (CMC). Although some researchers argue that CMC may lead to superficial and less-inhibited relationships (Thurlow et. al, 2004), I believe it actually strengthens our bonds with other people. With CMC, we can just as quickly chat with our friends 3,000 miles away as we can with those sitting three feet away. We can even create live diaries, or blogs, that live on the Web and allow people to read our innermost thoughts, breaking down distance boundaries by building up emotional connections.

According to Baker and Moore, “Blogs can bring together likeminded and supportive communities and thus provide opportunities to relieve feelings of isolation” (2008, p. 747). This paper will expand on that idea and demonstrate how personal blogs build cohesion and encourage interaction, leading to a deeply engaged and enthusiastic online community.

Building Cohesion

Four years ago, I was living in Washington, D.C., where I hardly knew a soul. My previously active social life was nonexistent, and I was desperately homesick for the West Coast. So, using an alias, I created a blog, which I shared with my friends back home. Many of my early posts were painfully honest, expressing feelings I wouldn’t normally share with anyone, but the lack of face-to-face communication made me feel somewhat anonymous and free from the restraints that usually accompany offline communication (Thurlow et. al, 2004). At the same time, my vulnerability and self-disclosure helped my faraway friends feel a relational closeness that we may not have felt over our typical CMC methods, such as email or Facebook posts (Griffin, 2009).

Research has shown that blogging can have many beneficial effects on one’s well-being (Baker & Moore, 2008), and through consistent posting, I began to notice a change in my overall disposition and offline confidence. My writing began to morph, as well, and chatty musings and anecdotes replaced my diary-style therapy sessions, eventually leading to a much more diverse audience. “For many young people, keeping a Web journal is less about soul-searching than about keeping in touch with a circle of friends and perhaps expanding it” (Gallagher, 2002).

Encouraging Interaction

I soon discovered readers from all over were visiting my mundane little corner of the world. Even though I was posting for people back home, strangers with similar interests commented on each post, leading me to realize that the Internet could help me interact with new friends while still reconnecting with my old ones. Using my blog as a networking tool, I soon discovered other D.C. bloggers with similar interests, leading to several offline friendships I may not have otherwise found.

Personal blogs are an easy way for people to create new friendships because the authors are voluntarily disclosing personal information to the masses, which leads to social penetration among peers (Griffin, 2009). The potential for intimacy increases because readers feel a relational closeness to an author who reveals private details about his or her personality. The blogging forum allows readers to engage directly with the writer by posting comments at the end of each post. Many blogs also include email contact information, allowing shy readers to communicate with the author in a less-public domain. These interactivity options provide a desirable advantage for building relationships and maintaining open dialogue (Thurlow et al, 2004), which helped me communicate with bloggers both inside and outside of the D.C. area.

Online Community

My personal blog and new blogging friendships motivated me to seek out 20-Something Bloggers (20sb), a network with only two requirements: “Be in your twenties. And have a personal blog” (20sb.net, 2011, para. 3).” The network was created in 2007 and has since grown to more than 10,000 members, all looking for an online space that connects them with like-minded people around the world.

20sb provided me with a sense of belonging almost instantly, since I was interacting with individuals who also wanted to fit in as members of a cohesive group (Thurlow et al, 2004), especially one tailored to those finding it difficult to adjust to their impending adulthood and their “age 30 deadline” (Henig, 2010, p. 2). The network attracts many who feel that “the 20s are a black box,” (Henig, 2010, p. 1), and I soon formed bonds with other 20-something bloggers with whom I could commiserate and celebrate our major (and often unsettling) life changes through CMC, even though we had never met in person. By connecting its members, 20sb has become an online community with highly engaged members who feel passionate about their inclusion and often feel more connected with their online friends than those they know offline.

Conclusion

My time in D.C. may be over, and my blog may lie dormant most days, but the community I found through blogging will not soon be forgotten. It helped me maintain friendships from 3,000 miles away, as well as cultivate new ones, through a unique method of CMC that encouraged self-disclosure, cohesion and interactivity. Many of the friendships I found on 20sb are the best I have today – even though we still communicate primarily online. More research stands to be done, but my personal experience supports the idea that blogging can build an enthusiastic and engaged online community.

References

Baker, J. R. & Susan M. Moore. (2008) Blogging as a social tool: A psychosocial examination of the effects of blogging. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 11(6): 747-749. doi:10.1089/cpb.2008.0053.

Henig , R. M. (2010, August 22). What is it about 20-somethings? The New York Times. Retrieved from http://nytimes.com.

Gallagher, D. J. (2002, September 5). A site to pour out emotions, and just about anything else. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://nytimes.com.

Griffin, E. (2009). A First Look at Communication Theory. Boston: McGraw Hill. 7th Edition.

Thurlow, C., Lengel, L., & Tomic, A. (2004). Computer mediated communication: Social interaction and the Internet.London: SAGE.

20 Something Bloggers. (2007-2011). The bloggers with the most to say. Retrieved from http://www.20sb.net/page/about-20sb.

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procrastination is the fear of failure…

and i am the princess of procrastination.

in my pursuit of becoming a better person (and because of my lifelong habits of throwing money i don’t have in the garbage), i applied to grad school. within four weeks, i was accepted and registered for masters-level courses.

i don’t know what i was thinking. i’ve forgotten how to be a student. and i’ve quickly remembered how to get by on extremely tight deadlines. i’m surprisingly good at half-assing my way to an A. i’m three classes in, and doing pretty well on five-hour-energy-fueled, last-minute writing sessions — which is so not the point of getting a higher education.

i wish i could turn off the internet and just focus. oh, look! best video ever!



flippy through the years

i wasn’t going to post a 2009 wrap-up (because i’m an original, yo), but then i read phampants post from yesterday, and i figured i’d give it a whirl.

so here she is, flippy 2000-2009*:

2000: a junior in high school, and a bit of a disaster. i smashed my first car into a million pieces, got grounded for the first and only time (circumstances? not important — but it started with adult beverages and culminated with a list that my father forced me to write detailing everything bad i’d ever done. EVER.), hated my brother a little less, loved an impossible and unavailable boy a little more and visited a therapist who made me feel like a spoiled little princess who shouldn’t have felt as awful as she did.

2001: graduated high school and moved on to college. originally intended to move to california for school, but chickened out last minute and stayed in state. regretted the decision almost immediately. thank god for a kickass roommate and a bestie from home. i went from an outgoing honor student to a shy, uncomfortable freshman who napped all the time. (god, i miss napping all the time.)

2002: i met who i thought was the “love of my life” — and proceeded to cut everyone else out of it. five months later, he dumped me. then came crawling back. i took him back and began the cycle again. moved off campus with kickass roomie and bestie from home. worst experience ever. alienated both of them and rarely went home. got my groove back with school, but only because i took a bunch of classes with the boyfriend. (i was clearly a winner.)

2003: continued an abusive pattern of clinging to my boyfriend even as he was breaking my heart. moved into an apartment with kickass roomie even though i was still an asshole. got a job at the mall and slowly started making friends who lived in a world outside of my boyfriend’s. discovered the journalism program. hated it and many of the people in it. created an amazing idea as to how to get my BA in journalism with the least amount of effort possible.

2004: promptly crushed my amazing cheat-the-journa-system idea by joining the school paper’s editorial staff. loved the soul-crushing thrill of spending 50 hours a week in a dirty, cramped newsroom. stayed in a rapidly deteriorating relationship with a boy who continued to prove he wasn’t good enough for me. may or may not have fallen in love with someone else. realized something had to give and finally broke off the longest relationship of my life. the someone else moved away and the love that could’ve been never was. hated commitment and turned my back on it forever. turned 21 and drowned sorrows in too many vodka tonics. took too many classes and pushed myself to the limit in an effort to be my own person.

2005:  interned with a local nonprofit. finished college a quarter early. hopped a flight to europe and discovered the not-so-cheap thrill of living out of a backpack and speaking broken italian. quit my mall job and tried to stay abroad as long as possible. ran out of money after a month. begged mall job to take me back. let journa-friend convince me to apply for better job. received an offer for promotion at mall job and position at better job on the same day. went with better job, became a grown-up and began a crazy night-shift schedule that would continue for much longer than anticipated.

2006: continued living in college town. college friends moved on. rain, gloom and night surrounded my world and tempted me back into the arms of depression. considered options. decided to move to san diego on a whim. better job offered me a promotion and relocation package. moving somewhere new with a job appealed to me more than moving somewhere new without one. visited the d.c. area to make the final decision.

2007: made final decision. accepted promotion and moved 3,000 miles away. went through strange growing pains within new position, which ultimately led to a better position within the same company. pined and missed certain people more than i expected. adopted a cat. fell in love with the cat. became crazy cat lady. kept my distance from making new friends and invited old friends to visit whenever possible.

2008: moved into a new home with new people and began feeling comfortable for the first time. went out A LOT and discovered, “wow, i’m not 21 anymore.” went out anyway. continued to miss certain people and made several trips home. filled the void of missing by joining a gym. began running again. liked it. kept doing it. cat needed surgery. did not like that.

2009: a rough year. dealt with several issues that i left off this blog for a reason — hence my mid-year blogging hiatus. as the year comes to a close, i can’t think of any significant events to differentiate it from years past. at least, not yet. i’ve learned many things about myself through these hardships, though, and i’ve learned that i need to start looking out for myself first. and most of all, i’m realizing that my love of certain people, friends and family is more important than status or money. i just want to be happy.

*this post is so emo. my apologies.



california plus vacation equals happiness

the grass is greener in california. the sky is bluer, the sun is brighter, the mac and cheese is cheesier, the people are happier, the activities are morer (copyright: me*). all i really need to say is — my vacation was fabulous, and i want to go back.

in no particular order, this is what i did:
spent time with some of my favorite college friends.
reminisced a LOT with said college friends.
ate sushi.
almost got kicked out of a bar for taking my shoes off.
went to conan and chelsea.
rewatched and tried to find myself on both conan and chelsea.
drank beer.
drank wine.
drank sake.
drank champagne.
drank tequila. at disneyland.
got lost looking for an entrance to a secret in-n-out.
finally ate in-n-out (animal style, with a neopolitan shake**)
drove in tons of LA traffic.
navigated LA traffic without a map.
almost left my mom on the side of an LA freeway because she was driving me crazy.
took a ferry to coronodo island.
saw the grey’s anatomy set.
went to a 21-and-older movie theater and drank blue moon.
didn’t exercise.
didn’t think about work.
there’s more.
but i think this list is too long.
and no one even reads lists.

*actually, copyright urban dictionary. who knew?
** you are welcome.



i never make time to write here…

… but i did make time to write on two of my college friends’ blogs last week.

Feel free to mozey on over to the homes of two of my favorite bloggers, Jeanna and Paolo, and read these totally awesome posts about ME!, which they both coincidentally posted on my 26th birthday (one of the best i’ve ever had, which I fully intend to update ya’ll about soon-ish):

sloshed in seattle

W(ho)TF is on WIB: Cari

also, make sure to peruse through their archives, particularly if you love reading crazy drunken stories (Je) or seeing some amazing photography (P).



seventy five: michael m.
March 14, 2008, 11:12 am
Filed under: 24 words, bestest friends, journalicious, party star | Tags: , , ,

if only you were “closer than you think” so we could make margaritas, pick on Hiro and create a million more random inside jokes.

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seventy two: shanna g.
March 9, 2008, 2:57 am
Filed under: 24 words, bestest friends, journalicious | Tags: , , , ,

you’ve always managed to spin your never-ending misfortunes into entertainment for others. i know i’ll be reading your hilarious and heartfelt memoirs someday soon.

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