Sunday, January 10, 2010

News Feeds

"After the reading, I answered questions about [my family], thinking all the while how odd it was that these strangers seemed to know so much about my brother and sisters. In order to sleep at night, I have to remove myself from the equation, pretending that the people I love expressly choose to expose themselves. Amy breaks up with a boyfriend and sends out a press release. Paul regularly discusses his bowel movements on daytime talk shows. I'm not the conduit, but just a poor typist stuck in the middle. It's a delusion much harder to maintain when a family member is actually in the audience."
--David Sedaris, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim

In the blogosphere, everything is all about traffic. It's something I work with everyday at my day-job, but not something I've given much thought to here. The blog is purposely not monetized. It's barely even a year old. I don't yet know what it's going to be when it grows up. It does have its own facebook page where I just post links to new updates -- that was because a half dozen or so devoted readers expressly asked for an easy way to keep up with it. Not everybody uses GoogleReader, and if you don't blog, you probably don't have a dashboard where everything scrolls. I rarely even post the links on my own twitter -- because I think Twitter's all about conversation more than broadcasting.

That said, every writer loves Readers, and I am no exception. I just kind of assume, in my head, that I know each and every one of them --- that they're all more or less a variation on my college roommate's kindly father --- who knows and loves me and probably enjoys goodnaturedly rolling his eyes a time or two during each post, thinking to himself, "oh that girlllll" while probably worrying just a tiny bit that, even 27 years after he first met me, I might be a bad influence on his daughter. (Probably, that's true.) I still feel bad about causing him that mild stroke with the "Batteries Not Included" column. I'd say, if I have "A Reader," it is him. In my mind, he and Aunt Ronni and SandraL are just enjoying a chuckle or two here.

I am in a very, very oddly public job for a person who's, by nature, excruciatingly private. Most people don't believe it, any more than they believe I am, by nature, painfully shy. Why would I write intensely personal things where other people can read them if those things were true? Especially personal things that sometimes don't belong entirely to me -- they obviously overlap with the private things of other people in my life. I don't know. I don't make the rules. David Sedaris writes about his sister Lisa in that same chapter, "She's afraid to tell me anything important, knowing I'll only turn around and write about it. In my mind, I'm like a friendly junkman, building things from the little pieces of scrap I find here and there, but my family's started to see things differently." I honestly don't know how David and Amy Sedaris ever got a thing into print with two parents alive (though their mother has died, God rest her soul. As the world's most devoted Sedarista, I should make clear I'd never presume to include myself in any air they breathe, unless it was maybe to do their laundry or something.) Counting the re-marriages, I have four parents, and the only thing that's saved me so far is that they are all Luddites who've heretofore refused internet access (which is about to change).

I can tell you it is a distinctly odd experience to have my blog post links show up on a local news feed. Every single one of them. Part of that is because this blog is most definitely not, by any stretch of the imagination, News. Part of it is because it means the links are going out to people I don't even know. If you can imagine. I wonder what those poor readers think they're going to get when they see a headline like "Smuggles" sandwiched directly between "Cats hang on to dismantle Georgia" and "Bill aims to simplify pension plans."

One of these things is not like the other one. One of these things just does not belong.

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