22 May 2006

I love you almost as much as our new Honda Civic

Edited to add: the comments to this post are really quite interesting, so don't miss them!

When I drove up today, arriving home around 5 p.m. in our new Honda Civic, Neighbor Girl said "Hi Miss Susan!" and gave me a big grin and a wave. Curious Girl was nowhere in sight, but in a few minutes she appeared in Neighbor Driveway, saw me, and came running down the hill. She kept running past my outstretched arms to go hug the Civic, and stand on her tippy-toes to see herself in the mirror. Eventually she wandered back over to say hi to me, but the car got the first warm greeting. How quickly popularity fades.....

CG is probably working out some of her feelings about my having been gone on the weekend, away to an annual system-wide teaching conference. I'm drawn to this conference really more by the fact that it's an annual weekend away with my Friend in Need of a Pseudonym, who told me that she really doesn't want a psuedonym (although I don't think she wants her real name used either). So I guess that makes her Friend who Declines a Pseudonym? or just Friend, for the purposes of this essay.

Friend and I love to talk, but as our families have grown we just don't have the time to talk that we used to. So this weekend away is a wonderful thing. We talk about all kinds of things: motherhood, professoring, our greater administrative responsibilities, feeding our children, the ethics of the profession. We had a long chat about the ethics of donor insemination--after reading the NY Times articles (a few months ago) about the sibling registries that have allowed some children of anonymous donors to locate siblings, she's just not sure she believes that selling sperm is an ethical act; she's troubled by an action taken with the intent to create a child without the intent to participate in parenting. As we talked about the issues, I realized that we come to the debate from very different perspectives. Many of our lesbian parenting friends chose donor insemination as the way to form their families, and anonymous donor insemination is legally the neatest route to that. (Some of our friends have used known donors, with a variety of relationships to the donor, but that's another subject.) Usually, I think of Friend and I as approaching the world from very similar perspectives. But on this issue, the fact that I'm a lesbian and she's not has really shaped the way we frame the issues. And I'd never really noticed that before in this friendship.

And that's one of the things I love about these weekends with Friend, that even after 13 years of conversations, I'm still finding out new things about our friendship and about each other.
We talked a good bit about blogging, too. Friend is interested in blogs, to some extent: I frequently forward to her posts I read that pertain to some of her research areas, or posts that pertain to topics we've been talking about. She reads those with interest, and she reads here sometimes, too. But she told me that she just doesn't get the impulse to blog. She doesn't understand why people post pictures, or use their real names. And she doesn't understand why I'm not worried that some troll will pop up who just wants to say nasty things about me or my work or my family. "How do you know people are who they say they are?" she asked. I know that on the internet, no one knows you're a dog, and sure, not every blogger I read may be just what they seem. And more importantly, no blogger is only what s/he writes on the blog. We all create personae, which may bear more or less resemblance to our fully-rounded selves. But so far, the bloggers I've met in real life have turned out to be the real thing: smart, funny, interesting, compassionate. And the bloggers I've met online have also extended some real connections and support. All this doesn't substitute for online relationships, but they're real connections that have helped me enormously.

Maybe one of the reasons I take to blogging is that I've already experienced the growth of professional networks fueled in part by relationships formed online via listservs or online committees and scholarly reading and reviewing. Many of my most important professional relationships started via written words, on the screen or the page. I've kept some friends from graduate school, but not many from my home department; my professional network--in a slightly different area than my dissertation was--has grown up separate from my grad schol network. My adoption experience was greatly enhanced by internet connections. And so adding bloggers (some professional, some personal) to my sense of important connections doesn't seem like a stretch.

I know I'm preaching to the choir here in a blog post about why I like blogging, but I'm just thinking through the reasons why what seems to intuitively fun and challenging and interesting seems so alien to Friend. She and I share an instinct to keep a lot private; I'm introverted in real life (unless I'm running a meeting or teaching or in some other professional capacity). I don't see blogging as a way to tell private stories--it's about building ties with people who care about some of the same things I do.

I'm not the only introverted blogger (Phantom and Elswhere have laid claim to that label in posts I remember but am too lazy to link to), so perhaps some of the rest of you want to join in pondering the appeal of the public blog to the introverts?


art-sweet said...

I think for me - definitely an introvert - the appeal of blogging is (I sense bullet points coming on):

- Forming communities with people I wouldn't know otherwise & discovering what we do and don't have in common - lesbian infertility adoption diabetes the list goes on and on

- The opportunity to create a voice and have it be heard on topics I care about

- The chance to write with an audience in mind

- Speaking without the pressure of being spoken to - I can respond or not respond on my own schedule - and that's less stressful to my little turtle self than actual face to face encounters

M. said...

I don't think I count as an introvert, but sometimes it feels really easy not to talk to anyone except my wife about what's going on in my life. Blogging is a way of putting it out there without expectations of anything specific coming back to me.I've been impressed and moved and honored so many times by people's gentle encouragement and empathy and you-go-girls, and by their restraint (for the most part) in not offering unsolicited advice.

Rev Dr Mom said...

I am definitely an introvert. On line there isn't the pressure of making small talk with someone you don't know well. You can sit back and read and jump in the conversation when you are ready. So much less pressure.

And for me, writing a response lets me form my thoughts in a way that I can't always do in conversation.

As for knowing that people are who they say they are? My experience is that you can't always be sure of that with people you meet in the physical world either (there's a story there, but this isn't the time or place for it!)

Rev Dr Mom said...

And, I forgot to say, I have met so many wonderful people whom I would never encounter any other way!

Repressed Librarian said...

I am an introvert who values conversation with friends above almost everything. Right now, I am in a place where I have no one to talk to most of the time, and starting my blog a few months ago has helped me immensely. It has given me a medium to be heard and to make connections with others at a time when I am unable to do so in "real" life.

In my pre-blogging days, I was often bothered by the fact that my life frequently went entirely unobserved by anyone, and now I have some witnesses to at least the parts I choose to reveal.

Phantom Scribbler said...

When I started blogging, I was feeling very isolated -- it was the end of a long winter in which I'd spent a lot of time stuck at home with two virus-prone kids. When we did manage to get out, I didn't feel like I was really clicking with a lot of the other people I was meeting in various kid-activities.

At the time I started, I thought that the appeal of blogging was to have an outlet for writing, for keeping track of my days in a form more public (and therefore less self-indulgent) than the weepy adolescent journals I used to keep. And that's been true, to a certain extent. But clearly the part of blogging that I ended up reveling in the most was the way that it allows the formation of friendships and conversations that take place asynchronously, independent of weather, viruses, constant kid interuptions, and all the rest of the detritus of daily life.

Oddly, I think blogging has made me more confident in social situations. The experience of having my voice heard online -- particularly by so many people whose voices I respect and admire -- has made me feel like I have something to offer offline as well. Blogging hasn't made me less introverted, of course -- I still get very tense if I don't have quiet time to be alone in the course of the day. And I still get a little anxious about meeting new people or walking into new social situations. But I feel more confident that I have something to offer in those situations.

Mommygoth said...

I have some friendships like that too- I love that they're ever evolving.

peripateticpolarbear said...

Another introvert chiming in here---I love people but they wear me out. Art-sweet hits it on the head---it's so nice to be able to respond when I've got the time to formulate an answer, rather than in the 3 seconds that follow the question.

halloweenlover said...

I'm not really an introvert, but I found myself nodding along with everyone's comments. I still blog for the same reasons- connections, an outlet, more confidence, and now the friendships. I just love it.

I'm cracking up over CG hugging the car though. She is such a cutie!

Thanks for your sweet note on my blog! We are very very excited!

susan said...

What great stories, everyone!

I realized, reading your stories here, that blogging is also satisfying the part of me that loves writing letters (an activity I still do, although not as much as I used to, since CG now shares my formerly-quiet-mornings with me). I just love using words, and blogging lets me do that, but not in a rush.

Piece of Work said...

I would count as an introvert, and for me, blogging has been a way for me to "talk" about things that in real life, I keep very bottled up. I didn't plan for that to happen, but for some reason I feel free to say things on the blog that I would never say in person. It's a wonderful outlet for me, that way.
All the reasons people have mentioned above apply, to.

turtlebella said...

I sometimes feel quite divided. I am an introvert- I don't like being very social, I love being alone and thinking and reading, I hate being at parties where I only know a few people, and any social or professional do in which I have talk to people I don't know is a very dreaded thing. But I also adore talking. So blogging gives me an opportunity to talk, so to write. And I get to pretend that someone out there is interested, even if that audience is just me. Is it horrible to say that I love reading what I write?

Long before I started blogging I would write as if for an audience. I have lots of stories and meditations of my life saved on my hard drive. I briefly considered writing professionally. Until I realized that rejection, the built-in thing I hate about academia, is also rather a large part of writing professionally. Having a blog, it's a good way to keep track of what I write.

The fact that people I don't know come to my blog, link to me, comment on my whacky posts is pure whipping cream (I don't like gravy). Recently I found two blogs that I'd never seen that have me on their blogrolls. The low self-esteem turtlebella cannot quite imagine how this has happend.

As you can see from the length of this, I love to blather on, to let it all hang out. And I'm lucky that all of you are nice enough to read it all. Or at least that you are polite enough not to tell me to shut up already!

And of course, but not at the very least, I adore reading you, Susan, and all the various people who comment here and everywhere else I read.

jo(e) said...

Blogging seems ideal for introverts -- and it seems like many of the bloggers I know identify themselves as introverts.

I am an extrovert -- both in real life and on the blogs -- but connecting through words has always worked for me.

trillwing said...

I once heard a therapist say introverts aren't necessarily shy, but rather they're people who need time alone to recharge their energy levels. It makes sense then that bloggers--who might spend a lot of time alone at the computer--would tend to be introverts. Yes?

Me, I'm an extrovert with an internet addiction. ;)

art-sweet said...

This is why I love the internet:

"I just love using words, and blogging lets me do that, but not in a rush."

oh yes, Crunchy. Right on.

And "Introverts aren't necessarily shy, but rather they're people who need time alone to recharge their energy levels."

This explains so much about me.


susan said...

I'm not sure whether I"m an introvert or an extrovert by some of these definitions. I need quiet time to recharge myself, sometimes alone time, but often that means time with just one other person. I don't like being alone that much, but I don't like big crowds or noisy places. Sometimes I'm shy, sometimes not.

Turtlebella, I can totally relate to the discovery of your blog on one you'd never heard of. I have these Sally Field moments--"they're reading me! they're really reading me!"-- at times like that.

timna said...

definitely an introvert here, but connected to many extroverts in my life.

I've thrived professionally on the blog when I was so devastated on the job market. The people I've met have been generous with their support.

Then I started blogging all sorts of things. now it just seems to be my way of communicating. and it's not nearly so intimidating to meet up with the real folks!