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?