Thursday, March 11, 2010

Leave It To House

Heylow peoples,

I trust you've been having a good week thusfar. Mine has improved substantially since posting my last update. I have managed to check a couple things off my list (posting my author's profile on DeviantArt, writing that blog) and am moving further along on others (finishing The Gun Seller).

Today is also my Grandpa's 74th birthday. Of course, he's far too technophobic to ever read this, but Happy Birthday! nonetheless.

And finally, on the heels of my last entry, leave it to one of my favorite shows to address exactly what I was doing. I started blogging first and foremost because I was told it was a good idea to get some of my writing out there and accessible. Obviously my last entry had nothing to do with that whatsoever, and was more of a personal journal than something anyone would have interest in reading.

As if on cue, House M.D. returned this week with an episode titled Private Lives, in which the main patient happens to be a blog-o-maniac, nearly OCD about blogging everything that she experienced. Throughout the episode she, her husband, and the regular cast exchange some enlightening thoughts about the blogging mania, and its impact on the blogger.

Spoiler alert - I summarize events and quote dialog from this episode, so if you haven't seen it and still want to, skip this section now.


*********

HOUSE'S OFFICE

The doctors are trying to establish what is wrong with the patient, and how to start fixing her...

House: What does she blog? Politics, dominatrix, cooking? 'Cause I need recipes.

Chase: It's a personal journal. I don't get putting your whole life online.

Taub: It's not that crazy. Privacy is basically a modern invention. Towns used to be too small for anybody to keep any secrets.

[insert medical talk relevant to diagnosing the patient]

House: (seemingly ignoring the medical talk) And knowing too much about each other is exactly why people leave small towns and move to the city.

Taub: And a lot of people stay, because in return for zero privacy you get community, connection...

House: Big red A's for our tunics. Connections are for airports. For people, we have over 300 cable channels.

**********

PATIENT'S ROOM

Doctors Taub and Foreman enter. The patient is on her bed with her laptop. There is another woman sitting in a chair beside the bed, also on a laptop. They are both staring intently at their screens.

Taub: It's nice to have visitors.

Patient: I'm updating my blog.

Woman Visitor: And I'm reading it.

Taub: (pauses) You realize you're in the same room?

Patient: (smiles and pushes laptop away) Sorry. (turns to Foreman) So I've been thinking about what you said, and I'm sure I washed my hands after I threw out the rat poison.

Foreman: Apparently you did it multiple times over a course of days. Can't be too certain.

Woman Visitor: You must be Doctor Foreman. (closes her laptop and stands) I've got to get back to work. Take it easy. (touches Patient's arm, picks up her things and leaves)

Doctors both look at Patient.

Patient: What? She reads my blog.

Taub: (leans over to read laptop screen) Personally, I don't think you're condescending at all.

Patient: That's not what I wrote.

Foreman's eyes widen and he too leans in to read.

Patient Continues: When you were taking my history, I told you I went white-water rafting 6 months ago, and you said it was, (in snobbish voice) 'Unlikely to be related.' (normal voice) I was just giving information. Let's face it, you got a little snarky.

Foreman: You can't convey a tone of voice in writing.

Patient: I just put what you said. If you don't want people to think you're condescending, maybe you shouldn't say condescending things.

Taub nods approvingly.

Patient: Can this wait a sec, cause I have to pee. (gets out of bed and walks toward adjoining restroom) You know, I think people behave badly because there are no records of what we say or do.

The Doctors exchange yawns and eye-rolling-type gestures as she continues off screen.

Patient Continues: And nobody believes anymore that God's watching. Well, God's not, but I am. Everything's on the record, including everything I do.

*********

HOUSE'S TEAM'S OFFICE

Chase is sitting at a laptop. Thirteen walks in.

Thirteen: Find anything?

Chase: Relevant? No. Interesting? I guess. There's nothing she doesn't share. "Angry Sex is Overrated. How can he expect me to be aroused when I'm so pissed at him?"

Thirteen: Revelations like that might just earn her a new kidney. An hour after she blogged about her kidney failure, the hospital got a call. From Singapore. One of [The Patient's] readers asking how hard it would be to donate.

*********

X-RAY ROOM

Chase is in the midst of getting the Patient ready for an x-ray.

Patient asks if one of her 'complaints' in her blog could really mean she has this disease.

Chase: Yeah. It's lucky you wrote about that.

Patient: I'm a little crazier-thinking to share that much?

Chase: Not crazy. Unusual, thinking to be that intimate with people you don't know.

Patient: But I do know them. They read my blog, I comment on theirs... Just cause you haven't met someone physically, doesn't mean you don't know them.

Patient and Chase move on to talk about their intimate relationships.

Patient: ...Sometimes it's easier to open up to people who aren't looking you.

*********

One of the Patient's heart valves is nearly gone, so she is then faced with replacing it with a plastic valve--which results in medication that wouldn't allow for having kids--or a pig's heart valve--which would require subsequent surgeries every 10 years, go against her recent vows against animal cruetly, and anger her many vegan and vegetarian readers.

When given the news, she is left alone with her husband to discuss whether or not they want kids. Instead of having a conversation with him, however, she reaches for her laptop to get her readers' opinions, much to the anger and disgust of her husband.

He asks her not to blog it; that it should be her decision, not theirs. She responds, "If I start picking and choosing, I'm being dishonest. I'm sorry." She then picks up her laptop and starts typing.

*********

PATIENT'S ROOM

Patient closes her laptop and looks up at her Husband.

Patient: I'm going with plastic. It just makes more sense. I don't want another operation later.

Husband: That's not why you're doing this. Look, when you were first telling me about why you loved the internet, you said that no one has to be alone again. Whoever you are, whatever you love, you can connect with someone. If you want to recreate the Boston Tea Party, dressed as Imperial Storm Troopers, you can find the other 10 people in the world who have always wanted to do that.

Patient: That hasn't changed.

Husband: But you have. This thing that you do is not about connection anymore, it's about an audience. It's a performance, and you've got one eye on the number of hits. You've turned our lives into their entertainment.
(sits down next to Patient)
You're smart, you're fun to read. It's okay. But don't give them this. (pause) Or if you do, don't...expect me to be here.

*********

SURGERY WAITING ROOM

Patient and Husband are waiting to go into surgery.

Patient: Are you going to be here when I wake up?

Husband moves closer, rests a hand on her head, looks at her but stays silent.

Patient: I hate that you don't have a blog. I hate that I don't know what you're thinking.

Husband: Let's not get into it right now.

*********

After her appendix bursts, the Patient is given a diagnosis of Leukemia, giving her about a year to live. This is then rejected because of a new symptom, and she is given a new diagnosis with 3 or 4 days to live.

House then has one of his traditional breakthroughs in a totally unrelated conversation and 'rushes' to the Patient's room. There he engages in a conversation about her bowel movements in order to confirm his theory...

House: You just had to be so...suaft (?). You're a hypocrit. No lies, no secrets, but everything stops at your colon. 4000 pages, not one word about BMs. And I bet yours don't smell at all.

Patient: Nobody wants to hear about that stuff.

House: Readers don't. People who don't really care about you don't. But doctors might.

[Insert more talk about feces and the REAL diagnosis!]

House: We all need some secrets. As long as they don't kill us, they keep us safe and warm.

Doctors leave to go start new treatment. Patient and Husband hug and have a double kiss. Patient decides she's gonna choose the pig valve. Husband glances over, then grabs the laptop and gives it to her.

Husband: I know you'll go crazy if you don't tell people.

Patient: (laughs) Thank God you're an enabler.

She opens the laptop with a deep breath and...end of her story arc.


*********

So, is blogging more about community, or putting on a performance? Is it leaving a record of accountability, or is it misrepresenting those who are quoted?

In a way...Yes. Yes to all of the above.

When I found my only follower to be one of my college friends (holla Jamika!), I reassessed what I wanted this blog to be about and decided that I could/would include a bit more personal information. Not just a highlight of my work, or my style, but something that would be more fun and informal. My previous piece may have gone a little overboard, but it got a lot of stuff off my back and enabled me to move on with a big sigh of relief. Will I ever do something like that again? Probably not. But then again, who knows?

But I feel that me and my reader(s) form a community, or have already come from an established community. (So far) We all know each other from outside the bloggosphere, and any thoughts we share here are furthering our connection. Corny, perhaps, but to some extent it's definitely true.

Do I think that it's possible to get sucked into the internet? Definitely. I've faced a bit of that myself in the past few years. Granted, I was connecting with people in a certain niche (Harry Potter), and it wasn't hundreds (maybe 20 at most). They weren't making my decisions for me. They weren't dictating my opinions. They were simply acquaintances, and some made it far enough for me to call them friends. But would I say I was performing for their approval? Not any more than I would for people in real life.

That said, I would love for more people to follow my blog. I would love to be one of those huge, well-known bloggers who gets hundreds of comments and responses from every blog. However, as I haven't committed myself to a mainstream topic, I probably won't ever get that kind of response. And, for the time being, I've resigned myself to that.

That's where I found the Patient's implied 'shitload' of followers (the guy in Singapore?) to be a bit unbelievable for a personal journal. She didn't sound like she had that much of an interesting life, so I'm not sure where she got such a big hook that hundreds of people all over the globe would start following her. Maybe, after her near-death experience and her being treated by one of the most renowned Diagnosticians, she might draw a larger pool of interest, but going in to the episode, "Tyler and I Had a Fight" and "Angry Sex is Overrated" just aren't going to win you hundreds of readers, nor reach a global fanbase.

Might blogs make people more accountable for their everyday actions? Possible, but on the whole, I doubt it. Going along with the 'journal-type blogs aren't going to get millions of followers', complaining about the jerk who sat by you on the bus with his music too loud isn't going to make the population remember to turn their music down in enclosed spaces. Sure, if you blog about a person by name, then your record might pop up in a Google search, and then they might be impacted.

There was a more compelling argument for records/accountability in a Gaming Convention video I saw recently... About how everything we do will generate Achievement Awards. And even then...it's only a slim chance that we as a culture/species can ever take accountability for our actions instead of just looking out for #1.

And the last point: are we, as bloggers, misrepresenting the subjects on which we report? Well, informal bloggers (such as myself) are not journalists. Most times we don't or can't get both sides of a story, or event, or person, in order to accurately report the truth. Everything we say is simply an interpretation or an opinion of what happened.

In the example of the Patient blogging about her doctors, Foreman was right. She couldn't, or didn't try, to 'convey [his] tone of voice in writing'. Therefore, he could easily have been slandered as condescending, when he wasn't. Future employers might then, upon Googling his name, decide that his bedside manner isn't what they are looking for. At the same time, ideally, people reading this blog should take into account that it is simply one opinion, not a carefully and unbiasedly documented case.

Blogs are important tools for getting information out there. However, blogs are primarily for the enjoyment for the writer. They are often effective therapy, since sometimes it is 'easier to open up to people who aren't looking you' or who you've never even met. Readers may come and go, but the author's happiness is the most important in the relationship. They aren't getting paid for it, they aren't winning awards for it (*cough* yet *cough*), and 90% of them aren't researching their information for it.

It's just for fun. And it should stay that way.

And with that, I bid you adieu for another week(ish amount of time).

Cheerio, pip pip,
~Vicki