Those of us who first encountered each other at that “sex site” as bloggers and writers are many of my commenters. We all have had our moments of disillusionment, not just with the site offerings, but with writing itself. So much so that many have taken flight, stopped writing altogether, or decided that writing was “something someone else does”.
I started to wonder about the nexus of this dissatisfaction with our own written words, thought back on interactions, and wondered about the pact that some of us may have unwittingly signed on to, as members who blogged there.
You are familiar with the story of Robert Johnson: the Mississippi blues man who met the devil at the crossroads and sold his soul for success. It was not a difficult hop for me to relate this iconic image to the experience of blogging on a sex site.
Blogging on a sex site exposes your words to a large variety of people, with many interests and specialties. Bloggers are people, just wanting to be heard. With minimal self-promotion you can fast gain an audience and notice. A suggestive title, a photo that can range from sexually suggestive to explicit, the curiosity factor drives people to read you. Surprisingly enough members are not solely focused on sex: the blogs opened up a whole universe of topics in which you could play voyeur.
Gaining an audience on that sex site is easy. Far too easy as some of the worst dreck I have ever read comes from there. But there were gems in that site, real skill and talent in both writing and commenting with thought provoking posts and comments. Sadly with “good post” reaching the upper limit of interaction and thought some possess, it takes minimal effort to gather many of those sorts of comments and you rise to the “top” of the list, the “in crowd”.
Oh yeah, the list. I didn’t mention the “most popular” list. Creating a ranking based only on total number of comments. Which ultimately leads to ‘comment farming’; that peculiar tendency to jump on the latest trend, or promoting a blogger that ranks higher on the list than you – solely to gain notice as a “supportive” and generous person. Combine that with the ability to get a membership there for free in a second, and people will create several aliases to push their position higher on the list. So there is an inherent problem for those who are using the ‘most popular’ list as their validation for existence as a writer. “ALL these people like me and read me therefore I am doing something that is wanted and needed and valuable”. I’ve seen that exact sentence, verbatim, from several people, without sarcasm or the apparent realization that none of the measures relate to you as a person. I merely point you to the use of the word dreck. I won’t even mention the underlying competition for notice, or the attachment to a spot on the list that is based only in a random count, not related to content or quality.
Then, there is the impression that everyone “knows” who you are from how you write. That you can, by simple right of existence, post something that will be believed in total, because you have written it. That commenting with “Interesting post” or granting you their approval is important and a validation of you, and makes them some sort of superman in the forum, and they are “bestowing notice” upon you. The only part in this background of facts that remains completely and utterly true and valid is the anonymity. You have that freedom of remove from the situation, to be, say, do, act and portray yourself as anyone you choose. I have seen people place themselves in stories that happened years before their anecdote, using technology that did not exist at the time of their “experience”, and the never ending insistence that they are “being wholly honest” because this is anonymous and no one would connect them to this story.
Like society, the internet and this forum are as rife with dysfunctional people as the real world is. Life – no one emerges unscathed.
Yet this competition, this inherent need to find superiority among a few who are copying articles from yahoo shine, and posting nude photos of themselves, or repeating a pattern of self-effacing promotion divided only with some half-true anecdotal detail that happened in a book you read a week ago, or heard on Oprah, is what determines the largest portion of those who remain there.
That competition, that self-effacing and jockeying for position on any list sucks ambition to create, and ambition to try to write away. Not unlike a giant commercial hoover: sucking up everything, leaving nice straight lines in the pile, permitting no deviation.
I realize I participated in the lure of the easy. I sold my ambition to write more, to research carefully, to read dispassionately and discerningly while I was there. It was easy to create a post – pull out a few sentences here or there. Add a photo. Make a post that just details the bad behaviours of many, and watch who freaks out. But the longer I was there, the less I wanted to write. I thought I had an exit strategy, blogging at two spaces as I slowly shut the door on my test blog at the sex site. Not only did I not want to bother with writing, reading or commenting on the sex site – I lost my voice. I had no interest in trying to blog elsewhere. With a map, a compass and a GPS I couldn’t locate my muse, couldn’t find one idea that told me it wanted to be written.
Most of the others have left. Good writers with much to share have shut down their blog, stopped writing entirely. Went outside to “find the sunshine”, and realized that they have things to say, and a need and desire to write again. Others have just shut down entirely, writing nothing, reading less. I did a bit of both. I played about with ideas on the other blog, but I read. Voraciously read almost everything that crossed my path. Reading good books and posts was aspirational for me, reading the ‘less successful’ entrants to my sightline started a little voice saying “I can do that, and I can do it better”.
Ideas started to flow, thoughts are merging and taking form in a somewhat coherent manner, simple to expound upon. This flow started when I told myself that I would leave behind the title of “formerly respected blogger on a sex site” to move forward to writer.
I avoided the crossroads in this go round.