Blogging in 2007

A blogger friend made a remark, which turned out to be the bitter truth a while ago about blogging back in the early days (or at least here in the Philippines, when all of us relied on dial-up connections and the ensuing modem sound). It's all fake--he said, referring to his blog--"like (mostly) everyone else's blogs."

Back then it felt like a crime, faking oneself, inventing a different person--an improved, Internet being. But who would know? Nobody would even care. In 2007, blogging in the Philippines is still peculiar, mostly unheard-of, and poorly understood both by bloggers and readers themselves. We initially viewed it as writing diaries online. During our computer lab classes in high school, almost all my classmates had no idea about blogging, save for the friend who introduced me to Friendster blogs during a birthday party. "It's fun," I remember her telling me. "You can write just about anything."

I was sixteen years old and in the middle of an emotional roller-coaster (just glamorizing teenage years with the phrase, but no, it's not that much to be a roller-coaster) and a penchant to write crappy Harry Potter-ish fiction with Kerguelen as setting (I'm not kidding), and the anecdote about writing "just about anything" is nothing short of promising. It's like being given unlimited amounts of Play-Doh, or a never-ending reel of five-minute porn clips and a room to masturbate with. At sixteen I was starting to seclude myself up in my bedroom, reading Les Miserables and The Good German while listening to now-awful bands. Funnily enough, I was doing all these while playing Sims (another conduit for self-invention). So I guess it was a totally new thing.

The first blog I made was on Friendster, but I heard about Blogger and its readership, its intuitive interface and the fact that it's not wired and viewable by classmates. So I signed up using my real name as a domain, on December of 2005. I didn't change my name simply because I know nobody would read it. I wrote blog posts which were overly confessional that it took so much energy to remember every single detail, from classmates and stuff. There was this assumption that you have to chronicle your life through your blog, as almost every blog I've ever read in those years were simply about themselves.

Blogging back then involves heady layouts and pop-up comment sections (Haloscan!) and a hodgepodge of virtually every sensory accompaniment known to man--from ambient and almost always lousy music for reading posts, to distracting marquee elements (which I think should be making a comeback real soon). We've gone far from cleaning up the clutter of this kind of blogging to admiring the minimal use of these.

Then there were unbelievably far-fetched snippets, including a house (which is supposedly ours) with a swimming pool and probably some recliners at the poolside as well. Blogging made me a prolific storyteller. The fact that you can write just about anything and get away with it is charming, even tempting. So I began writing fictional day-to-day scenes while holing up in my room. There was even a time when I wrote horrible caricatures of my teachers in high school, all of which are true; then I defamed a lot of people in my high school; a really long story, but it turned out that my teachers found about my blog and was aggravated, or at the very least, disappointed. Luckily, I graduated from high school.

I could say it's the angst of someone holed up in his room, but this must have traumatized a lot of my "fearless" writing (or ranting or bashing). Until now, whenever I want to write a blog post, I can't help but think of the search engines, the hackers, the readers who might just end up in this blog and recognize me, and the looming possibility that even my father can search a lot of things on Pinterest and asks "What is Tumblr for?" on a random day.

Blogging has become a censored public activity no matter how confessional and private your posts are.[1] It's not saddening, but it hampers a lot of activity and material for personal bloggers. Trust me, 8 out of 10 personal blogs we've been reading are personal only in the sense that they are paid by bakeries and restaurants and brands to whip up patronizing reviews and require them to put in sensational keywords as subtle as possible. I've been there when this kind of blogging (or monetizing) was about to blossom: attending free concerts wearing Red Horse shirts; going to food exhibits with the sole requirement of blogging about it. I mean, sure, it's fun! (Free food! Loot bags everywhere!) But after a while it wears off and I was left to wonder what happened with the cathartic feeling I've been yearning for after writing a blog post.

Due to the eventual censorship and surveillance conducted on the Internet, bloggers have been subject to self-censorship and hyperawareness (can I be sued for writing these; are there laws about it?) that writing novel and personal blog posts is anything but counter-productive--a waste of time. This is probably one reason why I don't like to discuss this blog--or even mention it--to my friends or colleagues. It's such an open window to myself that as a defensive mechanism, I try to monitor my writing, rarely mentioning names or addresses--and end up writing a generic sort of tone and label it as personal blogging. It's the closest I could get.

Recently I developed a newer take on blogging when I started writing fiction. I treated it as a sort of storage for files, documents, ephemera--an online cabinet, if you will, to lessen the clutter of my laptop. (The publish button helps: it releases the burden of my oftentimes bulky DRAFTS folder.) It's a little less romanticized (and probably a little less narcissistic) from chronicling our lives--only artists and authors on Twitter can do that. This blog is a sort of attic for every story I wanted to develop, but couldn't.

[1] I have to conclude that Livejournal is by far the safest and most inconspicuous blogging platform ever, with its private posts and the throng of Russian users which my Dad, among other people, would think of it as spam.