(Initial) Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali's blog has now moved to http://blog.mahabali.me

The Vulnerability of Social Media Participation

26 Comments

This is just a quick weekend post to reflect on the vulnerability we open ourselves to when we blog or tweet or participate in any online community.

I only started blogging over a month ago – Dec 18, 2013! 30 posts already, so almost daily (sometimes twice a day… I know, it is too much)

Someone (apologies if misrepresent those thoughts) was commenting on facebook that not everyone has the same confidence about writing, doubting the value of what they have to say, or whether others will find it useful. For me, personally, i think we make ourselves vulnerable to participate in social media, whether by blogging, tweeting, or participating in any discussion. Unlike Jenny who talks about deliberating before writing, i am happy to share my half-formed thoughts… On the condition that they are accepted as such, not treated as complete. (I compare those with peer-reviewed work and articles that get published after editing in magazines – that work gets raised to a higher quality by peers and editors BUT social media writing can potentially get so much more feedback that benefits everyone’s learning in the process).

Having said that, it means that sometimes what I blog about is not necessarily up to some people’s standards. Maybe i will write something with good intentions that would offend someone or have unintended consequences. Before the internet, this happened a lot behind the author’s back, right? It still can, of course, but now there are opportunities for engagement..

Which adds another element to the mix: will they like me? My colleagues at work got overwhelmed with my reflective/provocative emails, so i started blogging. But my colleagues at work still talk to me and show their respect for my ideas in person. Online, it is a big risk: will anyone really benefit from this? Will theylike me? Do we want to see how often our blog has been viewed, tweeted, discussed? Do we want to read about it in someone else’s work?

Why do we write? Sometimes, like Frances commented, i write for myself, because it helps me organize my thoughts. I share it to get feedback from others and interact and further develop my ideas. Yesterday,i wrote to express thoughts and feelings i felt others must be having as well, and in a way that blog post made me realize i was not alone and i am glad i put myself out there. On the other hand, i worried that by arguing for inclusion, i might have alienated someone else on the other side of the spectrum. I hope i have not. I was just arguing that we are each free to pursue this course however we like for whatever goals we have.

Now if only I could take that sentiment and use it in all facets of my professional and personal life…

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Author: Maha Bali

Associate professor of practice, American University in Cairo

26 thoughts on “The Vulnerability of Social Media Participation

  1. oh I would love to comment on this.

    I started blogging since 2005 and I discovered it as a freshmen undergraduate student because I saw upperclassmen blogging. I loved to write as much as I talk too much just about anything. One day I tried blogging and of course it was a personal blog and there I learned it all about life, internet, blogging… much the hard way. People hated me as well as ruined couple of relationships because of blogging. But it was a good thing I learned it while I was young. =)) I could attribute it to immaturity. And it was really petty stuff anyway. So it’s good I discovered it when I was young and “googling people” wasn’t as popular yet.

    I’ve had tons of blogs since 2005, but I don’t blog continuously. I would blog for a season, then stop for a long time. Then feel the want to blog again.. and it always a new blog every time (I delete the old ones too.. with fear of I might have said something before that I would regret in the future.)

    But it turns out I really do love to blog. I like to speak. I like writing. Formal or not. It’s my space. I still have the freedom to blog and say whatever I want but now, after all the past experiences, I now know there should also be caution. I totally agree with vulnerability. You are exposing your mind to the world and it also means people who would counter-attack your thoughts.

    I have tried to make an anonymous blog before.. but it also didn’t last.

    Last September 2013, I came across a person who was blogging and tweeting her experiences while doing her thesis and it helped her. So I tried her strategy, and I made a new blog and a new twitter account (even though I wasn’t really a twitter person tho). It was mainly for private space without no intention to connect with people but I like the results. I don’t mind networking ๐Ÿ™‚

    I like the theme of my blog right now, that it focuses on the theme of education & learning and less on personal “diary”. For the past month I have made personal posts (just because I had a habit of it), but just yesterday and the other day I cleaned my blog and deleted the too personal posts. ๐Ÿ˜€ By too personal I meant, things that I did yesterday or last week or for the past few days.

    In the old days, I blog and I tended to focus on getting readers… But now, I focus less on getting readers… I blog for myself. It’s my self-therapy. It’s nice if somebody reads it and leave a comment. But it doesn’t really matter to me. I actually don’t mind having my own little corner in the web where nobody even knows it exists. SO I guess… when it comes to standards… I don’t have any.

    I just like blogging as a therapeutic way to organize my thoughts or sometimes just put it into writing.

  2. Wow, thanks for sharing that, Toni

  3. yes thanks both of you, muchly, it’s always lovely to hear this kind of open generous admission of what are usually private thoughts… I assume (just based on my own experience, so might be wrong) that most everyone finds it strange and confronting to be out in the open like this… I played with private blogs and small group blogs for a long time before just letting go of the anxiety and trying a bit who the hell cares?! It feels rather like being a teenager in high school again.. identity crisis, vulnerable, unstable, unsure, tentative, bold, experimental, having fun one moment, feeling traumatised and confused the next about the fact that you really have no idea who you’re talking to and what risks you’re taking or what you want to say or why… it’s just a story you’re making up as you go along… and then the recognition dawns that everyone else is feeling pretty much the same much of the time so it begins to look like the human condition or the combination of new technology new situation new topics of conversation and then it starts feeling rather familiar and safe after all and less unpredictable and more fun and all that and all that…. but for all the strangeness and doubt in the struggle to make peace with the patterns that emerge as your voice, I still encourage my students to give it a go, coz as you’re saying, writing is the way to come to know all manner of… stuff ;)…

    on the other hand, maybe it’s just because I live with a teenager and empathise so much I’ve crossed over into someone else’s narrative and completely lost my mind!

    • Blogging does have it’s benefits ๐Ÿ™‚ but like I said in my experience… bloggers should also know how they use this wonderful avenue of personal expression. Especially nowadays where EVERYBODY seems to be in the internet. One mistake = ruin your life.

      Again, like I said, I attribute my ignorance (as a younger version of me) to immaturity (as a way to excuse myself, just in case my name pops somewhere in the web and there are foot prints I forgot to clean up :P).

      That’s why a lot of kids are cyber-bullied nowadays… The things that they post, they don’t really think anymore.

  4. I’m a half-formed thought-thinking kind of blogger, too, so your ideas resonated with me. I often view my blog as a scratching post, where I am toying and tinkering and playing around, and hopefully, inspiring others to do the same every now and then (even if they roll their eyes or shake their head at my nonsensical creativity).
    But what it comes down to is audience. Who’s the reader in your head as you write? If it is the critical voice who will chastise you for mulling over unfinished ideas, then I suspect the blog will go silent after awhile. If it is the encouraging voice, like mine (I hope), then the exploration of ideas is only just begun.
    Keep at it!
    Peace,
    Kevin

    • OH. I forgot to mention in my story that… I actually have tried PAID blogging too ๐Ÿ™‚

      Should have discovered it in earlier days though… lol I could have earned BIG BUCKS!! $$$$

      I used the money to buy stuff at e-bay ๐Ÿ˜›

      But I don’t venture into paid blogging anymore.. I have no time! You have to keep networking and promoting and finding readers (so you have to make really really really interesting posts which was really hard). Blogrolls. Blogrings. Blog networks. All sorts of blog promoting tactics. Paid bloggers are usually the stay at home mommies. So my network of bloggers are mom’s. Difficult to relate really.

      Those blog promoting websites also has a downside that I don’t really get quality readers = SPAMMERS.

      Now I blog, for myself… and whenever I find people who read it, I’m glad.. but gaining readers isn’t really a focus of why I blog now ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Hi Maha – another great blog post ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks. This reminded me that in the past I have written a few posts about why I blog and how I blog. In looking back over them I can see that I am more confident as a blogger now than I was in the very early days – but I am still what I would call a ‘cautious’ blogger and also a’selfish blogger’ – http://jennymackness.wordpress.com/2011/11/02/the-selfish-blogger-%E2%80%93-a-discussion/

    But I do tweet by blog posts more now than I used to – so that’s a change. I don’t think I will ever stop feeling vulnerable in relation to social media – but I think that’s my personality more than it is a fault of social media ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Thank u all for the comments and sharing insights into your own processes
      I am learning like crazy in this course and developing lots of warm feelings towards folks!

  6. Thank you for sharing these thoughts. I also restarted blogging around the same time you did. My goal in doing so is simply to make time, a few days a week, to reflect, synthesize, stretch my brain. I also worry that my writing may not reflect my best thinking, but since I have little time for more formal writing either, it’s either going to happen on a blog or not. I have found the #rhizo14 community very helpful in forcing me to stick to my blogging plan. It helps to have a little audience that provides some feedback or feels free to riff off of others’ ideas. It makes it feel dynamic.

    • I agree – #rhizo14 community taking the blogging experience to another level for me

      • Before I enrolled in #rhizo14, my last mooc was… probably EDCMOOC. and in between my blog has been nothing but personal posts of how i’m tired of studying, very busy yada yada yada. You can’t find it now because I deleted them ๐Ÿ˜›

        I lost focus on why I put up that blog in the first place.. Should be ideas, and not about how stressed I was! haha Couldn’t avoid it. I was so used to personal blogs for many many years.

  7. I found your ideas very useful Mali. Your blogging style is so friendly I am sure that everyone will like you but in some ways, I wonder if that is always important. I value reading the posts of some people whose views are very different from mine because they make me think. I even like people to come and argue with me at my blog. I didn’t realise how important my blog was to me until I lost several years worth of posts – it was like a bereavement.
    Two of the things that make us vulnerable on social media are vicious attacks (trolling) and misunderstanding. The first is very difficult to handle but with the second we can do something about it with the help of our commenters. We can be very clear that questions and comments are welcome and get into dialogue with our commenters. With this sort of dialogue we may (even slightly) change our understanding of the world and so might our commenters.
    This is more difficult on social media like Facebook where the dialogue is so fast-moving and more open to mis-interpretation somehow.

  8. Hurrah for you Maha! I owe my presence here to a long readership of a small number of bloggers. I never really had a clue about blogging. I am always making it all up as I go along. As I have tumbled into research I have realised that blogging for me is my improvisation space. It comes out or it doesn’t. I never think it through. I just feel uncomfortable or excited or playful and need to get out. The thought comes later as I figure out what the hell is on the page. Research, or teaching feeds off the impro but then I need to seek protection from scared colleagues or administrators who feel more comfortable with a different mode of communication and are able to take stuff on board if other more measured, respectable individuals are prepared to put up with me. I often say to people who don’t like the way I am that they should consider themselves fortunate as unlike me they don’t have to put up with me all the time!

    I welcome your honesty. I like that. A lot. Keep going you are doing a great job!

    • Hey Simon, I think you’ve articulated a lot of how I feel about my own identity and approach to blogging, plus how others see it. This is also true about lots of the other comments. Awesome finding people I can relate to in this way. Equally awesome are folks who take a different approach and have given me a look into their thought processes and feelings. Thanks

  9. Why do I write.
    Oh, isn’t that the question. I’ve written as long as I have known how. I write for the same reasons as Joan Didion, “โ€œI write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means”. To really get anything out of writing or social media you have to be vulnerable. I think the degrees can vary. As a writer I know my best work is when I am at the most vulnerable when I can take down the thick walls I wrap my self in and show people who I am. Doing so helps them to be vulnerable with you as well.

    I wrote about Internet Friendships and vulnerability here, if interested: http://www.policymic.com/articles/70415/will-you-be-my-internet-friend

    • Danielle, I read your piece and was sooooo moved (I am crying right now). You talk about vulnerability on a whole different level. Thank you so much for sharing that.
      I also love your comment about helping OTHERS be vulnerable! I had never thought of that as a possible goal! But i guess group therapy and any kind of therapy entails opening oneself up which is a kind of vulnerability, isn’t it? Wow. This does remind me of how sometimes stuff i have written has encouraged f2f friends to open up on things they would not have previously.
      Having said this, i also agree with sthg in your own post about online friends. Some of my closest most valuable relationships are with online friends, some are ppl i never met, but more likely are ppl i met a few times f2f but have stayed in touch with online for years.

  10. Welcome to the blogosphere ๐Ÿ™‚ I began blogging as a way of journalling and reflecting on my studies as an online MEd student. I see the benefit of blogging as a reflective space for consideration of one’s thinking on whatever topic is important at that time,. The real value for me has been in revisiting archives and being able to track the development of my thinking on a particular issue or topic. My blog had been all but abandoned (2013 marked the first year in more than a decade without a single entry) and I’m intrigued by how being “back in the game” these past couple of weeks, as part of #rhizo14 has already had an impact on my thinking (prompting me to reflect and consider) and practice (reengaging with individuals, communities, and concepts).

  11. Wow, thanks for writing this ‘quick post’ and starting this conversation. Ever since I started blogging I often think about the ‘why’ bit – particularly, of late – the ‘why I don’t do it more often’. The reason I started a blog was, like Doug – because I wanted to be able to track the progression of my thinking over time. At the time I was very inspired by Julian Stodd, who writes a regular – generally daily- learning blog. Like your, his style is very conversational, and casual – he uses his blog to get ideas down, get feedback, revise and refine them. I really loved the idea of creating something which could demonstrate the evolution of your thinking over time. The thing that he said about blogging, that’s stuck with me, is that (like others have said here) he writes for himself. It doesn’t matter to him if no-one else reads it.

    Around the same time, I was also discovering Harold Jarche’s concept of Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) – blogging is a good way to make ‘sense’ of your knowledge and experience. So, at a cognitive level, I had good reasons to start a blog.

    But it was seeing a former work colleague of mine start his own blog that kind of gave me the courage to step out and actually do it. I needed to see someone else – someone who I identified as a peer- show me that it wasn’t such a big deal to get over the vulnerability, and self doubt and anxiety you speak of.

    In terms of the ‘type’ of blogger that I am – I definitely identify with Jenny’s cautious approach. This is why although I’m quite a regular commenter on others’ blogs, my own blogging is somewhat erratic. It’s odd – but I feel much less pressure, and much less ‘on show’ when I’m simply replying to a comment on someone else’s blog. Because it’s more just like having a conversation really. I’ve also met some amazing people and had some really positive experiences result from commenting on other’s blogs (namely: I ‘met’ Jeff Merrell after commenting on his blog. Through this connection, I participated in his ‘Exploring PLN’ open online seminar, and have developed a lot of meaningful long term connections in my PLN as a result of the experience).

    The biggest revelation to me when i started blogging was discovering this whole community of bloggers out here on the internet. I find it incredibly supportive, and i think you’ll find that anyone who blogs thinks a lot about why they blog, who for – and often – well, at least for those who aren’t daily bloggers) – feel somewhat guilty about not blogging more often. I’m over the guilt aspect of it, and have accepted that it’s my space that I use as I like. However, I would like to be less self conscious about my blogging, and let go of the compulsion to edit and re-edit before posting. This is really just about getting into a habit of daily writing. I’ve been amazed at how prolific the bloggers at rhizo14 are, and I think with so much going on in rhizo14 it offers an excellent opportunity to try daily blogging – I’d certainly not be stuck for things to write about! So: you’ve inspired me. I’m going to challenge myself to write a daily post for the next week (I’ve already actually done 2 in 2 days so I’m making those count…).

    Thanks for the inspiration Maha!!

    • I don’t know if you’ll be able to see my reply Tanya.

      But as a person who’s been blogging even before I became an “adult” (Lol). I’ve also experienced through the growing up process as a blogger. By that I mean, from blogging the daily stress and complains as a student or struggle as a teenager and to now finally blogging as a professional (or so I try). I’ve deleted my old blogs before (mainly because they’re just full of rants). But I have another blog that’s much more personal.. and when I look back at it, I see how I have changed. How I have grown.

      It’s really like a diary (my personal blog). And looking back at it, I just laugh at myself because of my mood swings and ups and downs. Today I am happy. Tomorrow I am sad. Last week I hated the world. Next week I love it. Really funny. I guess I am entertained because I am an over thinker and I like reflecting about these changes overtime. I used to have a blog where I try to post DAILY. So it was just mostly a reflection of what happened that day but I didn’t like it because it seemed like every day I go out, I always think about “oh I will blog about this”. Didn’t like that approach.

      So I guess my point is, it really depends on the theme you want to blog about and the community you want to be in.

      Glad I found myself blogging in a new perspective now, (trying to post less personal stuff) and I’m glad I found a community that is more of quality. I don’t mind reading lengthy blog posts because they’re intellectual and educational compared to my old community who blogs mostly about how their day went or what shoes they bought, or what new items they’re trying to sell … what do I care right? lol

      • Hi Toni – thanks for your reply to my comment!
        Yes – I get your point: there’s no point setting arbitrary goals about how often to blog…you might just end up posting crap for the sake of it.

        However, I see it more as a temporary experiment for me, basically to get into the habit of writing more regularly. I’m quite an anxious blogger, I tend to find myself mulling over every sentence; it takes me a long time to write a post. I’d like to be able to let go of this need for ‘perfection’ (there’s no such thing!) a little and blog more like I comment. I don’t have the same compulsive need to edit and re-edit comments I write on other people’s blogs… so I’d like to be able to write blog posts the same way I write comments.

        Some have suggested reposting comments as blog posts, which I might also experiment with too. I think you’d still need to add a bit of context around it, as some of this would just be lost if you copied and pasted a blog comment entirely from the original blog post.

        Rhizo14 also moves so fast, and there are so many awesome posts being written; I think it’s a perfect opportunity to get down some ‘half baked thoughts’ / thoughts-in-progress to try to make sense of it as you go – as I’m feeling at times like I’m going a bit mad. Getting thoughts down on paper – even if they don’t entirely make perfect sense yet, is a way to mitigate the madness a bit. This, as I understand it, is why Maha blogs regularly – just to release some of those half formed thoughts so that she can play with them a bit more, and others can add their input (…and probably to make room for more….!)

  12. I looove the comments on this post, getting to know how and why folks blog, how they feel. Thanks, everyone

  13. OH. I forgot to mention in my story thatโ€ฆ I actually have tried PAID blogging too ๐Ÿ™‚

    Should have discovered it in earlier days thoughโ€ฆ lol I could have earned BIG BUCKS!! $$$$

    I used the money to buy stuff at e-bay ๐Ÿ˜›

    But I donโ€™t venture into paid blogging anymore.. I have no time! You have to keep networking and promoting and finding readers (so you have to make really really really interesting posts which was really hard). Blogrolls. Blogrings. Blog networks. All sorts of blog promoting tactics. Paid bloggers are usually the stay at home mommies. So my network of bloggers are momโ€™s. Difficult to relate really.

    Those blog promoting websites also has a downside that I donโ€™t really get quality readers = SPAMMERS.

    Now I blog, for myselfโ€ฆ and whenever I find people who read it, Iโ€™m glad.. but gaining readers isnโ€™t really a focus of why I blog now ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. Pingback: Chaos, safety, vulnerability, and community in massive online interaction | Reflecting Allowed

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