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Open heart; open blog January 23, 2006

Posted by Michael McVey in Online Tools.

heart   Last night, a colleague from a discussion list asked me for some help setting up her blog. She wanted to focus on literacy issues and children’s literature. Her daughter suggested she set up a blog and they chose MySpace.com.

My immediate reaction was that MySpace.com might not have been the best place for her, a serious teacher, to park her thoughts and ponderings. Eventually she wrote back to admit that MySpace.com was beginning to look like “a place where 16 to 30 year olds could meet people online.” I recommended blogger.com and wordpress.com as excellent starting places. There is something a little disconcerting about hosting services like MySpace.com and I am still not sure why I feel this way but let me share three observations.

One came on the heels of a tragedy. A teacher, Will Richardson, wrote in his blog, Weblogg-ed, that a popular student his school was recently killed in a car accident. Kids in the school began posting images and poems of remembrance for the student on their MySpace.com sites and linked to other similar remembrances. There was a huge outpouring of online grief. Just to be clear, it is as valid an important thing as face-to-face grieving is. I have no doubt about that. I still feel a little awkward about expressing emotions so freely online. This may be my status as a digital immigrant kicking in but I think it might be more than that.

I wonder just how those immediate outpourings of emotion will affect our society. I visited a site called grouphug.us and was both unimpressed by the online anonymous confessions. I expected to see many of these confessions. There were those about unrequited love, frustrations with the world, with family, with love, and with supervisors. I grew a little uncomfortable at the things people felt the need to scream, safe in their anonymity: masturbation fantasies, anger at women, anger at themselves, and anger at the world. Of course, some of the writings are poetic impulses and the forum is a chance to express and strengthen a poetic voice. My concern is that you cannot contact the authors of these pieces of emotional shrapnel. You cannot reach out to them and offer them a hug,  but you can reach out and attempt to contact authors on MySpace.com. That leads me to another observation.

Last week a young woman in my computer lab was working on her MySpace web site. I stood over her shoulders and made small talk about her site and photos. She stopped mid-way through her typing, a little uncomfortable that I was reading her words in person. Why could I not read her words in person that are freely available to hundreds of thousands of anonymous readers online? I am still working this out.



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