(With due apologies to Milton Kundera)
There is something about seeing one's name in print (or computer screen) that seems to transform a normally self-effacing Adam and Amanda into a raging egomaniac. Welcome to the blogging phenomenon! Suddenly, that mousy accountant whom everybody ignores in the office believes that the whole world (those who can read, anyway) is hanging on to every keystroke of his prolific finger; fifty-something matrons are convinced the universe would be a poorer place without their pecan pie recipe; and closet nymphomaniacs feel liberated enough to shout out their secret fantasies. It's a brave new world out there - and the blogger is king.
Don't get me wrong. I'm a card-carrying member of that tribe - and proud of it. I just find it intriguing that thousands of normally reticent Clark Kents have suddenly blossomed into print-and-be-damned Supermen. It kind of reminds me of Hollywood in the 1930s and 1940s, when the fable of Lana Turner being discovered on a barstool at Sardis's lured thousands of young men and women to Tinsel Town, begging to be cast as extras in the latest MGM musical and desperately hoping that some prescient producer would spot their obvious talent in the couple of seconds they appear on the screen; and make them the next-big-things. I'm not sure if the guys who decide Pulitzers and Booker prizes troll the blog sites for potential winners, but hey! You never know.
What's my take on this 21st century phenomenon? For a very long time, the only sounding board most folks had for their pet peeves, grand designs, just-plain-bitching, or whatever, was the spouse/current bed companion and an occasional suffering best friend. The more tactful spouses tuned out after the first couple of sentences anyway; and the vast majority told their better/worse halves to go bother someone else: the really smart ones just switched on the Knicks game on TV and were left in peace thereafter. Nowadays, thanks to Gather, My Space and dozens of similar websites, they have a whole new captive audience. They can sound off on damn near anything; and the more comments their masterpiece/drivel receives - no matter how inane - the more it feeds their ego. Some actually begin to believe he/she is the greatest thing since Hemmingway.
More power to the bloggers, I say - well, almost. I'm all for freedom of expression, but it is getting increasingly difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff. Rating systems, like in Gather, do not really work because they are highly subjective. A lament about your insomnia might receive a 10; while an insightful and well-researched piece on Islam, for example, would have to be content with a 6: personal prejudices are very much at play here. Serious readers/writers need to negotiate a minefield of dross to find a few gems.
On balance though, I - and many others - would rather have too much than too little. So keep those salvoes coming, ladies and gentleman. I am waiting with bated breath for the next episode of a grande dame's sexual adventures; or a recipe for Lithuanian onion-bacon rolls; or Dubya's latest gaffe. You have nothing to lose but your inhibitions.