Friday, June 06, 2008


“I think blogging is for jobless people,” declared a friend over lunch one day.

It is totally untrue.

I’ve been blogging for three years and have found the experience useful, educative, interesting and even therapeutic. My conclusion therefore is that blogging, quite simply, can be good for you and the world around you. Heres why.

First, it is truly democratizing communication. For instance, celebrity blogs like Aamir Khan’s and Amitabh Bachan’s allow people to directly listen to what they are saying. These actors in turn can be rid of the mainstream media (MSM) hounding them and then misquoting them or editing their words out of context.

Watching the harassment of Aarushi’s family by the media, I thought of how a blog could have solved a couple of things. The family could have communicated with the press, if they wanted to, through a blog and also removed the menace from their doorstep by giving the media the quotes they need to file stories.

Second, blogging has immense untapped potential as a political instrument. What happened in Burma last year bears testimony to it. A young generation of Burmese students witnessed for the first time the violence of the junta. Angry but motivated they ducked into internet cafes to blog about the repression as blood flowed on the streets of Rangoon and other towns. Their pictures and first-hand accounts were picked up by the MSM which immediately internationalized the issue. The junta could not be dislodged but they were forced to allow a UN human rights investigation, something that hasn’t happened in Burma in three years.

One tiny voice can become a loud echo. Imagine if honest government servants begin to anonymously blog about their political bosses. They could name names which the MSM could investigate. The thought is delicious and it’s possible.

Third, blogging can challenge and complement the mainstream media. It challenges the media by acting as a watchdog of the watchdog. It was a blogger who exposed the touch up job of a Reuters photographer. The photographer had added a few extra plumes of smoke to a picture of an Israeli bombing of Beirut in 2006.

Bloggers also exposed CBS and its anchor Dan Rather for failing to authenticate documents used in one of their stories. Quite obviously the media is fallible and here bloggers can complement it. The first pictures of the Indian Ocean tsunami were taken by bloggers. The New York Times was calling bloggers in Chennai and Bangalore to get more information. So if you see something you can do something about it.

Fourth, blogging is actually good for health! It’s not such a wild idea if you think about how sharing a painful experience can lighten your burden. A study published in the Oncologist reported that cancer patients who engaged in expressive writing just before treatment felt physically and mentally better compared with those who did not. That’s why some hospitals have even started hosting patient-authored blogs on their website.

The reason it’s different from keeping a diary under your pillow is that sympathetic or similar people can connect with you.

And for anyone who thinks it is technologically challenging let me say that if you’ve figured out email you can figure out blogging.

But while blogging can be rewarding its also true that too many people are blogging and too few are making any money off of it. There are 9 million blogs out there and 40,000 new ones are added everyday. Many of these talk about excruciatingly dull things like brushing of teeth and combing of hair.

The credibility of blogs is also a problem. After all anyone can write one and say what they please. The interactivity of blogs is also a double-edged sword. I was so rattled by anonymous hateful comments on my blog that I had to disable the feature.

But a good blog that follows some self-censorship can be deeply satisfying and eventually finds its readers. Blogging is much, much more than a pursuit of the jobless. Best of all, it’s free, it’s easy and it can be empowering. And although there are so many blogs out there a well-written blog behaves like a magnet – it draws readers to it.

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Unknown said...

Perhaps the person was trying to point out that their priority was not in blogging and they would rather spend their time doing something else which might be their own passion.

Your point about vitriolic comments in blogs is a point that seems to be lost to huge amount of participants in some blogs. For e.g., I have read some blogs on times of india site which has such violent expressions and hateful personal comments amongst each other. This is a case where freedom should be handled with responsibility!!

Somehow the Indian population has not come to terms with the concept of "agreeing to disagree". We seem to get personal with our comments for some reason. Perhaps thats because we are still a young democracy.


Alaphia Zoyab said...

Hi Arif,

You're right. The space where you can debate issues with facts and learn from each other is shrinking in India. What you get instead is ignorant, prejudiced bigots anonymously (or otherwise) shooting their little two-bit opinions off.

Sathej said...

Blogging is a rather effective way to convey and discuss opinions. Of course, 'agreeing to disagree' is an aspect that is lacking in our country.But talking of honest officers blogging about their political bosses-there's quite a way to go for that to happen. It wouldn't take long for political bosses to figure out who blogged. Anonymity is not entirely uncrackable. Further, as you point out, anonymity is double-edged.Comments on blogs pose a great problem. Btw, the NDTV feature We the People covered a few aspects of blogging quite well, but more could have been explored had it not been for the time constraint.

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Alaphia Zoyab said...

Hi Sathej,
The TV news format didn't allow us to go beyond the very basics of blogging.

Sathej said...

I quite understand that. Constraints are pronounced in TV Shows.