Her narrative is compelling

[Lisa’s] blog is great. But I haven’t completely settled the “is she talking to me” question.  While Lisa follows me back, we don’t interact with each other. She uses Tumblr in a very social way, she isn’t really part of the crowd of people whom I otherwise follow. And I find this somewhat troubling. … I like following her because, for whatever reason, her narrative is compelling.  Following her blog is somewhat akin to watching a reality TV show (Not one of the ones where they try to out-dance each other or diet for money, but one that just follows someone’s daily life). She’s my Jersey Shore. But of course, Lisa isn’t a reality TV character, she’s a real person. Yes, I know Snooki is real, too, but celebrities are different.  … treating real people, regular people, the same way we treat celebrities, is problematic.

Patrick Brown

Where does this feeling bad for reading (reading!) a published piece of writing come from? When and why has it become so transgressive to read? I can see perhaps feeling bad for reading something a third-party wrote about a person, for example, if it’s nasty gossip or a breach of confidence. But when it’s a person writing about themselves… well, they’ve made a choice to be a writer (or at least a “writer”) just like Snooki has made the choice to be an “actor.”

Brown is right that personal blogs are compelling in the same way as reality TV. In fact, I think personal blogs are as much responsible for the decline of the soap opera as reality TV. I think lots of people read blogs as episodic stories (there’s a limit to how many interactive relationships a person can keep up), but it’s unpopular to admit to doing this, because it transgresses the “rules” of blogging/social media. It’s ok to watch an episode of Jersey Shore and then shut the TV off and go about your day, but if you read a blog entry, then close your browser and go about your day, you’re “creepy” and a “stalker.” The overuse of those two words probably gets to the heart of why Brown feels bad about reading someone’s blog in the way he wouldn’t if he were reading a book written by the same person.

Where his argument falls apart is in his analysis of celebrity. Arguing that bloggers are not analogous to reality TV stars because people wouldn’t recognize them on the street is fallacious. People who are on TV are obviously more visually recognizable than people who write. But that doesn’t make every TV personality more of a celebrity than every writer. How many people would have recognized JD Salinger had they passed him on the street? At any rate, it’s not like Brown is acting like a papparazzo, virtually stalking Lisa with the goal of finding out something salacious to sell to a gossip blogger. He’s reading her blog. And, in this case, she actually knows he’s part of her audience, and may even be reading his blog.

He asks “is she talking to me”? The answer, obviously, from his pov is yes. He finds her narrative compelling. Ergo, she (or, more specifically her writing, her narrative) is talking to him. Now, did Lisa anticipate that people outside her immediate social circle might be interested in her writing when she started blogging? Perhaps she did, perhaps she didn’t. But once she decided to blog publicly, she opened herself up to the possibility that her real readership (audience) might, and probably would, extend beyond her imagined readership.