Living in the online comfort zone?

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Blogs, or weblogs, are one of many online forms of personal expression and publishing that have emerged with the rise of the internet. They are an ever expanding phenomenon. Technorati, a real-time search engine and self-proclaimed authority on blogs, reports that the “blogosphere” continues to double every six weeks and currently includes more than 35 million weblogs.

For bloggers such as Elaheh Farmand, an eighteen year old Iranian-born woman living in Virginia in the United States, blogs are replacing the personal diaries of generations past.

birdescape.comElaheh Farmand commenced her personal blog BlueBirdEscape in July 2002. Now just finishing high school in the United States, she migrated with her family from Iran when she was 11. Her older brother lives in Belgium and a sister and brother have remained in Iran. For Elaneh, a gifted student who loves to study English, her blog is a personal diary. Indeed, readers may feel that they intrude on the private thoughts of a young woman growing up in a new land but still missing aspects of the old.

The conflict between the values and way of life of her familty and those of the average American girl of her age makes her sometimes appear older than she is. 'I'm not a little girl anymore and I've made my mistakes along the way…I lived life my own way. I decided to write. I decided to take it slow, whatever the “it” is. Society can label you, but you don't have to keep that label'.

For Elaheh, online writing is much easier than other forms of communication. 'In the online world, speaking is so easy, so informal, so flexible. There are no eyes to watch out for, no stares, no judges, no juries, just you and a screen. You can laugh without the noise, you can smile without the teeth, you can even cry without tears.'

riverbendblog.blogspot.comSome blogs open opening the reader’s eyes to unfamiliar worlds. Bloggers lose their privacy. But the unseen audience attracts them to share their otherwise published thoughts. In some cases, too, bloggers move from bytes to paper. Baghdad Burning, published in 2006, began as the blog of a young woman still living in Baghdad. She places her opinions on Iraqi politics under the name of Riverbend, having concealed her identity for her own protection. Though born in Iraq to Iraqi parents, she is bilingual and was raised abroad for several years as a child before returning to live in Baghdad in her early teens. Prior to the invasion of Iraq, she worked at a Baghdad software company.

While it is difficult to know whom Elaheh sees as her audience, Riverbend actually engages with and comments on her readers, 'Just as there are ignorant people in the Western world, there are ignorant people in the Middle East'. She tries to explain life in Baghdad to those outside,

I remember February 13, 1991. I remember the missiles dropped on Al-Amriyah shelter- a civilian bomb shelter in a populated, residential area in Baghdad. Bombs so sophisticated, that the first one drilled through to the heart of the shelter and the second one exploded inside. The shelter was full of women and children- boys over the age of 15 weren’t allowed. I remember watching images of horrified people clinging to the fence circling the shelter, crying, screaming, begging to know what had happened to a daughter, a mother, a son, a family that had been seeking protection within the shelter’s walls. I remember watching them drag out bodies so charred, you couldn’t tell they were human.

About a year after she had left work because of the lack of security, she visited her old workplace with a male family member. She hoped to return to her job. She describes her encounter with one of the former department directors:, 'I asked him when they thought things would be functioning, he wouldn’t look at me. His eyes stayed glued to A.’s face as he told him that females weren’t welcome right now-especially females who "couldn’t be protected". He finally turned to me and told me, in so many words, to go home because "they" refused to be responsible for what might happen to me.' She has worked from home since then.

Blogs fall into many genres. Some are polemical, recalling the early pamphleteers who flourished after the emergence of printing presses. They invite the readers to take political action. Other early blogs were more impersonal, technical in orientation. They enabled people to share information and opinion. They offered a more accessible format than the computer bulletin board of the early internet era. They functioned as a technical advice column.

The two young women, both originally from the Middle East, are very different in age, in preoccupations, in their reasons for developing their blogs. But readers can learn from the experience and stories of both. They write sincerely and genuinely. But readers should not expect these qualiities from all blogs. Some offer self-obsessed and self-promoting individuals to craft an artificial life. Blogs come without guarantees!

Margaret CassidyMargaret Cassidy had a personal web page in 1995, more than two years before the term 'blog' was coined in December 1997.



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Existing comments

Hi Margaret,

Many thanks for the article. I too think I fall well into this 'supposedly' new-age era of blogging(behind the comfort and veil) of a computer.

I find it even more ironic that as I find greater comfort writing/talking to a screen, I am also trying to form an online (then 'real') community using the infinite powers of transcending global waters.

Thanks for the read. Kind of helped me understand myself even better!

Martina McGrath | 11 August 2009  

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