May 3, 2015 by Paula Reed Nancarrow
Last week I wrote about having a blog post Freshly Pressed for the second time.
The post that received this honor (explained here) was about the effect of my mother’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis on my parents’ marriage. It meant a great deal to me to connect with people who were moved by the piece, which is now my most commented-upon post, and the second most viewed. (Number one, as of today, is still this post.) “Forgotten is Forgiven” has also been reblogged more than any other post I’ve ever written – at last count, 33 times.
It seems you can write a piece that is longer than 850 words and still get read.
A post can be literary and poetic rather than utilitarian. It can be personal. The title doesn’t have to be a list to get picked up by search engines. That’s nice. I write grant proposals for a living. They are impersonal and utilitarian enough.
However, there is a dark side to my fifteen minutes of blogging fame.
Take those 180+ comments, for example.
The first week’s comments are from people who have been regularly following my blog, with whom I have established relationships. Starting on the day the post was featured on Freshly Pressed, I began to get one or two word comments, some of which were so shallow and general I was not even sure the person has read the post.
Blogs are supposedly an interactive medium.
But there’s not much you can say in response to “Nice post” except “Thank you.” Sometimes the comment will include a request to visit their site. If it’s relevant to the conversation, that’s fine. But “Great piece! Check out my blog!” is not conversation.
Don’t get me wrong. I had some incredible, heartfelt, discerning comments. I hope I will be seeing more of those people. But the sad fact is that some people troll Freshly Pressed posts and leave comments on all of them (sometimes without reading any) just to have a link that tracks back to their own blog.
Reblogging happens for a variety of reasons as well, not all of them good.
A number of people shared my post on their own blogs, prefaced with a comment on why it was meaningful to them, or why it might be useful to others. I appreciated that. But sometimes my post was reblogged in places that seemed to make little sense. MMGifts and More? Diplomatic Currents? The Militant Negro™? There are people out there with blogs that have nothing on them but reblogged material. Why?
In 2010, WordPress deliberately introduced reblogging, to better compete with Tumblr, where the whole idea of blogging is as much about collecting and sharing content as it is about originating it. But WordPress is a press, not a tumble. The initial response of users to reblogging was not positive. Many people felt that it blurred the line between social sharing and plagiarism. The lack of an opt-out was a major bone of contention. The issue was still being discussed in 2012, but by 2015, people seem to have pretty much accepted the practice.
I tried reblogging on WordPress once.
The post was mostly photographs of a spring garden, and Minnesota was cold and cheerless at the time. I included a comment expressing appreciation of the post. Two things troubled me afterwards, and I eventually deleted the reblog.
First, WordPress’ Publicize function treated it exactly as it might one of my own posts, and published it, as if it were one of my posts, to all my social media sites. This felt misleading to me at best. Second, all those photographs I so admired were automatically imported into my blog’s media gallery. Without attribution.
It was hard for me not to think of this when I realized I was getting traffic from Flipboard.
Flipboard allows people to create an “Internet magazine” with stories they can flip back and forth through, like pages. It is particularly popular with people who read on their ipads or phones. I typed “Forgotten is Forgiven” into the search engine on one of my higher traffic days. At least six identical pictures of my smiling, 29-year old mother stared out at me, like the Marilyn Diptych – all of them from reblogged versions of my post.
This made me a little queasy.
In truth, the “dark side” of being Freshly Pressed is the dark side of blogging memoir.
We share our personal stories on the Internet for many reasons. To be helpful. To be recognized. To be understood. Because Art. But living out loud online carries risks – and not just for us, but for the people we write about, people who are the authors of their own lives, and are living them, day after day, without seeing themselves as part of the cast in someone else’s story.
There is no guarantee that the origin of my words and images will stick, that there will be any way to trace back the digital memory to its source. The Internet has been compared to a collective brain. Apparently it has plaques and tangles of its own.