Saturday, 24 November 2012

Me, My Self and My Blog

I hear you like blogs. So I made a blog about a blog. It's a blog IN a blog. It's blog inception.

What follows is an edited version of an assignment I created for a class entitled Environmental Media, Culture and Communication late in September 2012. Thus ends the themed month of Alt-Media as November's final week begins. 

"The Dark Ages of a Media Caveman

I am fully aware of my history as an archaic when it comes to media. It always took me an absurdly longer time than anyone else to open a Facebook profile, be Zen with MSN Messenger or change the absolutely embarrassing tag name of my old hotmail account (which is unsuitable enough to not mention in this post) to a more ‘grown up’ version. I was ridiculed for operating on ‘dial up’ internet throughout my entire high school career; still, I found something oddly comforting in listening to the hush and static of my ancient computer attempting to connect to a phone line. These outdated versions of cyberspace forced patience and understanding out of their users – something I learned early on and kept with me for a long time.

In some cases, I think my almost natural hostility towards the adoption of new media has kept me in the dark about what is happening ‘out there’: that is, in the cyber world around me. Perhaps my hesitations are actually fears that deal with the bigger picture. Am I going to lose real human contact with my friends if I live to post my every movement on Twitter? How many cute kitten videos on Youtube are enough to actually make me forget what it’s like to share a physical connection with non-human animals? (editor’s note: apparently 2,113,457, according to the research and comments of the professor who marked this). For the most case, I think my reservations are completely out of frame and don’t really amount to anything that would be considered realistic, but they do continue to hold me back.

Don't press play - it's a trap!

It is the human detachment factor I automatically consider when being introduced to different types of new media that I wrestle with. I’ll enjoy something in concept but witness its wide abuse by my peers, consequently turning me off of said medium altogether. I can’t prevent my mind from re-envisioning a more intimate use of new media, one that is not linear but reciprocal, embracing certain virtues of storytelling, empowerment and open dialogue. Consequently, it was with high hopes that I began my journey as what the highly connected mass refer to as a ‘blogger’, and it was with great disappointment that I failed rather quickly.

At First There Was.......Well, There Wasn’t Very Much at all.

            Travel blogging and writing is probably one of the most challenging occupations one can fill, and I could not have made a bigger mistake after I decided that this was my dream vocation. In hindsight, I shake my head and ponder over how naive I was to assume that I knew what I was doing. It actually physically pains me to discuss this, but I have to (at least once) re-tell my story of epic miscalculation and shortfall to gage where I am today.

Working hard in Bolgatanga, Ghana
            I was, in a previous lifetime, certain that my skill set as a person lent well to what is accurately named ‘travel altruism’. This is the practice of combining long-term international travel with some kind of aid work (building schools, working on food security, saving the world, etc.). When an opportunity to live and volunteer in Northern Rural Ghana presented itself to me, I assumed (wrongly) that it would also become my ticket to blogging superstardom. Naturally, I would combine every writing tool I didn’t have with the misguided notion that everyone would want to hear about my adventure abroad. My answer to such an overwhelming demand was to create a wildly successful blog creatively entitled ‘Aaron in Ghana’. This was supposed to be a vital lifeline that would connect my experiences at work and in my foster-home to the member base of people who had fundraised for this trip back in Canada. I wanted so badly to provide a lens that would accurately depict what I was experiencing but, not surprisingly, my ambitious project did not have such positive results and was abandoned early on when I realized that absolutely no one was reading it. How could I have tried so hard and yet failed so miserably?

            The learning journey I was about to take on was only just beginning. In fact, I hadn’t even left the gate. If I was to learn anything important at all I had to critique my own work and admit that although ‘Aaron in Ghana’ started off with some pretty optimistic expectations, it ultimately failed because my ability to craft something unique sucked. This was not a lesson I was ready for. Because I had not yet found a way to make an impact on my readers (if I had readers at all) I became desperate for redemption, this time under a new identity while en route to a new summer adventure in Whitehorse one year after what I am now referring to as ‘The Ghana Blogging Crisis’.

Exploring the Carcross Desert in Southern Yukon
            My blogging attempts in Whitehorse were quite possibly the very summit of a mountain filled with all of the horrible work I was producing. This was a very large mountain. At least my second attempt yielded more thought in its title, but not very much. ‘Riding the Whitehorse’ was a blog I managed which lasted a grand total of two months and an example of its contents read as follows:

‘....Today I went on an airplane. It took me to Vancouver. What a great city! When we got there, we took the Skytrain to our hostel. The Skytrain is really fun. Our hostel is on Jericho Beach. I recommend it. Then we went to English Bay where we saw the ocean. It was pretty cold. After that we went to Granville Isla......’

I would rather shear my eyelids with a potato peeler than read excerpts from that blog again.

            It would take me almost two years after Whitehorse before I would ever re-attempt to publish a blog again. I was deflated by how senselessly boring it was not only to post this crap, but read it aloud to myself afterwards. I was convinced that blogging wasn’t for me after all.

Why Blog?

I retract that statement -
I am perfect for a Harlequin novel.
            Despite my quick faceplant into a pile of self-produced material that wasn’t even fit for a Harlequin Romance novel, I have since learned that blogging can in fact be an immensely gratifying process that can have more of an impact on the blogger him/her self than their readers. Blogging is an immensely self-reflective process for the plain fact that each post is a part of someone that is being sent into the world completely unprotected. The subject matter does not have to be even remotely personal; like any artist, what you produce is uniquely your own and comes from a place that harbors intense emotional sentimentality. I’ve since looked back on my mundane and pathetic attempts at blogging from years past and cringed at its staleness. The gradual change in content and substance has proved to me that blogging is indeed a craft which can be improved and worked on over a period of constant reflection and acceptance of criticism.

            Blogging is also an excellent way to create connections across many superficial cyber borders between cultures and beliefs. Its accessibility can be endlessly impactful, allowing for the inclusion and overlapping of a plethora of peoples, all with different backgrounds and stories. It is at this intersection that blogging becomes cyclical, having equal significance for its creators and its audience. I have learned much about myself through blogging - my insecurities, my privilege, my prejudices – because I can make something real from an idea, let it ferment on some page in the internet, and revisit it months later, often with a totally new perspective on its subject matter. This has been a constant ebb and flow for me during the blogging process – creating something from within myself, stepping outside of it for a while and then questioning it on a later date.

Finding ‘Lost and Found’

            One of the hardest things to do as an early blogger was to admit to myself that the things I experienced and wanted to talk about were actually worthy of putting on a blog. Struggling with this aspect of blogging had ultimately lead to failure and was a main part of why I had not produced anything impactful during my first two attempts. My lack of confidence led to an absence of creativity and my posts read more like a travel journal instead of an engaging story. Ironically, it was my fear of having boring things to say that actually made me sound so incredibly boring. After finally overcoming this fear, I began to re-envision a new blog that would take from my experience but provide insights that people could actually relate to. With it, my current blog ‘Lost and Found’ was born in November of 2011.

Kind of like this, but with less 80's movies and porno mags.
            I wanted the name of my blog to be simple yet profound, which also happened to be the same recipe I could use while brainstorming and creating posts. Lost and Found tapped into my childhood as a curious and rambunctious boy who by nature lived to get dirty and perhaps lose an article of clothing here or there as collateral damage. I was constantly making trips to the Lost and Found bin at public school, always emerging with a boot or pair of gloves in hand. It was ability to be adventurous and loose part of myself along the way that never quite left me. Lost and Found is an attempt at expressing this part of me but keeping it at a level that other people can connect with. In the process, I have been constantly stepping outside of myself and finding balance between entertainment, humor and life lessons.

            At the time of writing this sentence, I have contributed 31 posts  to Lost and Found which have altogether received a very humble 3605 page reviews (half of which probably are my mom) with all of six subscribers, but I have learned not to measure its success by numbers. Lost and Found has had more of an impact on me than it has had on its readers. What keeps me motivated to write and post is the fact that I can am passionately aware and committed to my own projection of the world, which includes the fact I can be wrong, I can re-learn and I can change. Lost and Found has provided an excellent platform from which to fall-and-get-back-up from. Repeatedly. 

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