I have a confession to make, and it’s kind of creepy, in an Aspie- perseveration type way. I’m addicted to (reading) blogs. Science blogs and blogs my (real-life) friends/acquaintances write are keeping make up a small fraction of my google reader, and most of the other blogs are Autism or other disability blogs. I follow a number of parenting blogs chronicling the lives of amazing kids with a wide range of disabilities (and spectacular abilities, as well), including (but not limited to) Cerebral Palsy, Downs Syndrome, Autism, life-limiting rare genetic disorders/diseases, and extreme prematurity. And I follow blogs of individuals with these identities and labels as well. Of course, the much of my google reader is devoted to those who share my own label, Autism, but it is certainly not the only thing I read and follow. Currently my google reader has over 100 feeds. Not every one of them updates every day (thank goodness!), or often at all, but I follow all of them, and I’m constantly adding more as I find more fantastic bloggers out there. I have a smart phone and a 40 minute bus commute each way from my apartment to my lab. It works out rather nicely, actually.
I’ve been lurking around the Blog-o-Sphere since summer 2010, reading, learning, and absorbing what people post. I love learning how other people think; parents and self-advocates, and individuals who identify as both or neither, all have unique perspectives that they bring to the internet. And quite honestly, I think it has helped me to understand other people’s experiences and reactions much better.
I have a rule for when I read and follow a blog (which I’ve only ever broken once in a very specific circumstance): every time I find a new blog, I sit down and read the whole archive. If you’ve ever had me come to your blog (though you might not have known), I’m the one who suddenly pops up hits on all of your oldest posts. Sometimes it takes me days or weeks, but I read the whole archive. Up until I started my own blog, and the number of blogs I was following jumped up considerably as I was introduced to a fantastic new bunch of bloggers whom I hadn’t encountered before, I could say that 100% of the blogs I follow, I have read the whole archive. That’s not true at the moment, but I’m working on it. Sure, I’ll read a single post that I’m linked to, but if I like the post, I will very likely read the whole blog, from beginning to present post. Then I’ll add it to my google reader.
Why do I read a blog’s entire archive? I do this, because I like to know people’s whole stories, and I like to know where they’re coming from. Why are their views the way they are? What prompts them to say what they said about that topic? I like to know where people are coming from. I like to know the history behind their thoughts and ideas. I like to know someone’s whole story (or at least, what they choose to present to the internet), not just the snippet that they present in a single post. I think it has to do with my penchant for gathering data: I don’t make decisions before I have as much data as possible, especially social decisions, which require lots of data and computational time.
Generally, I try not to leave a comment until I’ve read at least part of the archive, or lurked for months, because that way I have as much information as possible before engaging in social interaction (and hopefully, meaningful conversation). I’ve broken this rule a couple times recently, for the same reason I haven’t read every single new blog I’m now following’s archive. If I’ve commented recently on your blog, I am likely currently working on getting through your archive. I might’ve read it all, I might not have yet, but rest assured I most certainly will. But I like to read the whole story that people present.
And so, just over 2 months ago, I started my own blog. After a year and a half of lurking and reading other people’s thoughts, I decided that I would start adding more directly to the sphere. And so here I am. I forget, sometimes, that people don’t always read the whole blog archive when they come to a blog. They read the post they were linked to and then they leave. I forget that most people reading my writing won’t have read everything that I have written before. It’s a little like the Sally-Ann test* that is used to assess young children for Autism. I know what the older blog entries say, so I assume that everyone else does too, even though I know, consciously, that most people who stumble across this blog don’t have a clue what my history is. (This is sometimes why my posts get very long – I often feel like I need to fill in the gaps.) This is something I’m still grappling with – how to tell my story without being redundant, but while still providing enough details that it is coherent.**
What is your experience with reading and following blogs? When you come across a blog that you like, do you read the whole archive? Or do you just take one look, and then leave again? Or is it something in between? And if you’ve been lurking here, but haven’t wanted to leave a comment, I’d love to hear from you, too! 🙂
*Generally, I don’t cite Wikipedia (and *NEVER* in my academic work), but this was a good description, and since Wikipedia is good for a lot of general stuff, I figured it would be ok in this case.
** Also, on a related note, I’m currently creating a new page that will contain links to posts that I consider to be part of “my story” – those posts that, if you’re looking for a peek into my mind, musing from my past, or any other related ramblings, are the ones to read. Keep an eye out for it in the next few days/weeks.