Thursday, April 12, 2012

Online friendships & when favorite blogs end

The passage of time is a funny thing in the blog world, and you can meter it through different means: the number of followers you have, or perhaps the number of posts you've written.

For me, if I need to look at a good measuring stick of my 2.5 years of fashion blogging, I only need to look at my blogroll to be reminded of how far I've come -- and who I've met along the way. 

My blogroll is littered with links of dead blogs, and I mourn for them.

No, none of these bloggers have kicked the bucket, but they have passed on -- blogging, that is -- to pursue larger personal ambitions. Don't get me wrong -- I commend and respect them for doing what was best for their lives as they pursued other things. But I still miss their daily online presence in my dashboard.

There was Sara, of Orchids in Buttonholes, whose witty prose and well-chosen wardrobe made me envy her writer life in New York City. Clare, of Between Laundry Days, who championed simplicity in laidback outfits as she braved Chicago winters. And Tania, of What Would a Nerd Wear, whose self-proclaimed "vanilla" academic style was pitch-perfect advice as I too began to navigate the tricky sartorial waters in graduate school. 

Their styles pulled me in as a reader, but I stayed for their stories about everyday life -- whether it related to travel plans or career switches, reading recommendations or recipes, I was along for the ride. And with comments and emails, it felt like a dialogue -- and later, a blog friendship -- began to emerge with each of them over the years. 

I mentioned to a non-blogging friend recently that I was sad about What Would a Nerd Wear's end, and she couldn't understand my emotions over someone I had never met. 

And I understand that confusion. To someone who doesn't blog or engage with an online community, it can seem silly, creepy and downright voyeuristic to read about another's life so thoroughly. It can also seem like intrusive and demanding behavior from readers, especially for those who feel they have ownership over reading a blog, as if a blogger may "owe" an audience life updates or explanations.

And to others, it can seem pointless to follow a blogger -- whose online image may be curated, positioned and edited so as to not reveal its real-life imperfections. In one of my media classes, we've debated whether anyone can really portray a true depiction of themselves online (the jury's still out). Even further, it can seem like frivolous grief, to lament over an online identity of a blogger who is still alive and well -- and is functioning without the constant gaze or comments of readers and followers. 

Whether the bloggers I follow put up a realistic depiction of themselves is not the point, and unless I ever run into them in real life, I may never really know their full stories, and that's okay. 

But what I do know is this: Over hundreds of comments, posts and emails exchanged over the years, a long distance friendship of sorts emerges between bloggers and their readers. When you count up the hours devoted to such communication, it's a lot. In many ways, it's surely possible to feel that you know a blogger you follow better than you know some of your real-life friends and family, or at least on a different depth level.

This is not a desperate plea for Sara or Clare or Tania or any other bloggers who have quit to start back up again. Nor is it meant to be a guilt trip to conflict with their decision to end blogging. But I suppose this opens up to a larger commentary on how our increasingly-technological society creates an over-reliance on online identities, and how that can fragment communication and relationships, and even reality itself. Or even further, perhaps it's existential grounds for exploring the lifespan of a blog.

I don't have a clear answer to any of these musings. 

I do know, though, that my blogroll is littered with the dead, as I miss people who were not quite strangers, but not quite real-life companions, either.

And the Internet is a little lonelier without them.

Have any of your favorite blogs ended, and what were your reactions? 

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