By Fareeha Qayoom
like blogging. Not because I am tech savvy. Far from it, I don’t know beans about technology. I am the most tech challenged person around. I don’t even know how to tweet for God’s sakes, my fake made in China iPhone has more gadgets than my watch and my watch is some kind of complicated digital space-age device of modern technology!
My computer might be my favorite toy after books but it doesn’t mean I know what goes on inside it to make it tick. Luckily for me, I come equipped with my very own resident techie in the shape of my younger bro. He keeps the system ticking over. He has even programmed my blog (tkfr.com) to tweet automatically!
I might be the most connected person around, I am on twitter, I have a Skype account, I have a hotmail account; I even have a Gmail account. I have a page on Facebook. I also have a cell phone and two personal and one official email accounts. However, it’s also a fact that my friends have frequent issues when they are trying to contact me urgently. I am usually in my hermit mode, doing my own thing, not answering my phone, email, or text, so sometimes, in desperation they might even leave a message on Facebook with one recurring theme – “Fareeha, where are you? We were supposed to meet on such and such day!” or “Fareeha, you are not picking up your phone or replying to my text messages – call me!”
In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I am a tad anti-social. My hobbies take precedence over my social life. In fact, family, friends and work colleagues frequently drive me nuts with their demanding attitude and their frequent interruptions when I am reading, writing, listening to music, watching taped American shows or movies on my own, surfing the net for more information on the topic that interests me at the time or just plain working. They are all so high maintenance! They all want a piece of me. At work, there are like ten meetings a day that were never scheduled in my planner which go nowhere. People feel free to keep asking me, “What are you doing?” Obviously I am working. What else are you supposed to do at work? All of them are intent on playing power games which is so exhausting. No wonder I prefer my own company to any other. Besides, most people are frequently in a petty frame of mind when they talk. They would rather spend their time complaining about their life, their friends, their spouses, their homes, their finances, their children or their parents or their servants or their cook or their country or me! Not necessarily in that order. I’d rather do without their complaints thank you very much! (Not that, I don’t complain. I do too! However, I reserve my complaints for my blog posts! You don’t have to listen to me if you don’t want to – there’s always a stop button -unlike real life- without you having to resort to bad manners or being rude.).
My mom thinks I might become a zombie because I have taken to staying up late to do my own thing without interruptions! The other day, I found out my disorder has a scientific name for it; it’s called obsessive, compulsive disorder or in other words, addicted behavior. 🙂
Anyway, the reason I like blogging is because I have another handicap. As one ex-boss put it, I am “brutally honest,” I have no tact and I frequently offend authority figures with my politically incorrect ‘insubordination’ and lack of diplomacy. Another handicap which hampers me in my human dealings is that I have an insatiable curiosity about everything which means I am a well read person. Unfortunately, I find most people patronizing and they in turn probably find me insufferable because I seem to be a miss-know-it-all and flippant with it to boot.
If I don’t know something, I make a point of finding out. On top of it, I like to debate issues to death to seek clarity. I am also opinionated and don’t think debating should be an ego-zapping or ego-building exercise – it should be about truth. Most authority figures think you are challenging their authority or undermining them even if it’s a friendly debate about nothing.
Unfortunately, people don’t like to concede their positions even if they are wrong. I don’t have a problem being in the wrong as long as they can convince me their argument is valid. If I can keep coming up with a counter argument that refutes their logic, it only means the debate is not concluded yet. Unfortunately, most folk get emotional instead of remaining logical and objective till the end. The debate is no longer about examining both sides of the question or about seeking clarity or arriving at the truth. It becomes a debate about saving their face and talking about my rudeness in persisting with yet more counter-arguments or being stubborn and still sticking to my position even though they have offered countless emotional arguments with no facts to support their position! It drives me nuts. Debating is a process of elimination. You examine all possibilities, you eliminate the ones that don’t make sense and keep the ones that do. It’s as simple as that as far as I am concerned. It’s much more productive posting my thoughts on issues that interest me. It saves my sanity and my relationships. (No, besides not conducting in-person debates, debating on Facebook is also dangerous. It might turn your friends into enemies pretty quickly too! Don’t do it).
Blogging also allows me to seek clarity without getting bogged down in emotions. I like examining both sides of any question before reaching any conclusions. I also like to keep an open mind. I dislike people telling me what to think and how to think without offering me any facts. I like making up my own mind independently. I might reach a certain conclusion but that doesn’t mean its set in stone forever. I will tolerate a counter argument if its sound. I might even change my mind or stance if the counter-argument makes sense. I will also agree to disagree if the debate turns into a draw. After all the objective of any debate should be about sifting facts from fiction, natural biases, feelings and emotions and coming up with a balanced conclusion that’s based on universal facts and truth. It shouldn’t be about “my way or the highway” or eliminating all opposition.
Another thing I like about blogging is the fact that it’s truly free expression. If you write for some paper or magazine, you are frequently told what to write, how to write, when to write, where to write and even why you need to write if you have a problem with any of the above! You have to stick to their official position or bias; you might even get censored, cut short or edited out. Sometimes, they might even put words in your mouth by inserting words under your byline that you never wrote down originally! Blogging eliminates all these possibilities. Besides, it also allows you freedom to write on any topic. You don’t have to stick to a particular niche if you don’t want to. And yes, you can use slang. I also like writing in first person. “They” or third person sounds pretty vague to me, its either I or you – its purely interactive dialog between the blogger and the reader which makes it an authentic opinion backed by the byline. You as a reader know who is behind the thought or the idea under discussion. It means 100 percent ownership.
Some people consider blogging a frivolous activity. They can’t understand the popularity of social networks like Facebook for example. What is Facebook except a collection of closed social/personal blogs of members on cyberspace? It might be popular the world over and it might be very accessible and user friendly (it is very easy to create your own page on Facebook without having to be tech savvy) and connect with your friends and colleagues. Some might not see it as a productive activity, however, it’s a fact that it allows you instant access to your friends, family and workmates, even long last folk that you lost touch with because of distance or change of circumstances and instant information on what’s hot and happening in your town, your city, your country and your world. You might not post on it every day but the constant newsfeeds keep you supplied with all the news you want, when you want it. You can feel connected with your network no matter where you are.
In Pakistan, Facebook was banned a few months ago because someone created a page with the intent to malign the prophet and loads of like minded individuals registered/became members of the page. Some considered this (ban on Facebook) a breach of freedom of expression. Others considered this a breach of human rights (freedom to practice your religion without fear of bigotry or discrimination). There were more people for taking it off the Facebook than for keeping it on for example in Pakistan, plus the judiciary of Pakistan when appealed to by some individual, only enforced this opinion and temporarily banned it till the management of Facebook could come up with a solution to appease both sets of people. I heard on the news a couple of weeks ago that some individual has again appealed to the judiciary to permanently ban it in Pakistan.
Some serious journalists dismiss blogging as an amateur scribbling, not to be compared with serious business of reporting news or indeed journalism. However, it also remains a fact that many blogs frequently break unique stories that mainstream newspapers might not. Original raw footage, photos and eye witness accounts of certain events, even offer unique perspective on issues that the newspapers might not offer because of their inbuilt biases. So blogs can’t be dismissed on such grounds.
Blogs can’t replace the importance of online or indeed print newspapers. However, if you want to gauge public opinion on any given hot topic, where would you look? The editorial pages of the newspapers, or the television talk shows that invite a cross section of society, for example Oprah, or talk to your friends, neighbors, peers, work colleagues or relatives; blogs serve the same purpose on the net.
They are the individual collection of editorial pages on cyberspace. A blog run by a single writer could be translated by analogy as a particular column penned by a particular writer in the print or online newspapers’ editorial pages. It’s only on columns and blogs that you find news analysis, interpretation of current events, and cross section of public opinion for and against a particular topic. However, newspaper policy allows only certain voices to air their views so a natural bias creeps in. The beauty of online blogging is that anyone can air their views without a fear of censorship, bias or indeed of being cut short or edited. It’s also instant, accessible and interactive. Even if no one posts a comment, counter argument or thumbs up or down, you can still find out which post is getting the most traffic for example. So no visible feedback also gives you instant feedback on your posts!
What’s not to like about blogging? ■