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so much cooler online

By Michelle Lehnardt

I am quitting my blog.


Really, I am.

I mean it this time.

It takes too many hours, checking for comments becomes an obsession and, ultimately, much of what I write is misunderstood.

If you’re a blogger or a Facebooker or a participant in an online forum, you’ve probably had similar thoughts. But then….

a neighbor confides that something I’ve written made her smile

or a blogging friend from across the country emails me with a question about Mormonism

or I catch my teenage son reading old posts and laughing out loud.

So I write again, or put up a few photos and save quitting for another day.

When the computer geniuses of the past created the internet, they may have envisioned online shopping, quick access to information and corporate communication. But I doubt they fathomed how completely HUMAN the World Wide Web would become. People are connecting in a way that our ancestors could only dream of— chess geeks play online matches, singles find mates(or at least dates), new mothers commiserate and share advice. The internet has a forum for every interest, every hobby, every avenue of thought. Never before has there been such a fantastic opportunity for human beings to truly understand each other’s hearts and motives.

And yet, we continue to judge poorly.

I make a conscious effort on my blog to reveal the dark and the light, but still, I Photoshop my life as much as I do my pictures. Yes, I might tell you about my burnt chicken, but I’m not going to share the details of my fight with hubby or our anxiety over the mortgage.  I leave enough out that you could certainly draw some false conclusions.

Then, I turn around and draw false conclusions based on someone else’s blog.

We know so very much about each other, and still so little.

But, I wouldn’t go back.

Through blogging I have made incredible friends. People I was meant to know; people who make me think and laugh and cry; people like you. Many of my online friends are so important to me, so much a part of my thoughts that I forget we’ve never met. And interestingly, when I have met blogging friends in the flesh, the only thing that surprises me is their height(everyone is shorter or taller than they seem).

Some of my sweetest internet experiences have been with neighbors– women just around the corner or right next door–whom I finally understand(at least a little) by reading their blog. And I find myself wishing that more people would come online so that I could know them too.

But then again, when would I read it all? How could I read it all? How do you balance online life with your other responsibilities? Has the internet become a significant part of your social life? Do you think we misinterpret people’s intentions more online or face to face?

And finally, why oh why, are blog comments so ridiculously addictive?

About Michelle Lehnardt

(Blog Team) I'm the kind of mom who drives through mud puddles, throws pumpkins off the roof and lets the kids move the ping-pong table into the kitchen for the summer. Despite (or probably, because of) my immaturity, my five sons and one daughter are happy, thriving, funny people. I'll climb a mountain with you, jump into a freezing lake hand-in-hand or just sit with you while you cry. I believe the gospel of Jesus Christ will heal the earth. Founder of buildyourteenager.com, scenesfromthewild.net and rubygirl.org.

28 thoughts on “so much cooler online”

  1. I agree completely. I have been both exasperated and eternally grateful for blogging. For me, the best has been making and understanding friends in my own (large!) ward through the online experience. Like everything else in life it takes discipline. I had a very negative experience of late that almost made me quit…but like you, I always find a worthwhile reason to continue!

  2. So happy you are not closing shop…at least today!
    Unfortunately, I think intentions are misunderstood online and face to face about the same. It is one of the areas we humans, especially, the female humans, have to work on.
    I have mae wonderful new friends via cyberspace and connected with people I have not heard from in years, yet wondered about them often.
    The balance…well…some days I have it and some days, I dont. I am working on this one.

  3. Oh. I knew Segullah would have something pertinent to my feelings this morning! See! The blogging world is wonderful!

    Except, I have this terrible tendency to discount my worth because of the lack of readers on my blog and even fewer comments. I have always had trouble feeling loved and accepted. I would say 90% of my crying episodes are over the lack of friends I feel. I do have some important and good friends, but just a couple I feel truly like me. I'm sure this comes from being the sixth child with parents that still struggle to show love to their children, despite many good qualities.

    I thought I was over a lot of that self-doubt and find that blogging and Facebooking has brought it all back.

    So, I wake up (I am pregnant) at 4:30 in the morning lamenting again my lack of ability to feel connected with people I care about. I think of my efforts to be the kind of person I want to be, and feel, in comparison with so many wonderful blogging friends, how little I have to offer.

    And I go to the blog of someone I have admired and tried to be friends with (who I felt rejected by) and read a beautiful Easter poem that reminds me to "arise" and remember Christ's sacrifice.

    So, I am trying to move forward and lose the depressing feelings that prevent me from accomplishing the things that would make me feel better and maybe even help me be a better friend.

  4. I don't have the addiction with comments that others do. Don't get me wrong. I love them. But I feel they are just icing on the cake. Very. Good. Icing. Blogging has given me so much more than just the comments. I didn't know I could write a sentence. Technically speaking, I've learned an enormous amount of knowledge about all this pesky computer stuff that has popped up right out of the blue. I have learned how to take pictures. And pretty good pictures at that. I have met people from as far away as Australia and England who I feel are really my friends….even though it's highly unlikely I will ever meet them in person. And maybe it's better than way. I've wished a million times that in my early years as a mother/wife that we had had blogging. My gosh…for recipes alone it's worth it. What a great thing it has been for journaling. I never could do the handwriting diary thing. This…some reasons I do not understand…is very different. And a lot more fun. No…blogging and I will go on till death do us part. I wish we could take it with us.

  5. My biggest problem with blogging (and with other internet relationships) is that I LOVE the interpersonal stuff. Before blogging and facebook, I subscribed to an email discussion list (the AML-list), but the rest of my interaction with the internet was one-sided: I'd go to get information from news sites, check the weather, etc. (I never got into chatting or discussion boards for whatever reason.) As a result I spent very little time online, comparatively speaking. And I got a lot more writing done!

    Now I have real friends and loved ones that the interpersonal part of me needs to check in on and converse with every single day. Or a few times a day. I've always been chatty–and curious–and blogs and Facebook just feed that side of myself. Needless to say, it's much easier to get distracted from a story that isn't working and close my Microsoft Word program and open Mozilla Firefox and start talking to my friends. (And most of my friends online are friends I actually know IRL.)

    And Sage, I'm with you on the other dark side of blogging: it brings up all the same insecurities and anxieties about "popularity" that we thought we left behind in high school. That's one of the reasons why I don't openly publicize my personal blog–only my family and good friends really know about it, so it doesn't stress me out when I don't get 25 comments after every post.

    And I try to remember, too, that all my blogging friends are selectively editing their lives (photoshopping them, like Michelle says) in much the same way as I am. But DANG, Michelle, you have a good looking family. No amount of photoshopping is going to produce the gorgeousness on display on your blog. 🙂

  6. So often here we talk about balance – and one thing that I have learned is that I am not the only one that it is a continual effort with.

    I resisted the internet, but my husband is a geek and the first thing he did was get me connected. I thot it was hilarious that we do not have tv but we have internet.
    I went to college on the internet – phoenix – wonderful experience, hope to do it again.
    I and 2 others put together an entire writer's conference on the internet 1200 emails back and forth.
    My husband and I both have blogs where we practice our writing – we met in a writing group.
    I do online courses and am able to expand my needlecraft ability without leaving the house. I can talk to a woman in the netherlands about tatting within a 24 hour period.
    I can keep contact with others with chronic pain and learn and share.
    And I can talk with other women daily and see that I still have opinions and brain cells by stopping in at Segullah!
    Thank you, ladies!

  7. Angela, Thanks for your comment to me. By the way, I loved your book, Bound on Earth. I just have to get my friend I lent it to to read it and return it!

    I will try to remember not to compare myself to others! And to spend time writing, instead of worrying about what others are thinking!!!

  8. You did a very good job of explaining my feelings about blogging…thanks!
    For me, the good outweighs the bad by far!
    The time/balance factor probably gives me the most heartburn.

  9. I've been blogging for about four years now, and I feel like I'm in a good place as far as my personal blog goes. I went through a period where I spent a lot of time worrying about having readers and being 'popular', and I've made my peace that I won't be one of the stars of the blogging world. My blog is really about me and my self-expression; for me it's a very personal outlet, so I actually do feel like some of my friends misunderstand it sometimes because they have different goals in blogging. Sometimes I also feel like my blog is a bit more negative than I am in person. I can be really funny when talking to people, but writing seems to bring out my melancholy side. I've also been struggling with this in trying to write a personal essay for the upcoming marriage issue; apparently I can't write 'lite'. But one of the original reasons I started blogging was to work on writing and self-expression and I think it has helped.

    I've also had a lot of good experiences using blogging as a way to reach out to others. A few years ago my husband published a personal essay about our marriage (he considers himself gay/same-sex attracted), that lead to a news article about people who are 'gay Mormon and married', and while there was some very negative feedback from some people, we got a lot of positive responses too. I was able to get involved with several other projects/blogs on the subject, and we've made some good friends that have met us through their blogs. Besides that whole issue, I've made some good friends through blogging and I've also maintained many friendships that way too. I've been burned a few times, but for me generally blogging is a positive thing. I do struggle with balance every day; the hard thing about the internet is that there is always something more to read–and I'm a reading addict so it's hard to walk away from the computer sometimes!

  10. What hasn't this cyber world added to my life? Just this morning I have watched a far away IRL friend rock out with her family at the ward talent show, which led to my little boy watching a youtube video of a tornado. Then I looked online for dairy farms in my area that will deliver, because the organic milk prices at the grocery store are ridiculous and I'd rather the money go straight to the farmer. My husband was updated, via email, on our 2 year old's attempt to escape my clutches by running out of the house with my keys. And I haven't even blogged yet!

    Blogging has brought more to my life than I could have ever anticipated, I love it- pleathera of comments or not! My parents both read, including my distant and inactive dad (but they never comment), my siblings read, my aunt that I never had much contact with before, I could go on and on. Being more than a thousand miles from family I feel more connected to them than I have in a decade because they know about my daily life, because of that I'm more likely to make a phone call or send a card.

    My IRL social life is pathetic, I work hard at church but since I don't speak Spanish there aren't alot of social opportunities for me, so yes, the internet is most of my social life. Sometimes that really seems sad but it saves my sanity and opens my eyes to the wider world.

    Blogging daily is like a journal but it is also writing practice. Back in my visual art days my art teacher told me to sketch every day if I wanted to be really great- I think the same applies to writing. So the blog fulfills that for me without being overwhelming, "Time to work on the book now." is alot to take on. But if I just say, "Oh, I'll do a blog post and if it is good it might work out for an essay contest or book inclusion later" – much less likely to cause writer's block or procrastination.

    One limit I do put on my blog – I don't tell many people from my daily life about it (except family). They can be very judgemental and check it just to see what you say about them. OR, they don't talk to you because they think they know what is going on because they read your blog. I do have a sneaking suspicion that some have found their way to it anyway, but since they keep that to themselves we can both just play dumb about it. Oh, and I don't discuss marriage issues – I wouldn't want DH to do it so I don't.

    There is no way to put everything in your life on your blog, it is impossible. Therefore I have no guilt about the realities of what I post, but I do remind people that it isn't the full picture.

  11. I have forced myself NOT to care about comments on my blog. If you don't care for long enough you can just let it go. I am really sensitive not to turn into one of those girls who BEGS for comments. THAT drives me crazy, when you are following 50ish blogs you don't have TIME to comment 🙂

    And since I turn my blog into a blog book (use it at my scrapbook) using Blurb.com I blog for ME and no one else. If I want it in my family history/scrapbook, etc. Then I put it in, if I don't want it in there I don't. So if I have 20 pics of my daughter in the same place that I want in the scrapbook, I put it in — and I don't care what people think 🙂

  12. That's part of the reason I stopped my personal blog. I had to force myself to say, "I don't care", and it was a strange exercise in self-discipline to prove to myself that I didn't care about all the lovely validation and kind words being sent my way. Now my blog is totally private, just for my annual family Blurb book like Kristine!

    But now I do it here, so I guess nothing has changed!

  13. p.s. I love using my blog to practice writing. In fact it has only been since starting my blog that I've decided I want to write – essays, my own life history, etc.

    p.p.s. I've found that my sarcastic personality comes out more in my blog – in real life I censor myself more and am much more introverted. It makes for an interesting combination.

  14. I could have written a lot of FoxyJ's comment, just changing a few of the details to match my circumstances. I've been blogging since 2004 and despite some ups and downs, it's been worthwhile. I don't get many comments, but I've made some good friends and some interesting connections, especially since I blog about a part of the world that no one in my real life cares much about.

  15. Ah, I'm glad I'm not the only one that feels the darker side of blogging on occasion. But jealousy and insecurity are real issues and maybe the blog world is a good place to silently work those out.

    Like you, FoxyJ, my writing brings out a more thoughtful,vulnerable side of me. In person I am much more funny and confident. But I find myself drawn to more introspective blogs so perhaps that's why I write the way I do.

    Ooh, now I'm getting all self-conscious over this blog post. Can I go back and revise it? Is good writing measured by the number of comments? 😉

  16. I love it when I get comments. There I said it!

    When I first started my blog, I wanted lots of comments. I wanted my blog to be like all of those "popular" blogs out there. After nearly a year and a half of blogging, I'm totally okay with my 3-5 comments per entry. It's quality, not quantity, people! 😉 I've also discovered that I really do blog for myself.

    I generally do not write about really deep, dark thoughts I'm having so yes, I Photoshop myself too. Sometimes I get really personal and share something I'm struggling with but those are usually the entries where I get no comments at all. I deleted one of those entries because I worried someone in my real life would see it and know I was talking about them (even though only my closest friends and family know I blog.) I wish I could be more free but I'm also not willing to go private.

    Besides my real life friends, I've bonded with a few special and amazing women (ahem, you) whom I would never have met if it weren't for blogging. For that reason alone, I will always see blogging as a positive thing in my life.

  17. Geez,
    I'm glad to hear that some of you only get the 3-5 comments that I do! (jk)
    I could take little bits and pieces from what every one has said, and I'm sure what others will say about blogging and cut and paste them right here. The pros, the cons, the good bad and the ugly, the insecurities, the connecting/re-connecting, the (free) therapy, the encouragement, the journalling, the writing practice, the social interaction that is currently missing in my "real" life… I could go on and on and on.
    But I won't.

    I'll just read all of your comments and know I'm not alone.

  18. I've met some great people blogging. I love it. And while I love comments, it's not a big deal if I don't get a lot. ALthough sometimes I'll write something that I think is wonderful and there will be dead silence. Which is sort of humiliating.

    I really don't like people I know IRL reading my blog (especailly my mother) because I really love to complain about other people. I knew it was all over when the bishop told me he likes my blog–that his wife reads it to him. I don't want the burden of only writing things that are bishop-worthy. I've finally come to the conclusion that I write for myself. If someone doesn't like what's on my blog they can unsubscribe.

    The thing I like most about my blog is that it is an expression of me. Sometimes good, sometimes bad. But if my great-grandchildren were to read it, they would have a good idea of who I am. That's what my goal is when I blog.

    I love finding a kindred spirit out there in the blogosphere (That's you Michelle!)

    I also think it's not as mindless and base as TV. So I'm wasting my time in a much better manner. And I can waste A LOT of time online.

  19. It's another wonderful love/hate dimension that we need to learn to balance. Self-discipline in ANY area is a challenge. I do love blogging. As for editing-out the parts of our lives we don't wish to share; isn't it the same thing in real life? We can choose to talk about it, or keep it stuffed under the mat.

  20. Relevant, timely, applicable . . . I relate to this, too. I don't get very many comments, but I've gotten used to that . . . you know, after agonizing over it for too long. I am grateful for the friends I've made via blogging, some far away, some in my own ward. I have been extremely out of balance with it at times, I've pulled back, I've changed blogs, and gone from public to private to public again. I still feel uncertain what future blogging will or won't hold for me, but I'm grateful for the good it's been in my life.

  21. I hear you! You are one of the rare ones who admit how addicting comments can be. I'm the same way. :)) What is it about just knowing someone has read what I have written? I don't know, but I do love the comments!

  22. I agree– it's awful when you write something that is really important to you and it gets no response. I have a friend who turns off comments whenever she writes about something close to her heart– she doesn't want the comments or lack thereof to change her feelings.

  23. I have learned it takes some thick skin to put yourself out there at times- as for hte "life photoshopping" I don't see it as hiding the flaws- I after all have blogged about how many times I have had to call poison control because My child has ingested something due to my negligence. Is ee it more as chosing what you want to remember?While there is the good the bad and the ugly. I want my children to remember alot more of the good and happy times because I think there is something to focusing on the good. I don't often blog about truly deep difficult personal things- just because I don't share that level of emotional initmacy with the whole world. I also don't think parading our flaws has a lot of value- we are supposed to learn from our mistakes, abandon them and move on, not wallow. We all have flaws and weaknesses. I like to be inspired by blogs, I am also a lover of beauty and talent- so seeing those things always reminds me to try more things. I can't say i'd love to follow blogs that are too whiny.

  24. Michelle great post. Don't quit I love your blog. I resisted this blog thing for a long time. I love reading others. I am fascinated how some people can be so open and honest. There are some pople that just show the photoshopped life, but honestly those aren't really interesting to me. One of my goals this years was to reach out more and to be more open. So I started a blog. The funny thing is I haven't really told anyone about it. Not me husband, sisters or friends. Not sure I want people IRL reading it. I am also sure I would get caught up in the comments/popularity thing. I quess this could be called me official announcement, I have a blog. Wish me luck.

  25. Real life is funny – I read this post, then found comments on my blog from you Michelle!

    For me, blogging is a great way to brain dump AND record your life in a much more immediate way than pulling out a pen and a journal.

    Yes, my blog is not using my real name or the real name of my boys, but that's for my/their own protection. I write honestly about my divorce. I would NOT want my blog coming up in a Google search on my name!

    Sure, I could "photoshop" my blog, but for me blogging is about the REAL me. I also doubt anyone would believe me if I said divorce is fun!

    As for comments, I think they are so addictive because they tell you SOMEONE out there is interested enough if the (often) minitutiae of your life to respond to what you've posted. Who doesn't like feeling that what's important to them is important/interesting to others?

    Blogging is a heart connection through an internet connection. Comments are an electronic bunch of flowers or hug – they rock your world, wherever in the world you may be =)

  26. i've "gotten over" the whole comment race. i used to live for comments. now i leave them sometimes when i just feel like it, when impressed to, or when i actually have something meaningful to say, but otherwise i don't. and i'm okay with that.

    and i don't expect them from my readers either. i enjoy the ones i get, but i'm done worrying about getting them. we have a good relationship now, comments and i, and i'm very comfortable with where i've settled out on the whole thing. ♥


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