Why wouldn’t you want to be read?

I’m beginning the wrap-up of my summer term around here (I won’t be done completely until August 25– it’s complicated).  I had two really fantastic classes– Writing for the World Wide Web and Technology for Teaching and Learning:  great and smart students, fun discussions, interesting insights, etc., etc.  In both of these classes, where we talked in different ways about blogging and social networking, the “why” question came up, especially in terms of blogging.  To paraphrase and simplify, a lot of my students asked “why would anyone want to post what they think about stuff out there for the whole world to see?”  And in a related note, there were some students who seemed anxious or even kind of afraid of the idea of an audience.

This meshes with one of the modest conclusions I discussed in my Computers and Writing Conference presentation called “Endings,” which was about why people quit blogging.  In my email survey/interviews, one of the reasons that came up as to why some folks give up blogging was because of the potential– real or imagined– that some particular people might end up reading what they wrote.  In other words, they quit not because they lacked audience; they quit because they realized they might have an audience.

I’m always a little surprised when anybody says they’d rather not have people read their writing.  Granted, I wouldn’t want to have everyone to read everything I write and I like to think that the writing that I share with audiences now is better than the writing I wrote to share with other 10 or 20 years ago.  But from my point of view, the main point of writing is to get other people to read it.  Sure, there is the desire to please yourself too, but for me, the main reason why people write is because they think they have something to say to others.  The goal then is to get other people to read that writing and for them to get something out of it. To me, to write only for yourself is missing at least half of the point of writing in the first place.

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