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.

2 thoughts on “Why wouldn’t you want to be read?”

  1. I was in a class at Spark East in Ypsilanti yesterday that is supposed to be helping a few of us budding entrepreneurs to write a solid business plan. The facilitator, a private consultant, had the same attitude about using Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, Blogging, You Tube, etc. as tools in a business marketing campaign. She basically said that she doesn’t want to put things out on the internet because she doesn’t want people to be able to read about her. She did touch on putting ads in newspapers as a way to get the word out and she mentioned that she had started a blog but it was a pain in the neck and she wishes she never started it, too much trouble.

    I thought that was very interesting, since newspapers are going away and those online tools are very cost effective ways to reach large and/or specific audiences.

  2. Yeah, I don’t think that facilitator knows what they are talking about. I think something we looked at in English 444 this term, this slide show called What the F**K is Social Media more or less answers the question as to why anyone who wants to market something ought to be engaged in social media things like blogging, facebook, twitter, etc.: because that’s where people (customers and otherwise) are at.

    Putting an ad in a newspaper or a flyer is not completely obsolete, but the idea that doing that is less “work” than posting something to the web seems pretty goofy to me.

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