Writing a Blog
I’ll start off by saying what this post is not. I’m not going to give any thoughts on how to organize a blog. I’m also not going to give any advice on blog topics, the technical details of running a blog on the web, etc. This post is more about what I believe to be good rules of thumb and things to keep in mind when running a blog. There are going to be exceptions and circumstances where my ideas don’t apply. But, on the whole, you should still consider the following if you run a blog.
When you are writing a blog post that is published to the web, you should think carefully about what you want to say because it can be forever tied to your identity, unless your blog is anonymous. Even then, if you are ever deanonymized, your words can still be linked to you. Remember your blog posts can’t ever really be taken down. They can always be archived or saved by somebody before you decide to remove them. This is a good policy for anything you do on the internet in general. If you say something foolish, politically incorrect, something that would preclude you from future job opportunities or personally endanger you (depending on which country you live in), you should consider before publishing it.
I’m not advocating for self-censorship. I’m also not advocating avoiding controversial subjects. Don’t be politically correct. Don’t avoid saying things just because people might get upset. After all, being offended is not an argument. Just keep in mind the potential consequences of writing about controversial topics. Those consequences may vary depending on where you live. If you live in Iran, the consequences of blogging about gay rights are going to be very different from what they are in western European countries. So don’t self-censor, but do be aware.
With all that said, it’s also true that the internet has made us less able to forgive. Memory plays a huge role in forgiveness. Before the internet and smartphones, when you did something foolish or said something regrettable, the people that saw or heard it would forget about it. The memory would fade away. Even if they shared your mistake with someone else, that someone couldn’t really “relive” the experience. It was just their recollection of events transmitted via spoken words.
With the internet, your mistakes are permanent. Anything you do or say can be recorded and stored forever, and you can never take it back. It’s also harder for others to forgive and forget because your mistake is digitally preserved in video, audio, text and other formats. It can be easily shared with an unlimited number of people. To see the full impact of this, all you have to do is look at the high-profile suicide of Amanda Todd. She was a 15-year old Canadian student that was cyberbullied with nude pictures of herself that got screen captured. Those pictures followed her ultimately driving her to suicide.
The Importance of Forgiveness
My point is, if someone says or does something regrettable and it gets digitally captured and put on the internet, whether or not they meant to upload it, it doesn’t make sense to judge them by that forever. Amanda Todd is an extreme case and I’m not equivocating her suicide with intentionally publishing content in blogging. I’m just pointing out that the internet is an unforgiving place when it comes to making mistakes whether that is a mistake on your blog or leaked nude photos.
People change. Opinions change. Levels of confidence in opinions change. Once information is shared on the internet such as a blog, it’s not feasible to remove it since things on the internet have to be treated as lasting forever. The only other option we have is to change our culture. We need to make an effort to be extra forgiving of things that we find online about others and not immediately jump to outrage or disgust as is so easy to do. Having a culture where one regrettable comment you made years ago can prevent you from finding employment is unhealthy. It can’t be a good thing psychologically to have past mistakes never stop haunting you as seen with Amanda Todd.
You have a responsibility while blogging to consider what you write carefully before you publish it and it’s out there forever. When you decide to blog, you “sign up” for your words to be out there forever. However, readers also carry a responsibility to remember that there is a regular human being behind that blog and humans sometimes make mistakes. Humans have bad days. Humans say things they don’t mean. It’s all too easy to forget all of that reading words on a screen. With everything I’ve written so far on my blog, I would be amazed if all of it was completely true and didn’t have any errors. However, I think the benefit of getting my ideas out there, for me, outweighs the negative of occasionally getting something very wrong and looking foolish. That’s just the risk you take on with a blog.
Not Looking Foolish
You should still try to limit the number of mistakes you make on your blog. One way to avoid getting things wrong on your blog that is fairly obvious is just to do your research and check your sources before publishing. That should be a given for anyone writing an informational blog. If your blog is more about you personally, you have less to worry about because research isn’t needed. For whatever type of blog you write, it is universally a good thing to be clear-minded when you are writing. If you’re not, it can come out in the tone of your blog. Don’t blog while you are angry, upset, or exhausted. Give yourself an extra day or two just to proofread what you wrote and check it for typos, sanity, and accuracy. Have a friend proofread it too. Also, think over if you really want to make it public because, again, you have to regard it as permanent.
Changing Your Mind
Even if you try your best to limit the number of mistakes you make, errors will slip in anyway. A common feature of honest intellectuals and good bloggers is an ability to admit past errors without hang up. If you write a post that isn’t true and later learn that it’s bad information, you can edit the original post or make a new post correcting your mistake. Crucially, it shouldn’t be a big deal for you to do that. In the intellectual world, we are all working to promote good ideas and get rid of bad ones. It’s wrong to think of changing one’s mind as being “wishy washy”. When you get new information that contradicts what you previously thought, changing your mind is the appropriate thing to do.
Lead member of the United States Coronavirus Task Force Anthony Fauci garnered criticism from the White House for telling people not to wear masks early on in the Coronavirus pandemic and various other “mistakes”. The criticism he received and continues to receive over his “mistakes” is absurd because at the time and context in which he made those “mistakes”, the information he had available was very limited and pointed to the same advice he was giving. So, the “mistakes” he is being accused of aren’t even mistakes. They were the right calls to make at the time. After receiving new information, he “updated” his advice to fit the new evidence about the virus.
This shows that changing your mind doesn’t mean you made an error. Maybe the information you posted on your blog was the best available information at the time and it just so happens that it got updated since you posted it. Since I wrote my post about Zoom there has been news about it that I left out. This doesn’t mean what I wrote is wrong, just outdated. In a certain sense, everything you post will soon be outdated just because of how language evolves. To be a rational thinking person is to change your mind sometimes, so get used to the idea that it might happen in your blog. You are under no obligation to continue believing the same things.
Those are my thoughts on blogging. I hope they are useful.