Blog in, reach out
Both intensely private and daringly public, blogs are becoming the young urban woman's medium to reveal the most intimate feelings
For a techno-savvy young woman trapped in the traditional set-up, a blog is a great getaway. Photo: AP
WHO IS BridalBeer? Her blog reads: Single, 20s, was briefly in love. I was in New York for long enough to miss it. Now I am in India, training to be a wife-for-life to a relative stranger (not a stranger who is a relative, we don't do those).
BridalBeer (telling name!) was in love with someone in NYC. And is now back in a joint family in Kolkata tamely chatting on IM (Instant Messenger) to "Almost Engaged (to me)", a boy her parents have found for her. Her stream of consciousness blog tells about her everyday life, her parents' hunt for a suitable boy for her, and often reminisces longingly on a more-perfect life of freedom and discovery in New York.
BridalBeer is the profile of a new blogger, who is increasingly asserting in cyberspace the control over her environment that might be missing in actuality. Cyber identities project selectively: only what the blogger wants to be known about themselves and their lives, and the way in which they want to communicate are available to the general public. They may post photos of themselves, their babies, their boyfriends, their kitchen cabinets. Of course, not all young women bloggers in India use blogs in the same way.
Consider Compulsive Confessor. This young journalist's blog defiantly declares that she "goes out for drinks pretty regularly. That's my life and that's what I write about. Okay? Okay." We hear in detail just what CC thinks of various parts of Rahul Bose's anatomy, and how single status is getting to her. Often, a girl's blog is her companion and emerges merely as today's i-Pod-wielding generation's secret diary.
At first, blogging was hailed as the Great New Way to subvert or at least bypass mainstream media. It seemed to emerge from a culture of indymedia, from resistance movements, from people writing out from war zones and repressive regimes (such as Salam Pax from Iraq). But now, in India, blogging is as effective a tool for a different profile the profile that matrimonial ads are made of: young, urban, single, highly educated women. Sometimes living alone in a big city busy charting their career trajectory; at other times cloistered within the tight embrace of a large joint family, waiting to be married. This is the young Indian woman who can't always say what she would really like to and so turns instead to the modern-age secret diary.
"Basically it's a form of release," says one regular blogger from Bangalore. "Sometimes you're forced to keep quiet. But your blog is your world where you make rules... and others have to follow them! There's no policing."
Even while physically present in a room full of assertive relatives wanting to "Do Internet" (as BridalBeer describes it) the young woman blogger can shortcut into an alternate world, a world where she can be as honest as she wants to be, and importantly, as uncensored as she wishes. BridalBeer tells MetroPlus: "My blog defines my reality and to that extent, BridalBeer is a creative escape from tragicomic maladies of daily life. It is therapeutic, in the way fun is."
Although all blogs may be equal, some blogs are more, well, popular than others. Unlike in a diary, a blog usually allows for comments after every post, a good indication of how many people read your blog. It's also a way to build your own community, privy to the most intimate details of your day... all without any clue as to what your real name might be.
A blogger explains, "It's a nice way to get some feedback and find other people who think like me. On a blog you find your own community and it's still anonymous; it gives you the distance missing in a face-to-face."
Qualitative researcher Dina Mehta with interests in new cultures of communication cautions about seeing blogs as a way for many women to communicate since "the entry barriers for blogging are very high; you have to actually set up a page and maintain it and be very comfortable with writing as a medium." She points out that another popular option "is a chatroom where you can discuss the most intimate things with your chosen circle your buddy list."
But chatrooms don't allow the development of identities as blogs do. Constructed on-line, blog identities are often shorn of the usual layers developed in order to be "acceptable" in urban, middle-class Indian society. So young women can talk about Rahul Bose's rear and how every girl needs an imaginary boyfriend with little expectation of being hauled up by hysterical parents. Sex workers can be sex workers, as with Belle de Jour (whose book has now hit the stands). Lesbians can be lesbians. As with the controversial "20-going-on-38" lesbian (Popagandhi) whose blogs were so popular that they caused her host server technical difficulties.
Writing to MetroPlus, she said: "I'm not surprised to see the element of women-blogging-as-means-of-escape: I'd say that would happen to any community that is in any way in the minority, repressed, not given equal privilege etc. Women may be taking to blogging because it allows them to exert control, beyond what they are given in real life, especially in less developed and more patriarchal societies; teens take to blogging especially because it is here in cyberspace that they set the rules. Gays and lesbians may take to blogging because it is there that they can be unclosetted without fear."
Already, in Singapore, when a girl breaks up with her boyfriend, she SMSes her friends: "It's all over read my blog." Real world and blog world often collide harshly though, rupturing the careful divide that once granted independence and control. The Times in London has launched a hunt for call girl Belle de Jour and Popagandhi admits: "I have dates coming home to find out who I am from my site; I have teachers telling me they read me regularly, I've been spotted on the street or in a bar, far too often for comfort."
But she adds that she's "quite protective about what I put up online, even if it doesn't seem so. As much as blogging gives you a voice and a presence easily, it also takes away all's fair game on the Internet, and a certain amount of responsibility is demanded of you even on the Net where there are supposedly no rules."
For many young women, using blogs and the technology that come with it are more natural than using diaries. In an age where emails have replaced letters, Excel sheets have replaced ledgers, and PDAs are the new little black books, blogs are, but naturally, the most accessible way to vent, ponder, share, and communicate.
Send this article to Friends by