Blogs as a Manifestation for Those Misrepresented

For as long as humans have been feebly attempting to validate their existence, there have been recorded writings of their lives. Ranging from etchings on walls, scribblings in mud, tattoos on skin, and diaries - recording our thoughts in a permanent or non-permanent way has been a fundamental part of existing in this world. With the accessibility of the Internet came the tumultuous uproar taking shape in the form of a blog. A weblog, or ‘blog’ for short, is an outlet for people to publish their every thought and to record every action they’ve made. While some use blogs in a professional way, some use blogs for a more personal venture. It is hard to say what blogs are really catering to--be it our egos, our thirst for information, or our never ending quest for self validation. Blogs are intriguing because of the many facets they function under, along with the many facets they have created in our world today. To find out the impact of the weblog on our culture would be an incredibly large task, and an important one to say the least. In this paper, I will attempt to explain how and why blogs are so beneficial and essential to everyone, as an alternative to mainstream media. Blogs have singlehandedly uprooted the way we as a society attain information, publish our thoughts, and connect with others.

Not even forty years ago were the only news sources those of ABC, NBC, and CBS. The information was trusted and credible, simply because there was no reason for it not to be. People believed what the news fed them, because there was no other way to attain the news. The newspapers were ran and published by the same corporations which fed everyone news on the television, which left little to no room for someone taking ‘liberty’ with their information. In present day, however, one can read a multitude of articles on the exact same topic, but with a completely different angle on the information at hand. Be it from a liberal viewpoint, a conservative viewpoint, or an economic one, the information is transformed and skewed in ways which cater to exactly what you want to read. With that being said, weblogs serve as a template for opinionated people, and those seeking different opinions as well. Someone who checks Jezebel, a weblog written by women and for women, would have a completely different grasp on a subject than a person who only checks the CNN web page. This ultimately roots people further in what they know and allows for more dialogue to be had between each other.

It is hard to say what blogs are really catering to - be it our egos, our thirst for information, or our never ending quest for self validation. Blogs are intriguing because of the many facets they function under, along with the many facets they have created in our world today.

In an article published in 2002 by the American Journalism Review, Barb Palser writes about how news media should take heed of what blogs are doing for the world. She advocates more popular, trusted news sources follow suit and ‘embrace the blog’ for what it’s worth. She claims blogs will eventually usurp newspapers, and the way we seek and receive information is transforming rapidly and it’s time to take note. Palser’s prediction was correct, and comparing her observations to present day, many popular sources heeded to having an online publication. This has exceeded boundaries and brought about many social changes which were unimaginable to our world as little as ten years ago. Major revolutions have been catalyzed by the fluid spread of information across the internet. The Occupy movement was started with a simple hashtag on Twitter, which quickly mutated into a worldwide tumult of people effectively voicing their opinions.

With the ever-present juncture of opinions being voiced raises an interesting point in the realm of the internet. With blogs comes the sense of publishing--one simply hits ‘post’ on their webpage and their thoughts are now broadcast to an unfathomable amount of people. That being said, people know what they have to say is being read. Whether through replies via comments or by being able to keep track of how many hits ones webpage receives, the writer is aware people are reading their thoughts. With this, it’s easy to get caught up in thinking everyone needs to know what the writer is saying. While the facts are not based in substance, one can assume the internet has inflated egos by one hundred and ten percent. The word ‘blog’ has an odd stigma attached to it--the word rings bells of unprofessionalism, amateur writers, or seemingly any half-wit with internet access. While some blogs may be meandering, angsty online diaries of sorts which no one with a brain would care to read, there are credible and trustworthy, content rich blogs which should not be overlooked.

The Huffington Post is a news blog which was founded in 2005 by Ariana Huffington. The Huffington Post, or ‘HuffPo’ as some call it, is one of the most read weblogs active today. In an article from the AJR, more than 70 percent of political journalists surveyed said they spent more than an hour browsing blogs each day. Every single one of them listed The HuffPo as a site they check daily. The Alexa Internet rating, which is a list of the most visited websites, included the Huffington Post in its top one hundred sites. Ranging in depth from science, to politics, to art and culture, The Huffington Post covers an array of topics. The Huffington Post is considered to be a more liberal news source, but a credible one nonetheless. How a blog gains credibility is an interesting chord to pluck when examining the validity of news sources. The Huffington Post is so heavily trusted because of the person who founded it--Ariana Huffington. She is a heavy political activist, and has always been in the media. She originally started, which was a website to recall President Clinton at the time, and it was a forum of sorts to banter about the current political state. Shortly thereafter, she created the Huffington Post while having Resignation under her belt, giving her a platform to push off of.

The Huffington Post’s objective states, “The Internet Newspaper: News Blogs Video Community.” With them proclaiming they are the “Internet Newspaper,” one might wonder how their goals differ from those of tangible newspaper companies. One notable difference is the HuffPo allows interaction. Writers and readers alike appreciate knowing people are being active participants in consuming the news. Comments allow for that, whether the comments are moderated or not - the comments leave room for discussion, feedback, and criticism be it constructive or not. Printed newspapers don’t have that capability. One simply buys the newspaper like The New York Times - maybe discussing their readings with a friend, but for the most part it’s internalized.

The New York Times is a printed newspaper differing from the online publication of the Huffington Post. How do the two differ more notably? Taken from the New York Times Facebook page, the NYT claims, “The New York Times’ core purpose is to enhance society by creating, collecting and distributing high-quality news, information and entertainment.” The New York Times seemingly is appealing to a certain demographic of people--people who can afford to read the news. Their newspaper requires a subscription, and to buy it in a gas station daily would cost one $2.50. To read their articles online, you must have an online membership as well. Interestingly enough, the NYT offers a reduced price offered as, “The College Rate.” It’s safe to say the NYT is geared at people who have money -- which is what all mainstream media comes down to, frankly. Is it safe to ask why the NYT doesn’t offer a “Working Class Rate”? Or, “Unemployment Rate”? Do people without jobs, or people who are not pursuing an education not want to be active participants in receiving the news as well?

One might wonder what part of society the New York Times is truly trying to enhance. In my research, I have wondered if it is a fair question to ask who the news really works for. Do they aim to provide the people with a voice they relate to, or do they simply write and print for those with money to read the writing? Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Jr., has been the Chairman and Publisher of the NYT since 1992. He is ranked as the 23rd most powerful media moguls with his net worth at 200 million dollars. Speaking purely from a subjective viewpoint, the mainstream media is primarily a tool of white imperialism. As a society, it is important to question how we know what we know, why we trust who we put our faith in, etc. This is why it is crucial to take advantage of the many outlets the people have for alternative viewpoints and not just those spoon fed to them.

It is safe to say if you turn on any of the primary news channels, ABC, NBC, or FOX, you are likely to see people you recognize to be part of your community--assuming you’re white. Most of the time, when a minority is shown on the news, they are made vilified by broadcasters. The news is contingent on showing stories centered on Western European culture, since society is clearly Eurocentric in its ideologies and practices on a day to day basis. This is why blogs as an alternative to mainstream ideology and presentation are so crucial. Blogs are an alternative because they stray away from what is considered the ‘norm’ to society. People tire of folkways created by European hegemony and there is an option to be deviant. People like options, people like variety, people love surplus--So when it comes to blogs, the fact that there are 156,000,000 in circulation since February 2011 is a pretty great thing.

People subscribe to things which are mirrors for them--they want to see themselves in everything they do. They want to connect on a deeper level, and build a repertoire of what they already know to be furthered in their opinions and their views. Perhaps people stray away from the mainstream media because so few can relate to it - how many people are actually working for companies like Goldman Sachs with fear of going bankrupt? How many people are concerned about the oil crisis in the Middle East when it really comes down to it? People buy into ‘mommy blogs’ tips for better parenting - the sort of things which truly matter at the end of the day. People are expressing their personal autonomy by clicking the ‘read more’ button. They are actively buying into the gimmicks they want to, instead of the only ones in the light. In addition to that, the writers are actively and consciously showing us what they want us to see when they publish writing online.

In a study done at The Brooklyn Center by Lillian Sultan, Sultan studied self-presentation and identity shift in the internet age. They assigned a group of college students to write in a word document about day to day things, and another group to write in a blog regarding the same topic. It was thought those who wrote on the blog would display a greater identity shift than those who who would not be read by anyone in the word document. Their hypothesis was supported but not enough to make a dent in any current information, and they intriguingly attributed this to the, “Unique social environment afforded by the internet.” However, it’s not hard to see people will portray themselves in a more manipulative form when they know they are being watched. It’s safe to say more people would steal if they didn’t know there were cameras watching them, so we can assume the same is said for the internet. People want to give inflation to their everyday experience, and the internet fosters an environment for them to do just that.

In more ways than one, blogging and all of its components--having a voice, publishing your voice, being read, reading blogs, consuming the news, participating in the news, simply knowing what news is--is a privilege in and of itself. Blogging is comparable to standing atop a platform which everyone in the world who has properly functioning eyesight can see. As one stands atop the platform, people gather and assemble, and people leave and disperse while marveling at the man or woman atop screaming, “I EXIST! I AM HUMAN!” The internet is a facet in which people can be heard. The internet and alternative news sources give voices to those who don’t have the opportunity to be heard throughout day to day explicitness of society. Blogs operate on a subliminal channel - be it large scale or small, for profit or not. Blogging has become crucial to the way we operate as a society. Through the rapid spread of information, the tumult of information not formerly made available to some or simply through a different recipe to green bean casserole. By uprooting the substantial way we function, society has been able to adapt and maintain a sustainable and effective way for more than just the privileged to have access to what they are ultimately creating--the news.

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