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LJ Idol week 15: failure to communicate

What if writing on LiveJournal isn’t communication?

I know this is a weird thing to be blogging about, it's very 'the snake eating its own tail'. But it’s a question worth asking.

Communication can be defined as a message from a sender to a recipient. Three distinct pieces are involved in the equation. The sender, or in this case, the writer.  The message, the words themselves.  And the recipient, the reader.

So when you write a blog, on LiveJournal or somewhere else, who is receiving? Hundreds of people could be reading this, or no one could be reading this. Let’s face it, we all write differently depending on who we think is going to read our words. An event described in a private diary would be very different from the description of the same event in a letter to parents, and different again from what we would chat about with friends over coffee. The recipient has a lot of power to determine the message. 

Then there are the more obvious issues.  Words on a page come without body language or cues of tone to help convey their meaning. No matter how many emoticons or *sarcasm*s you type among your words, there’s still a chance that the person reading just doesn’t get it. Maybe they are in so bad a mood it colors everything they read that day, making your words unfathomably dark. Maybe they mistook a word you used for something spelled similarly, and lost all the meaning. Maybe the faceless reader chooses to sing aloud every entry to the tune of the Olympic theme song.

The writer of a blog has no control over the reader at all, no control over one third of the equation that equals communication. You can’t wait for your reader to be in the right mood to tell them something, or guarantee that they’ll get the rhythm of the joke correct to really enjoy the punch line. Hell, you don’t know for sure that anyone is out there at all. 

And the issue of the reader also affects the message, another third of the equation. Certainly there’s still a message there, but is it as strong or as focused as it could be if you knew exactly who was going to read your writing?

With two thirds of the equation that equals communication in doubt I have to ask again: what if blogging isn’t communication; or at least not successful communication in a traditional sense? What are we all doing here?

Maybe the point isn’t to communicate, at least not really. Maybe the point is in the third of the equation that can’t be denied – the sender. Maybe the point is to keep writing even if we’re all just shouting into a wilderness of nothing. And maybe, every once in a while, all of the pieces will line up perfectly despite all the difficulties, and someone will be in exactly the right mood and place and time to be able to read exactly what we intended to write.

Maybe LiveJournal is about the possibility of communication, not a guarantee.

I think I can live with that.

***Welcome to week 15 of LJ Idol, the topic this week is "Failure to communicate".  I made it through last week's contestant-only vote and am excited to still be in this thing.  Who knows if there will be a poll this week, but if so I'll link back to it here.  Thanks for reading."***


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This idea just started to intrigue me as I was looking at the definitions of communication. I think with email or letters or IM you still know who you are addressing, even if you don't know what mood they're in when they receive so it's a little bit different.

But yes, writing is the thing! And thanks for reading. As the first commenter maybe next time I'll write just to you.

I tried singing your post to several different songs and never quite found the right one... the closest was Coca Cabana but still not quite right.

I've been singing all the posts on my FL for the last few days, the idea was kind of random but it's a lot of fun.

Oooohh I like Copa Cabana.

I think it's very important to never give up. :)

Exactly. Moving forward despite obstacles is the way to go.

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Thanks so much.

Honestly when I sat down to right I had the first several paragraphs bouncing around my brain, but even I wasn't sure where it was going. I think discovered something for myself, and keep writing was certainly part of it.


Hey! In a weird way our entries this week sort of tangents one another.

Also, I completely agree with your conclusion, very well said!

I just read your entry and you're right, we could have been doing an intersection week. That's rather awesome. And thanks.

Isn't most of what we do about the possibilites?

Well done :)

It really is, but that is so easy to lose sight of. Thanks.

Very well said. I definitely contemplate my audience with LJ, but you never really know for sure how it's going to be received and by who.

It's interesting because who reads my stuff for Idol feels so different than my regular flist even though it's all on my journal. So it's always strange when someone I've known for years comments on an Idol post, or vice versa. Thanks for reading.

I liked that second to last line.

And when that possibility manifests as reality, I sure do love it.

Thanks so much. And those moments when you really do connect with someone are always amazing.

Well, the same thing can be said about any kind of writing. There's never a guarantee that the message is reaching an audience. Indeed, as a teacher, let me say there's no guarantee that the spoken word will always reach its audience.


And posting in the home game seems to reduce your audience significantly. :P

Yeah, I'm with you. In rehearsal right now I repeat everything about four times and even then there's no guarantee that all eight people heard me.

I do read home game entries, but I don't get to them until after I vote. So that'll be tomorrow or the next day. Though there does seem to be a difference between the number of folks who say "stay around the home game" and the number of folks who read the home game entries.

Hmmmm...interesting thoughts and so true.

Thanks, this was really interesting to think about.

I was thinking, what if you add journaling, historically, to the equation-- writing that is not intended in any way for anyone else's eyes, unless you are dead?

How does that change the paradigm? I think that it is still communication-- but it is communication with yourself. A lot of journaling, whether it is private or in a blog, has to do with trying to express your thoughts to yourself, if not to a wider audience.

Does that make sense?

I think in classic journaling you are both the sender and the receiver, and that seems totally valid.

A blog changes things a bit; if you manage to still write only with yourself in mind that's one thing, though I know for me anyway I'm always a little aware that other people are reading this which changes the math.

But yeah, it's neat stuff to think about, isn't it?

Interesting! And very true, there's no guarantee. When you post something, you don't know who is going to read it, and when they are going to read it, you just hope that people -will- read it ... eventually! And even then you don't know for sure because not everyone who reads also comments.

It feels a little like a performer being onstage with no idea if the audience is even out there, much less what they're like. Though I love LJ and wouldn't give it up, this topic did make me think about how I write here.

There are a lot of really good points made here. I may write and push the "post" button, but there are no promises who's gonna read my stuff. It's sort of a faith-based concept in that you hope someone will read. You home it's the future love of your life, a future talent scout / recruiter, somebody powerful and famous who is actually impressed by little 'ole me or you, but you never know.

Exactly. I may occasionally include something in an update that is a joke for one person, but what if they don't read their flist that day? I like the idea of LJ as a faith-based concept that we aren't all shouting into a void.

I like the idea that somebody, somewhere, is "getting it." And, too, I like the ideo of singing the post to the Olympic theme sone... I think I'll have to try that. ;)

Yup the mythical perfect reader for every post. I am hopeful I find one occasionally.

Since writing this I've been singing the posts on my flist to different tunes all week. It's a lot of fun.

I suppose there is always the hope of reaching someone and communicating. At least I've found real communication in a few cases and that makes it worth it.

Exactly, even if it's difficult to get to real communication the occasional times it works are worth it.

Also, I enjoy your new icon.