Do you remember the first time you commented on a blog? What made you do it? Most likely, your first comment was accompanied by a strong emotion. Maybe you were furious. Maybe you were touched. Maybe you were thankful. Maybe you were relieved. Maybe you were ecstatic. The reason most people’s first comments are accompanied by emotion is because it takes strong feelings to move you from being a passive reader to an active participant. It wasn’t the first time you had these feelings, but it might be the first time it was so simple to respond and be heard.
Most people believe their opinions are worth hearing, but unfortunately there aren’t many places where they are listened to. Yelling at your TV set, talking to your radio, and calling your newspapers names is obviously pointless because nobody is listening. Participation in the blogosphere is monumentally different from previous models for transmitting information. When you read a book or watch television, the information is only going in one direction. It’s the difference between a dialogue and a monologue. When information starts passing back and forth, the average person gains power and so does the community. When a reader finds the courage to make their voice heard, whether in a blog of their own or by leaving a comment, this event is extremely empowering. A community forms and people realize that they aren’t alone. That may seem trivial, but don’t take it for granted. Eventually, what was once the voiceless masses transforms into a mobilized population.
While blogs are wonderful for the individual, they can be a threat to people and institutions that have profited from a model where the public is relatively silent. The people who want to ignore the cultural impact of blogs are the people who have the most to lose from its rise in power. Whether you recognize it or not, opposition to blogging is growing. One of the first places blog opponents try to strike is to claim that blogs lack the credibility of an established institution. Of course a blog will never have credibility in the same way that network television does, but that doesn’t mean that blogs aren’t credible. Actually, the whole framework of credibility has really changed because of blogs. Look at CBS. Until they were exposed by bloggers, CBS would be considered one of the most credible institutions that existed. The credibility of a blog comes from the combined weight of a networked community. When something is explored by blogs, the result is credible because the result is achieved by the collaboration of minds with varying motives.
The credibility of blogs is attacked for one reason: Credibility equals power. The power of blogs is increasing, and it is starting to make a big impact in modern society. The impact is felt by corporations that can no longer mislead their customers for fear of being exposed. The impact is seen when bloggers expose corrupt news organizations trying to influence elections. It is felt by consumers who actually expect customer service people to listen to them. Blogs are a threat to corporations that don’t want to have a relationship with their customers. It is a threat to a celebrity that doesn’t want to be seen as a human. It is a threat to churches whose congregation expects something in return for their time and money. It is a threat to a writer whose income is tied to the monologue of traditional publishing. As the internet continues to shape modern culture we will see fundamental changes in some of the most influential areas of modern life: publishing, news, advertising, politics, religion, and entertainment.
Don’t fall for the line of thinking that says making your voice heard is arrogant, self-serving, or trivial. Just because you aren’t a celebrity doesn’t mean that you don’t have the right to voice your thoughts. Additionally, don’t participate expecting to be rewarded with fame, friends, or fortune. That’s not the way a community works.