In the mornings I catch up on my weblog reading through Bloglines. I’ve developed the habit recently of reading full content feeds within the tool rather than clicking through. I feel guilty about this because I’ve been critical in the past about full content RSS feeds, and about reading entire posts in aggregators rather than go to the person’s site.
Reading a person’s writing in an aggregator, I said, strips away their personality. Each bit of writing looks just like the others, and each is read, bang-bang-bang, one after another without a break or a pause to prepare ourselves for the next writing. The juxtaposition of one weblogger writing about the horrors of war, followed immediately by another writing about their cat and dental cleaning, jars and clashes when the subjects are so obviously different. However, it’s worse when the subjects are the same, and there’s only a mouse click’s amount of time between. The writing will blur and lose it’s distinctive edge, and you won’t be able to distinguish when one voice stops and another starts.
Today, I clicked on the Emptybottle link and read the following in a writing titled On the Turning Away:
But not turning away can lead into an addictive room of mirrors. Bearing witness changes from a duty and a rite to a habit and a vice. The feed only gets notice when we unhook it, and we’re not fed the world by our umbilicals, we’re pulled further out of it. Schroedinger’s cat doesn’t die unless we see it happen, but if we’re watching it on video, it doesn’t really matter which way it goes. Kill ‘em all and let god sort ‘em out.
So we watch. We stagger from table to buffet table, dyspeptic and enervated, mildly turgid under our loosened belts. We snap and grin with our cams and camphones, and our photos are products that refer to themselves, not us. Our kaleidoscopic images proxy the world, and let us maintain the illusion that we aren’t really a part of it, and that the bad things are happening over there. That those chants and tribal signifiers that make us feel so good and so strong and so right actually mean something other than ‘go team’.
When I finished, I clicked the next active link, which happens to be Halley’s Comment (’H’ following ‘E’), and read the following in a writing titled, You Really Don’t Have to Look:
We were talking about the disturbing pictures in the papers and on TV that you can barely avoid, and can get you DOWN big time, but I HAVE BEEN avoiding them. I’ve been taking time to make my house pretty, organize my finances, care for my son, care for myself, write, read, make new friends. Especially helping my kid avoid the barrage of dreadful images. My mom used to tell us when we drove by an auto accident on the roadside, “You really don’t have to look.”
About that whole full content feed and losing distinctive voice thing: I was wrong.