Tag Archives: Blogger

Companionship Online Versus Company IRL

I was a lonely child. I think we all are and we stay that way for most of our lives. It is difficult to find the exact kind of affection, support and loyalty that we are looking for. So most of us do what the wisdom of the ages tell us and compromise. We settle for company since we can’t have companionship.

I’ve had a light week. I took a break after several weeks of stress, tension, ill health and nose-to-grindstone work. Immediately I fell into bad sleep habits and the corresponding poor moods. I’ve also desperately yearned for someone to have coffee with, someone to go to a movie with, someone to snuggle up with and talk to, someone to be with. It’s not something we get to acknowledge a lot these days, it is? Need is often confused with neediness.

This time though I noticed something else. My old instincts were to reach out to the not-so-goods, the people who never have time for me, people who don’t treat me that nice because they are well, people. I’ve always regretted doing this but loneliness is like hunger and you tend to reach for food, no matter how poisonous it is. For a change, I didn’t do that. And it passed. This is not so new. After all, with every year of thirty, the lonely pangs are getting to seem more like fleeting annoyances.

I’ve been reading. Late in the week I installed a few new apps, Buzzfeed, Wikipedia and TED among them. A part of me thought, well TED is just one of those pretentious things that looks good to have. But I’ve spent the last hour switching between these three apps and you know what? I’ve been having fun!

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Image via Unsplash/Gilles Lambert

It makes me think, I’m not really lonely. I already have access to a world of companionship. It just doesn’t correspond to the traditional ways of finding and enjoying companionship. It probably means different things to different people but for me, companionship is feeling constantly inspired, understood, accepted, cherished and entertained. With the people that I have this with, I feel every moment being lived, rather than just passing. I have a handful of them (with enough leeway to hold a teacup) and I don’t get this from most other people around me.

Normally, I’d have to make do with this and feel grateful for the handful that I do feel myself, my life with. But I am a digital native and a blogger to boot. My blog completed 12 years a couple of days ago. And the tribe I found is nearly the same age. Almost the very minute I opened a window into my life on the internet, connection flowed in. And yes, it is enough, it’s more than enough.

I have never subscribed to the thought that the digital universe cannot replace the real. My most meaningful relationships have been with people that I know online. I met my two closest friends through Twitter. The profound kind of sharing (of everything — hobbies, silly jokes, uninformed opinions, fears, bad moods, advice) that happens online, I don’t see its equivalent in the solely offline world. So how does it matter that companionship is coming my way in bits and bytes instead of sound waves and light beams? Who cares that a lot of them are continents away and on different timezones? I am really a creature of ideas, of the mind. Loneliness for me means being around someone whose mind doesn’t connect with mine. I feel a far deeper connection with the minds that create witty articles and brilliant TED talks, than I do with most people that study and work with me.

I’d rather have that than spend my life ‘in quiet desperation’ (as Pink Floyd puts it) exchanging social banalities with people just because they are around. I’m great company for myself so I deserve more than that from the world. If it comes to me online, so be it. Here’s a talk that made me feel like I was listening to myself speak of my own journey.

 

I once got involved in the life of a premature baby in a country that I had never been to. I’ve been a part of coming out stories and healed together with other survivors of abuse and rape. I’ve shared the story of falling in love, navigating a relationship, getting engaged, getting dumped and dealing with the grief of an ex who won’t give me the dignity of closure. Being a blogger is more than just a hobby or a profession or even a lifestyle. It is a life and it is mine. I am so lucky.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

B For Blogger

I had a packed day yesterday and didn’t get home till after midnight so B didn’t get done. But today’s thoughts all came together for a post I’ve been wanting to write and magically it fit the letter of the day for April A to Z Challenge.

~O~O~O~O~O~O~

People often ask me what it is like to be me. ‘Blogger’ is both a description of what I do for a living as well as who I am. Last month, one of my clients asked me to bring myself into the stories that I had been writing for them. It was the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me, personally or professionally. What I wrote for them allowed me to dip into my own deep well of personal sentiment and express it openly. I’ve spoken often about the many wonderful things that blogging has brought to my life. But like every other profession, passion and lifestyle choice, it has its share of things that I have to force myself to not focus on, or I’d just stop.

1. People form non-existent relationships with you:

The sharing I’ve done has brought up sharing from readers and other bloggers. Over 11 years, I’ve collected hundreds of emails, chats, comments and texts. It is personal, yes. But sometimes people tend to forget that you are not their best friend, not their personal mentor, not their spouse/partner, not their parent.

Many years ago, one young man decided that the poetry I that wrote, was about him. His girlfriend contacted me (I was anonymous back then and an email address is all readers had to go by) angrily demanding to know why I was chasing her boyfriend. The man in question, continued to stalk me months after that, under different identities and finally wanted me to attend his wedding. That episode gets laughs now but at that time it was extremely unpleasant.

There was another man who had been following my blog for several years but had never said a word. When we finally chatted, it transpired that he had studied with my ex. He got upset because he didn’t like the guy or the fact that I had been in a relationship with him. Our conversations became tinged with judgement, sniping and condescension, after that. It was not easy for me to articulate the fact that he had no claims over me, let alone who I dated.

2. People are disrespectful:

In the early days of this field, I was involved in several conversations on the ‘ethics’ of being compensated for blogging. I remember a time when bloggers like me were barraged with sudden demands from PR people (usually rude and dismissive). Simultaneously we were also subjected to condescension and ridicule by popular media and journalists. I know now that the second had to do with professional insecurity as traditional media feared the loss of its absolute control over people’s minds.

The first tends to continue, now in the form of usually very young social media professionals. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been summoned to a press conference or brand event and ordered to write or tweet about it. One such person even told me that he was looking for people who ‘did not have anything much to do with their time so they would be able to tweet every hour on the hour’. Someone I had known for years ran into me somewhere and said, “Oh, you’ve got some grand ideas now, haven’t you? Wanting to get paid so much and all!”

And then there are others who don’t think that what you do is a valid profession. I am still besieged by messages and calls from friends who open conversations with “Have you gotten a job yet?” Last year someone badgered me to join him at a pub. When I told him I was busy with a deliverable, he said I could bring it to the pub and he’d tell me what to write, over a beer. That was our last conversation. It seems like the fitting end, but really, it’s not nice having to cut people out of your life because they refuse to take you seriously.

3. People see your blog as a free outlet for their personal agendas:

There are two types of people who do this. The first is the kind mentioned on top. Some of them believe that if there is money involved, they own your thinking and your blog. It has taken many years, several conversations and much negotiation to establish that a personal blog is not an advertising platform, it’s a conversation starter for brands.

The second kind is friends, family and even random acquaintances. When people know you have a moderately popular blog, they sometimes believe that they need to tell you what to write. Strangers and familiars impose their ideas on you and tell you you’re a bad person if you don’t write as they say. These include their personal dramas, causes that they believe in and their opinions of films, TV shows, food, travel and the like (never mind the fact that your blog is not based on any of these).

4. People don’t know how to deal with being written about:

Right from the start, my policy has been to be very careful when I write about other people. Given that I write freely about my life, my emotions and my relationships, other people feature frequently. ,I take care to not mention locations, employment, age etc. Sometimes I twist facts very slightly and make an uncle into an aunt, a friend into a colleague, morning into evening – that kind of thing. If I’m going to mention them often or in a very important way, I usually let them know that I’m going to write about them (how important is my discretion). And if they feature often, I give them running nicknames on my blog (my ex was Mr.Everyday).

I have never broken a confidence online. Yet, I find that people are simultaneously flattered and paranoid about what I do. Men I date ask if I’m going to write about them immediately, which makes me laugh and say, “Yes, my life is not ALL about you.” But when I do write something, even if it reasonably complimentary (as well as respectful of their privacy), they tend to get upset.

One friend accused me of sounding ‘weird and gross’. This was regarding a post where the only mention of him, was where I quoted him verbatim. It was all of two sentences, one where I introduced him as a friend and the second, his exact words. I know he is uncomfortable with what he said, which is why he tried to make it sound like my fault. That happens more often that you might think.

I’ve rarely ranted about an individual on my blog and when I have, I have kept their identities secret. The instances where names have been mentioned, have been cases of specific wrongdoing such as someone copying my content or a brand behaving badly. Yet, people tend to worry and fluctuate in how they feel. It makes every single relationship in my life tricky.

5. People mistake you for your blog:

Yes, this is a personal blog and yes, it’s all true (except for where I say it’s fiction). But it’s not ALL of me. Let me reiterate some of the things people have said to me:

“You sound quite cheerful. Not at all depressed.”
“I thought you were this strong, powerful feminist. But you’re not.”
“You are supposed to be all sorted out and wise. How can you be confused?”
“Why did your engagement end? Did you lie when you blogged about your relationship?”
“How can you make spelling mistakes/garble speech? Aren’t you supposed to be this hotshot blogger?”
“You look nothing like your blog.” *disappointed frown* (from when I didn’t have pictures of myself on the blog)
“Your blog is much cooler than you are.”

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Follow the April 2015 AtoZ HERE.

If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

Affection, Conversation & Everything Else That Digitalia Made Possible

Mid-week I stared at my computer screen wondering what to write. I had promised myself earlier this month that I would write more from the heart and less because it was ‘engaging content’. I struggled. I thought my love affair with this blog might have died. I thought my need to express my raging sentiments in an open space and throw my heart open to strangers might be a thing of the past. I need only have waited a day.

Yesterday I met Jinal. This was our fourth in-face meeting. The first time was years ago. Three different people who had no connection to each other, mentioned her in conversation. Who is this person that everyone wants me to meet, I wondered. A couple of days later, I found an email from her saying she had read my blog and would be in Mumbai and would I be free to meet her for coffee? Coffee turned into confessional, friendship came pouring out of that one conversation we shared. It continued over chats and emails written as if they were no different from that instant connection we made over the first coffee. Yesterday I told her I even remembered what she had said, that made me fall in love with her. See, that’s how Jinal is. Easy to fall in love with, easy to say that to.

We talked about the space that we both inhabit, this time as professionals. Years ago, when we first met, we were both like kids running around and clutching at the shiny, colourful thing that digital connectivity was. Now we each navigate it as business drivers shaping its numerous uses for commercial enterprise. We spoke of the new developments in the field, contrasted India and the US in their digital topographies. We compared notes on people that we knew in common.

jinal

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The Godrej India Culture Lab team, Parmesh Shahani (red teeshirt rockstar in the centre), Jinal (seated in center in red) and me (seated far right)

Then in the evening, Jinal went on to address a talk titled ‘Geographies of the Heart‘ at the Godrej India Culture Lab. I had wondered what it would be like to listen to a close friend, not over the cosy intimacy of a coffee but as she played a certain role on stage, cast with a projector and Powerpoint for co-actors. She spotted me and gestured to the row behind me. Her parents were sitting there. She opened her talk introducing them to the gathering as well and admitting that she was nervous because this was the first time they were to hear her speak on stage. I knew then, that my apprehensions were unfounded. Jinal would be Jinal, even labelled with a fancy corporate designation and in an impressive setting, no different from the warm girl I’d met in a suburban coffeeshop. It’s hard to describe why her talk affected me so profoundly. Maybe it is the girl herself and how sensitive and warm she is herself. But I think it also has a little to do with the story she told. I often feel it too.

We might be the only generation ever to know this painfully sweet thing. We grew up with single channel Doordarshan and now we navigate diverse connections of multimedia-enabled, access-layered communication. Communication is the building block of relationships, isn’t it? And of attitudes, of thought and ultimately of action. Dare I even say it? Digital connectivity has opened up a new lifetime for us. Jinal and I might never have met, had it not been for blogs, for common friends who in turn were linked to us, not by a shared school or workplace but by the platforms that we were exploring together. Her ideas shape some of mine as I imagine mine shape hers.

I became an active voice in conversations about the LGBT community because a friend, someone I met through digitalia again, was gay and going through a difficult time with her family. I found myself suddenly wearing the mantle of crusader for women’s rights when my personal diary became a source of interest (and very occasionally inspiration) for younger women who read it. My ideas about responsibility, about politics, about feminism, about culture, about art and writing and about myself changed and evolved through these conversations. I was all set to be a good middle-class Tamil girl who would go on to a respectable career, an appropriate marriage and family life. Instead, I became ME (none of these things but, curiously so much better). I often dwell on the problems digitalia has brought – the lack of human interaction, the unrealistic schedules and their effect on health, the hyper-stress laid on young adults. I don’t enough think about the many gifts it has brought us. Digitalia shaped my power, my place in the world. How much more of a blessing can that be?

It seems silly to me now that I would think that my love affair with my blog is over. That’s akin to my saying that my interest in life is done. Because this connection, this ability to talk to you, to a faceless stranger seeing my words on a computer screen or a smart device, this dissolving of geography, time, race, age and gender – this is what my life is about, has been for about half of it. I am so lucky. I am digital and that does not make me a robot. Quite the contrary, it makes me a global citizen, one who has the privilege of friendships across the globe, conversations & insights that aren’t money or country restricted. The world is my playground and I say that with immense gratitude.

This would be a good time to tell you that in the middle of this month, I completed a decade of being IdeaSmith. I can’t really remember the exact date but somewhere in the May of 2004, the word ‘IdeaSmith’ popped into my head as I looked at the sign up screen of a blogging platform. This journey has shaped me, given rise to interesting associations and brought me a career that fulfils and enriches me. Thank you so much, thank you for all the love and the connection that made this possible. What a wonderful 10 years it has been!

What Does Pop Culture Have Against Bloggers?

Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories logo. C...

Image via Wikipedia

The boy tells me that a Grand Theft Auto (GTA) mission that he just completed, is called ‘Blogger This…!‘. In the game, a blogger has raised the shackles of a nightclub owner because of his negative posts about the club, after being denied entry into it. So the mission involves hunting & beating this blogger down to pulp. I know GTA isn’t exactly a posterchild for politically-correct or even rational messages. But I can’t help but wonder what pop culture has against bloggers.

One of the Castle episodes involved interrogating a blogger as witness in a case. The blogger was depicted as an overweight, socially inept woman. When asked if she had an alibi, she mentioned a couple of names.

“Roommates?”

“My parents!”

she replied, surprised that it wasn’t obvious. Even as far as offensive stereotypes go, that seems closer to software geek than blogger. When did these two become the same thing? Or is anyone who spends time behind a computer, to be perceived as socially inept, laughable, unattractive and a nerd?

Cover of Last week, I was watching ‘State of Play. This crime drama pushes through on the chemistry between a senior journalist and his blogger counterpart, both employees of a reputed publication. The blogger is a young woman, depicted as willful & intelligent but also brash and superficial in her work. That sounds to me like an echo of what a lot of journalists say about bloggers. The funny thing is, my experiences with traditional media, especially print journalists has thrown up negligence, stupidity, shallow to no research and an uppity attitude to boot. Yet, the blogger is the one taking the flak and indeed the audience derision in Hollywood’s depiction.

At an immediate level, I’m usually offended by such narrow, prejudiced messages. But beyond that, I am inclined to think that these are but fearful, defensive responses of a traditional, control-hierarchy mindset. It’s just sad to see it revealed in the promoters of pop culture, who are responsible for shaping a lot of attitudes. Blogging and bloggers are here to stay whether traditional media likes it or not. What’s more, it’s not even an us-versus-them situation. Anybody who is online, can be a blogger. To condemn that is like a prisoner sneering at those who walk free and are holding out a key to him as well. Funny, indeed.

A Blogger Deserves Respect

I am a personal blogger, not a performing monkey.

It seems obvious to me but it appears that I have to clarify this to certain people. Just because I share snippets of my life online, does not give you the right to sit in judgement on me. I create & share things that I write. It is a privilege to be read, certainly. But I think, it is also a privilege to read. I respect my readers and I think I deserve that respect back.

Why do some people think its okay to say anything to you because this is an open blog? It may be an open blog but it’s my blog and it’s open because I keep it that way. I have every right to shut out spammers, trolls or detractors if I so choose.

I’m spelling it out just to be clear. My blog is my online home and I welcome you to it. Don’t take advantage of my hospitality or I’ll have no recourse but to throw you out.

The Blogger’s Prayer

Dear Akismet, auto-delete them for they know not that they spam.

Lurker

I never said hi
Or so much as a may I
Before I read
The words that you’d bled
Onto the screen
The only go-between
From you to this reader unseen

I never offered praise
Or observation on your ways
Or shielded you
From barbs the others threw
No response, no judgment
No replies to the questions you sent
Out into ether, not even acknowledgment

I watch you
That’s what I do
You entertain, you amuse
You also provoke thought, when you so choose
Your missteps, your very frailty leaves me nothing to say
It’s also the reason I’ll never go away
Where your words go, my mind will follow
Unquestioning, silent every step of the way

~O~O~O~O~O~O~

A long, very long time since I rhymed. So long ago that I even heard creaks in my head when I was turning over each word. But many of them just happened so I didn’t agonize over the ones that didn’t.

As a blogger, I know the frustration, the maddening silence of the vast majority of my readers. The ones that never comment, never answer a poll or a question, never show me their existence except in the mysterious numbers on my stats charts. But oddly, I also know the side of me that clicks through every album visible to me on the social network, spends an entire night reading every post on a particular blog, ego-surfs the names of people I know slightly (or better)….and never mentions a word of it to the person it’s about.

I know that person, by nature, is never acknowledged publicly. There’s a heavy stigma around the word ‘lurker’ with associations of creepiness and stalking. But perhaps because the newfound title of writer gives me carte blanche to be curious, maybe because I can explain it away in the pretty sentence of “Every person has a story”, I acknowledge the lurker in me.

This post is for all those nameless people, you know who you are, who’ve kept me pondering and wondering and agonizing. But really, it’s also for the people whose lives I’ve vicariously lived, who’ve shared with such generosity, the important moments of their lives, in blogposts and photographs, the people in whose lives I lurk. Thank you for everything.

Write Click: Workshop On Writing For Social Media At Kala Ghoda Art Festival 2011

I’ve been a keen visitor to the Kala Ghoda Art Festival every year. Four years ago, I also started writing for the Kala Ghoda Gazette, the festival’s official blog (which unfortunately is not running this year). So I was thrilled when Payal asked if I’d like to be a part of a workshop she was organizing for the literary end of the festival.

Here’s presenting Write Click, a workshop on writing for social & online media. The workshop is for people who love the written word, who work in a profession that requires it and who are intrigued by the new media available for its expression. You don’t have to be a blogger to participate but if you are, then my end of the workshop may be of special interest to you.

In this 2 half-day workshop, we’ll look at blogging, social media, online marketing tools, content strategies and how the online medium differs from the offline. We’re looking at keeping it light and fun but also useful for the future blogger-writers in you!

Place: Kala Ghoda Association Office. This is in the lane between Rhythm House and the building with a horse painted on it.

Date: 12th & 13th February, 2011

Time: 11.00 a.m. – 4.00 p.m. each day

Materials: Participants are requested to carry pen and paper and will be allowed to take notes. Cameras and laptops are welcome too.

Fees: This workshop is completely free. However there may be a nominal deposit to be paid on the first day, which will be returned at the end of the workshop.

Registration: To participate, please write to kalaghoda.workshops[at]gmail[dot]com,
with a copy to Payal thewordjockey[at]gmail[dot]com
and to me ideasmithy[at]gmail[dot]com.
Use ‘Workshop: Write Click” in the title of the email.

Participation: This being a workshop, we may need to limit the number of people participating in the exercises to ensure fair attention to each of them. However, the workshop includes conversations and presentations and non-participating audience members are welcome too.

People: This workshop is being organized by The Word Jockey and conducted by Moksh Juneja, Nimesh Shah, Snigdha Manchanda, Sandhya, Juhi Dua and myself.

If you’re passionate about writing or blogging or know someone who is, come join us this weekend!

Ideamarked! December 2010: Internet Delights, Online Wars, Schooltime Nostalgia, Curd Rice, Romance, Art & Writing

I’ve had a busy December, what with friends from out-of town, the big relationship questions, getting started on the Yahoo! Real Beauty arrangement and a month-long writing exercise (you’ll have to read further to know what!). But I still managed to keep an eye on things of mutual interest, dear reader. *Pause for applause* 😀 I’m feeling upbeat and high-spirited this month. So be nice and leave a comment or two telling me what you think and what else you’d like to see.

  • This would have been par de course in an 80s Bollywood flick dhak-dhak style! (via AwkwardFamilyPhotos)
  • Getting ready for the Kala Ghoda Art Festival 2011.
  • This really appeals to the Ideartist in me! (via PS-IMadeThis)
  • A month-long writing exercise with a daily prompt (via Reverb10) Hat-tipped by Lakshmi Jagad. Also see my posts on this, here.
  • I first heard this song featured on the soundtrack of ’13 Going On 30′ and then fell in love with it. It was the theme song of my journey to the big Three-O and beyond. (Billy Joel’s Vienna Waits For You via YouTube)
  • Two drifters off to see the world, there’s so much of world to see. A classic. (Breakfast in Tiffany’s Moon River via YouTube)
  • Stoopid copywriters, funny fails! (via Failblog)
  • An interesting concept: Turning off your phone as a technological gesture of affection. (via Arzan Wadia)
  • Some of us miss the forest for the trees. And then there are those who remind us to stop and pick a fruit and savour it before burning the forest down. (Ashwini Mishra on the small things)
  • I came upon this blog from a reader response. It took me back to my early days of blogging when blogs were personal journals (not blossoming ebusiness ideas) and bloggers were ordinary human beings (not the next big Internet celebrity). I particularly liked the idea of this tag (yes, another throwback to those days of yore) and his answers. (via Yuva Anandan)
  • I ran into an online war with Bombay Elektrik Projekt after I tweeted that I was disappointed with their Monday Night Slam event. They slammed me on their Facebook page and on Twitter. An account of the event is here.
  • I didn’t send this one in but it instantly reminded me of my Best Friend. (via PostSecret)
  • An ode to that humble king of South Indian cuisine – thayir sadam (curd rice to you philistines). The article has liberal local references so you’re advised to carry a Tamil-English dictionary. But it is worth a read. Damn, my stomach’s growling. And this after having had a sumptous dinner of the aforementioned thayir sadam!! (via HawkEyeView)
  • Remember the teenage sleuthing trio of Jupiter Jones, Pete Crenshaw and Bob Andrews? My early adolescence was checkered with the adventures of The Three Investigators. Here’s remembering.
  • Horsing around (via AwkwardSchoolPictures)
  • Things you would never know without the movies (via TheTopSpace)
  • “Not email but Facebook may launch its own country by Monday!” (via FakingNews).
  • Hardware meets software? The clash of the giants. A good read, even for the techno-greeks. “Apple versus Google” (via IntelligentLife)
  • From the idea-archives: My article on learning to cook from the internet, which featured in JetLite’s in-flight magazine in October 2010. Cooking wannabes and seasoned chefs, do take note! (on The Idea-smithy)

If you see yourself (or your site featured here, if you’d like to be or if you’re just intrigued by the Ideamarked posts, do drop into The Idea-smithy Facebook Page and tell me about it. I love company!

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