Whether you are a blogger yourself, or whether you read blogs such as this on a regular basis or only from time to time, you have come across the dreaded “blogroll”. Often as dry and tasteless as the rolls served at award dinners, the blogroll seems to be composed in many cases of dull or unpalatable ingredients. There are links to resources with which most readers would already be familiar, such as the online portals for prominent news outlets and publications, or there are links to websites and blogs which have not been updated since March 2007 – and even then only three posts were ever written before the project was abandoned. This is unfortunate because, if used correctly, the blogroll and its equivalents in other social media can be a wonderful tool for bloggers and non-bloggers alike.
For example, yesterday was the birthday of my good friend Margaret Perry, over at the blog Ten Thousand Places (among other online projects she works on.) I attended a very enjoyable surprise party for her last evening along with numerous mutual friends. It was a close thing, keeping quiet all day, and indeed, I almost tweeted “On my way to @bymags birthday party” last evening before, fortunately, I stopped myself. Miss Perry has been on my blogroll since I first met her a couple of years ago, thanks to her generous support of and commentary on my writing, as well as her incredibly good-natured humor, generosity, and intelligence.
Conversely, I had a lengthy discussion yesterday with a friend about someone whose blogroll seemed rather odd, because of the sites it combined. Admittedly, some bloggers use their blogroll to list their regular reading for points of view that they are both for and against, to show they are broad-minded or keeping up with the other side, but personally I have never found this to be a sound decision. That one must occasionally read a report or feature in The New York Times is an inevitable fact of life, for the intelligent person, but that does not mean one ought to post what is essentially an endorsement of that publication by linking to it from one’s blog, particularly with no qualifier.
I have been blogging long enough now that I have made the editorial decision not to list every single blog or site that I read regularly in my blogroll; nor do I necessarily list every blog authored by a friend or acquaintance. One criteria for de-listing, as it were, is where the writer does not update their blog with any regularity. If you cannot be bothered to blog regularly, you cannot expect me to recommend that others read your material. As with any activity, you will not become a better blogger if you are not writing frequently, and unfortunately many people lack the commitment and drive to do so, for various reasons. It may be harsh, but I see no reason to endorse a blogging effort if there is no real attempt to stick to it.
In the blogosphere of course, I am of no great importance. On an average day, perhaps a few hundred people read my blogs, whereas on an average day many thousands of people read someone like Maureen Dowd. True, there is no accounting for taste, or the lack thereof. Still, the blogroll and its cousins in social media, such as the “Pages” one lists on Facebook, are something worth our attention.
I would challenge the reader to take the time to go visit their blog, or their profile on sites such as Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn, and look at this virtual presence with a fresh set of eyes. Pretend that you are not, in fact, you, but someone who is just coming across you for the first time. Or even better, perhaps take a look at your online presence from the viewpoint of someone whom you have just met, say at a business or social event, and are hoping to keep in contact with.
What does your blogroll tell the first-time visitor? What do your “Likes”, “Links”, “Pages”, etc., on other social media outlets show about the sort of person you are? Is the impression that you put across in that public persona one of someone whom others would like to get to know better?
These are questions which you must answer for yourself, of course, and your criteria may very well be different from my own. Yet to consider the counsel of the patron of this blog, Count Castiglione, my impression is that the more circumspect and honest you are, both in your estimation of yourself and of others, the more you build up good society, rather than contribute to a climate of selfishness unprecedented in scale, which has led us to the point in which we now find ourselves as a culture. In looking at the leaders of his time, Castiglione observed that:
Among the many faults we see today in many of our princes, the greatest are ignorance and self-esteem. And the root of these two evils is none other than falsehood: which vice is deservedly hateful to God and to men, and more injurious to princes than any other, because they have greatest lack of what they need the most — I mean of someone to tell them the truth, and to put them in mind of what is right: for their enemies are not moved by love to perform their duty, but are happy to live wickedly and never correct themselves.
Human nature has not changed dramatically since Castiglione’s day, of course. Yet if you intend through blogging, or through the use of social media, to not only keep in touch with distant friends but also to serve in leading, even if only in a small way, the culture in which we live, then a hard look at whether you are upholding goodness and truth, as opposed to the cheap, the mundane, or outright evil, is very much in order. And who knows – I might even add you to my blogroll.