I like reading about people. When I was a kid I discovered the biography section in our school library, and I read every book in it. Being an only child with a widowed (and not very outgoing) parent, I didn’t have much first-hand experience with how a range of people did things. I watched people a lot, trying to figure out what worked, what didn’t, what their motives were, who was liked (and why) and who wasn’t (and why) — things like that. But actual interaction with people was scary — what if I did something wrong? So I discovered biographies and autobiographies, where I could read about people in the comfort of my room or sitting under a tree. We’re talking the late 1950s/early 1960s here, so there were not a lot of kids books about women. I learned a lot about Clara Barton, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Amelia Earhart, but there were more books about Teddy Roosevelt, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Davy Crockett, George Washington Carver, Luther Burbank — you get the picture. Those last two especially fascinated me — people who worked with plants, and helped make the world a better place with food.
By high school there were a lot more biographies with a lot more variety. I also discovered newspaper columns, where people offered their opinions on a wide range of subjects. I got better at questioning why people thought the way they did — where did they get their information, and what about their lives caused them to see things that way? I also discovered the most interesting areas of any subject were the people. What was daily life like for people in colonial America? How did the war for independence affect their lives? The broad sweeps of history were necessary but boring — I wanted to know the people side of things. Even math and science (my worst subjects) were more interesting when I learned about the lives of mathematicians and scientists.
Meanwhile, the same observations of the little things in life were showing up in my letters. One set of grandparents lived about a thousand miles away, so I wrote to them every week to keep in touch. My mom used to ask what I had to write about that often, but the letters were always three to four pages long, and filled with information about school, or books I was reading, or what new plants were blooming in the yard. I loved writing letters, and by high school I was writing to pen pals in other countries, and friends and relatives fighting in Vietnam. I even had this crazy notion I’d like to be a writer someday.
Jump ahead about 30-35 years. The only writing I did was letters, journals, and assignments for school. There is a LOT more to read about people, though. Books, magazines, TV shows with so much reality you want to puke, . . . and blogs. Partly because my focus was on school at the time, I was a little late in discovering blogs. I became envolved in a couple online communities, and got my reading-about-people fix that way. Some of them mentioned having a blog, and since I enjoyed their online comments I visited their blogs. It wasn’t long before I was hooked. A friend mentioned a free service that monitors your favorite blogs and lets you know when they have a new entry, so I signed up for that. [ http://www.google.com/reader ] Eventually I branched out and read random blogs in my topics of interest, adding them to my list when their writing style appealed to me. The blogs I read have different styles — while some are like newspaper columns, others are electronic journal entries, with interesting graphics and results of the latest “what type are you?” online quiz they have taken. Those later are primarily friends with whom I already have a connection, and they make me smile. 🙂 Yet even then I am people-reading, because I genuinely want to know how they handle the problems in their day and what cheers them up.
It is the opinion pieces I find most interesting, the ones where they share a current event or some fact about nature, and then write about their own thoughts or reactions. Even when they write about their own lives, I find that fascinating, because it gives me a feel for why they think or act a certain way. In my Women’s Studies classes they called this “standpoint,” because when we write, our opinions always affect what is said and how we say it, and it’s better to let people know where you stand right up front.
So, that is why I read blogs. Suspect I’ve been writing blogs ever since those letters to my grandparents. I’ve given up on the published author idea (not enough drive), but I like this method of sharing thoughts with people and appreciate when they comment. It’s like sitting around a table with my cohort in grad school, sharing ideas 🙂 (something I already miss).
Now I’m curious about you — why do you read blogs?