I’ve been thinking a lot about travel blogging, and bloggers in general, as I now live in a country with an unbelievable amount of tourists, and thus an unbelievable amount of ex-pat bloggers (I assume mostly because English isn’t Italy’s strong point).

I get the idea of documenting your life, but there’s a difference between the personal voice and the public voice. The personal voice is either confessional, or questioning. It asks why things are, or asks why the writer thinks the way he/she does. It has some consideration of its flaws, or avoids talking about them.

The public voice is different. It’s washed clean so that it can be marketed. I’m guilty of this in some arenas, because my business name is literally ‘Samuel Webster’. But the public voice is where I see the most problematic blogging happen. It’s a voice which is comfortable when shamelessly stating, ‘I don’t know what this is, but it’s a pretty photo’. It’s a voice which can only be accompanied by a censored view of the world.

But whatever, that is what it is. It’s commercialism whether you like it or not.

The most frustrating thing about those who write with this public voice is that it assumes an air of authority without actually taking responsibility for that authority.

It shamelessly assumes the right to speak about something without then taking responsibility for the speech – ‘what do I know? I just arrived here!’

Someone wise once told me that the way I position my ideas, stating them directly rather than softening them with ‘maybe’ or ‘perhaps’ could be seen as arrogant, as if I am saying ‘I know and you don’t.’

I get that, because it makes perfect sense in every other environment, particularly interpersonal relationships. But in an environment where the very act of writing requires you to have some belief in what you say, I believe it’s better to be polarising and publicly wrong, than aggressively milquetoast, shrugging when someone disagrees as if to say ‘hey, but what do I know? I just wrote a thing.’

The approach to blogging of ‘I just wrote a thing, don’t take it seriously’ is problematic when you’re involving yourself in any kind of anthropology (however misaligned and weak the association is when it comes to individual, unstudied, personal opinions) because it is the assumption that it’s okay to contribute noise to the world, if it’s branded and sponsored.

What this all comes down to, for me, is frustration of people who write something that doesn’t attempt to give anything to the world beyond a recount. And not an emotional or critical recount either, just a ‘I did this, here’s a photo’. That to me is the act of creation without responsibility for the product. I’d rather say nothing than write a whole blog post which says nothing.

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