There is a special thrilling moment in the blogging. After you tie off the final thoughts together and put the full stop to the last paragraph or sentence, you give your post the final review and then you hit the publish button and relish the excitement of setting your words free to the world. It often happens that you discover one stray typo after the post goes live, or an awkward phrasing. Most of the time, however, the integrity of your post survives and it is unlikely that the slip will cause major embarrassment. This is because a blog post normally follows a certain structure. It is a piece of writing that evolves from an idea, into an outline, then a coherent piece. Each blogger is different, but I find that I have to start from a central theme, that I might develop as I write, but it is still a slow-brewing process. The most important part for me is to find the idea or theme of a post. I sift through dozens of online articles, or blog posts. I mine my own daily experiences or observations, in a hunt for one suitable subject. So regardless of how effortless posts look, they normally are a product of a relatively lengthy process. Of course, there are the odd exceptions like the Hello World page, or the re-posts from You-tube.
Things are a little different in the world of social networking. Technology has made it so easy for us to connect to our social networks. Whether our portable device of choice is an iPhone, iPad, or any other Andoid tablet or photon, there are endless options to use them for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Flickr among many others. So I can connect at any place and time, to interact with my cyber-friends. I can read posts, re-post them and post photos at the flick of one finger. And while commenting or tweeting may take a little bit more effort, the platforms themselves do not encourage verbosity, or limit my thoughts to a few characters, which makes a touch screen keyboard sufficient. I feel that blogging -with the notable exception perhaps of photo-blogging- cannot benefit much from the technology of portable devices. Because although the applications for tablet and iPhone exist, the limitation of keyboard and display size require at least an investment into portable keyboards, or extra-ordinary manual dexterity that I do not possess. For me, blogging involves many stages of careful thought and reflection, while posting on my social network is much more impulsive. As the connection to social apps becomes so much easier, the act of thumbing up other people’s thoughts or pictures; re-posting jokes or articles; and writing that quick comment, turn into something like a nervous reflexes with little or no thought at all.
The danger of this instant reflex lurks closer than you think. A few times I gave thumbs up to a story, when I actually wanted to flip it off my screen, because I found it silly or distasteful. At least once I wrote a comment or a whinge that I later thought will be misunderstood. Most of the time I caught these things within minutes, but since these actions are “out there” immediately after I click on them, there is always a chance that one of my friends would bear witness to them, maybe even the very same one who would get offended. It is a peril that one has to live with; a means of culling that friend perhaps.
Predictive text is particularly damning in this area, as I found out recently while posting on my tablet a message to Nelson Mandela for his birthday. My “Happy Birthday Tata Madiba” came out as Happy Birthday Tara Marina. I was horrified when I spotted this a few minutes later. I quickly discarded my tablet for my trusted laptop and typed it correctly. Barely a minute later a friend commented that I was a day early… mistakes are caught quickly in cyberspace.
Of course it is perfectly okay, people can make stupid mistakes on social networks as they do in the live social sphere. It is a bit more public, that’s all. So, the moral of the story: Treat your status update as a blog post. Respect it and give it some extra thought, it saves you unnecessary embarrassment.