The Mediated Community of the Blog

Blogging offers people an informal and indirect forum in which to vent, inform, question or just laugh at themselves, which more direct one-on-one or group interactions may not make available. Often, people will not open up in direct, face-to-face interactions, whereas online they have an opportunity to express themselves while protected from the fear of censure by the medium of the blog. Anyone with a psychology degree can attest that this mediation of social interaction is a critical facet of blogging from the psychological perspective and essential not only to understanding why bloggers blog, but also how to blog better.

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One post on Stanford University’s Cross-Cultural Blog suggests blogging is essentially “the process of me,” in which the blog serves as an autobiography and a map of ongoing personal development. Over time, posts record (or may even actively constitute) the author’s growth, usually in a combination of occasional leaps and bounds and through the documentation of quotidian minutiae. This recording makes the process of identity development concretely available to the author, as well as to the public. Meanwhile, the author is more or less shielded , which allows for anonymity, but more importantly helps mediate the process.

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In addition to enabling exploration of identity through posting, blogging incorporates a forum for feedback while again offering the author a degree of protection. The blog author can vent emotion, express uncertainty or just describe and reflect on their experiences, and explicitly or implicitly invite comments from readers. In readers’ feedback the author may receive support, criticism and even insult, but is shielded from the impact of these comments by the medium through which they are received. Authors can even choose to moderate feedback, controlling which comments are actually published and dismissing them as they see fit.

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This protected identity development enables bloggers to experience a mediated community in which they can feel they belong. As Psychology Today blogger Jenny Schmitt observes, there’s a difference between fitting in and belonging in a group or community. For blog authors, establishing and expressing an identity that may not fit in with their offline environment is often a major (though sometimes underlying or unstated) objective. The longer an author stays at it, and the more the blog is a success, the more the community of followers creates that sense of belonging for the author.

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Indeed, those readers want to be part of that community themselves. When blogger Lorelle asked “what makes a blog successful?” many readers answered along the lines of “>Learning to view a blog as a mediated community working to establish and define its identity enables bloggers to better understand the underlying psychological motivations driving their posting, as well as those leading their readers to follow and contribute to the blog. With these psychological insights in mind, bloggers can focus on developing their community identity more deliberately, thereby making the blog more clearly appealing to potential readers. In the process, they may also stand an even better chance of learning about themselves.

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