JUNE 1 — Since we came home from Dubai, I have avowed to pull off “Ops Kemas” (“Project Clean-up” doesn’t sound as urgent) within the walls of our residence. This ambitious endeavour of mine (it is ambitious if you see how much junk we have accumulated over the years) is not confined to just the tangible items scattered all over the house, but also to the digitised/electronic rubbish on my computer.
In the process of doing so, I stumbled upon the passwords for some long-forgotten email addresses of mine. You see, in the days before email accounts could hold more than 1GB of storage, I thought I was being clever when I tried to “spread the fat” by having a few concurrent email addresses. But as age crept in, unsurprisingly, I forgot the passwords.
Oh, what a discovery those email accounts turned out to be! Quite similar perhaps to when one discovers old diaries or journals that documented thoughts and feelings during that particular period of time.
Frivolous or heart-to-heart bouncing of emails between good friends, painfully sad emails that were a reminder of friends who have left this world, argumentative emails that were churned out when I sought to enforce my rights over some dispute.
I didn’t just discover old emails in the accounts, here’s the best part — I also unearthed archived entries from my blogs of yore.
For reasons that I am unable to recollect at this present time (although I’m inclined towards placing a bulk of the blame on the irrational state of post-partum depression), I had deleted my earlier blogs a few years ago — something that I have since regretted.
And so it came as a wonderful surprise to find that sometimes when I published a blog entry back then, I had activated a function for a copy to be archived in one of those email accounts. It wasn’t nearly all of it, but a huge chunk of valuable history nonetheless. Poring over those blog entries brought back a flood of bittersweet memories about my blogging days.
Nowadays, almost everyone blogs or owns a blog. It’s just a question of how adept or inept they (or their anointed blogwriters) are at it, and how active they are at maintaining the blog.
In this age of Facebook and Twitter, blogging has even been pish-toshed as being archaic. “Blogging is so 17th century lah,” declared a friend who himself used to blog. “We were on the blogging bandwagon when it was cool,” he said.
And he was right. At the time when I started blogging back in 2004, blogging was still somewhat of a technological novelty, at least in Malaysia. The online world had been introduced then to the likes of Friendster and Myspace, but those forefathers of social networking sites were simply that — sites for you to socialise in.
However, because your Friendster or Myspace account was, like Facebook, identifiable to you, it wasn’t often that users would pour out their thoughts and feelings on those sites.
Blogging, on the other hand, provided the anonymity that some, if not most of us sought (at least initially), as we wrote about things which mattered or shouldn’t have mattered in our lives, and at the same time, opened up a whole new avenue for friendship.
From my trawls through the blogosphere, I discovered a whole spectrum of bloggers with a plethora of stories, histories and aspirations to share.
The stay-at-home-moms (or SAHMs) with a dozen children who still found the time and energy to study, create culinary masterpieces, or run online businesses selling anything from cupcakes to clothing.
Overworked and disgruntled employees who satirised their workplace and bosses from hell. Those battling life-threatening cancers, some surviving and some finally succumbing. Penitents undergoing spiritual upheavals, seeking their place in this world and in the next.
Frustrated and overstretched single parents, PhD students who were missing home, those bracing for impending divorces or caught within the throes of a messy one, happy wives and husbands who shared their feel-good stories, foreigners who married locals and were trying to adjust to life in Malaysia, businessmen who lost their wealth, health and family but were determined to bounce back, even retired public servants and professors sharing fatherly wisdom. The stories and backgrounds were as varied as you could get.
And perhaps best of all, the world became a much smaller place when a commonality was established with the Malaysian diaspora the world over.
We were a web of friends wired together by technology rather than in the flesh.
Occasionally, gatherings would be organised in the real world so that the bloggers could put a face to the person they had come to know (and quite well, at that) in the virtual world.
These get-togethers were often a huge success for the simple reason that all in attendance were armed with the shared knowledge of each other’s lives — not your typical blindsided “networking/meet-up” sessions. No twiddling of fingers or breaking into a sweat in awkward discomfort.
You are, after all, meeting friends you already know. You just hadn’t met them face-to-face.
I remember being asked by some cautious “real world” friends as to how I could simply drop all inhibitions and write to an online audience I didn’t know. Wouldn’t that draw the lurking psychopaths in droves, they asked.
Ah, but therein lay the beauty to blogging — at least among the sincere.
There was an unspoken rule of conduct that we, the reading audience, would “listen” as the blogger shared, and then we readers would share our thoughts in response. Not much different from how we view the comments that are left on online articles nowadays, but in a more sociable and friendly way.
We respected each other’s points of view even though we didn’t always agree with them, and did our best to “jaga hati” or maintain cordiality as we would with friends in real life. It was like a group of friends sitting together and chatting — their families and stories became ours, and ours, theirs.
The great irony about blog-initiated friendships as opposed to friendships initiated in the real world is how much easier it is to drop the barriers and share our stories. Sometimes in the real world, even though we have befriended someone for decades, the invisible barriers still hold strong.
I do admit, however, that I must have been fortunate in that, save for the occasional visits by spammers and “cybertroopers” who seemed to think that some of my armchair politically-leaning rants rendered me, a whimsical housewife, as a cause for national security concern — my blogs didn’t attract the lunatics or diabolics.
Some of my closest friends now are those I found through the blogosphere. Like when we were in Dubai, it just so happened that four of my blogger friends also lived there, and although we didn’t meet up with each other as often as we would have liked, whenever we did, it always more than made up for the periods of absence and left us longing for more.
With life becoming increasingly more hectic as the years pile on, I doubt that I will revive my blogging habit, but the takeaway from the whole blogging experience has been priceless.
Strange as it may sound, especially to the more old-schooled amongst us, I am immensely grateful to the wonderful world of technology and the Internet for helping me find some of my kindred spirits and other significant acquaintances.
In fact, if it wasn’t for a chance encounter with Dina Zaman on blogosphere all those years ago, I wouldn’t have had the privilege of writing this column.
And on a side note, just in case you were wondering — no, I didn’t meet my husband through the Internet or blogging. I took the traditional real world route for that.
* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.