You’ve kept a diary (twenty years ago). You’ve Tried Facebook. Tried twitter even, perhaps, but who can tell the story of their life in 140 characters or less?
There are dozens of reasons why it makes sense for HIVers to have a blog, and I’ll get to those in a minute. None of them applied to me in 2003 when I first started blogging. It was really by accident. I was following the exploits of a male escort who happened to use LiveJournal to record the carnal ebb and flow of his life. It was titillating, so I checked in regularly, like you do, you know. And then, for some reason – probably because it looked new and shiny back then, and I’ve always had a soft spot for new and shiny, I tried LiveJournal myself, minus the carnal exploits.
2,000 entries later and, unbelievably almost 100,000 comments received, I’ve given up on LiveJournal. It fell victim to a Russian takeover which left it seemingly perpetually broken. PositiveLite came along, and once I assumed editorial duties, all but took over my life.
My blog on LiveJournal, though, was the real thing. I wrote daily and obsessively about everything – what I did each day, sometimes what I ate, what was burning me up - plus a steady diet of obsessions like American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance. Lots of doggie news too, and thousands of photographs - at least one each day, sometimes a dozen or more. But my journal was also very much an HIV journal. I talked about my treatment, my numbers, my doctor’s visits (with photos of course) and, increasingly, the HIV work I was involved in. LiveJournal readers went with me to lots of meetings and lots of conferences. And I got lots of feedback on that too – neg people telling me how much more they knew about HIV from reading the blog.
I’ve mentioned it here before, but the ante was upped considerably when I was chosen to blog on the HIVstigma.com website, part of a high profile Ontario HIV prevention campaign from the guys at GMSH, along with seven other writers. One of these was, incidentally, Brian Finch, an experienced blogger himself who subsequently went on to become publisher of PositiveLite.
So that’s my background. Does it qualify me to give lessons in blogging? May be. Don’t think I’m the only game in town though. There are thousands of people out there on the internet wanting to teach you to blog, some for money, some not, I ‘m a not. Some say you get what you pay for. You be the judge.
Anyway, here are my top six reasons WHY blogging is a “good thing” for HIVers to do.
1. It feels good. This is my top ten reason for doing ANYTHING, from masturbating to making quiche and everything in between. It has to feel good. In this case the “feel goods” mostly come from the satisfaction of creating something lasting - painting a picture with words, if you like. Play your cards right and you’ll get a lot of positive feedback (I’ll tell you how to do that next time) and that can feel good too. There are many other ways blogging can feel good, but I’ll let you discover them yourself. I don’t want to spoil the fun of becoming a bona fide member of the blogosphere.
2. HIVers who blog educate others. It humanizes us. It makes people realize - surprise - we are real people with real lives, people just like them except for a certain virus that we have either come to terms with or not. Your readers can and will learn a lot about HIV too in the process. It’s a stigma-busting exercise if ever there was one.
3. It’s a record of the epidemic. One day, after the cure, you will look back on your written words and and say ” wow! I went through this”. Historians will love you too.
4. Is your HIV status making you feel lonely or isolated? You’ll make new friends!. Honestly, they come from nowhere. You will form close relationships with the most unlikely, most lively, most loyal people you never knew existed. Some of them you will meet in person, mostly not, but they can and will become an important part of your life. These people are supportive, nearly always non-judgemental, and if you play your cards right, will shower you with praise. Praise is good. Sure beats the opposite anyway. (On the downside there are also opportunities to engage in “flame wars”, the blogging equivalent of schoolyard fights. They’re not good if you dislike conflict. We’ll tell you how to avoid those also.)
5. Your life is important. Important lives are ALWAYS worth recording. Ask yourself how you are doing that now? Chances are many will draw a blank. Blogging changes everything.
6. I hope I don’t sound like a snake oil salesman, here, but blogging can be an amazing antidote to a variety of yucky human conditions we HIVers would rather not have. Low self esteem? Inability to collects one’s thoughts? Depression? Anxiety? Self-doubt? Writing about these things, examining our own behaviours, can be remarkably curative. Psychiatrists call it cognitive begavioural therapy. There is plenty of research out there to prove it works.
There are plenty more reasons why HIVers should consider take up blogging and joining the thousands millions of us who do it already, but these are my top six. Talk to other bloggers; chances are you know a few. Ask them why they do it too.
So that’s the “why”. Next time I’ll write about the “how”. From how often to blog, to how do you make sure it’s read, I’ll give my best tips for successful blogging.