The Internet has brought us many innovative tools and has ushered in a whole new era in how we communicate. Among it’s mixed blessings (and I’m counting the world of porn and “things I’d rather not know people did” as part of that mixed bag) is the public journaling called a blog, you know, that thing you are reading right now. The word “blog” was at the top of Merriam-Webster’s list of “words of the year” in 2004. For those who don’t know:

A weblog, which is usually shortened to blog, is a type of website where entries are made (such as in a journal or diary), displayed in a reverse chronological order. Blogs often provide commentary or news and information on a particular subject, such as food, politics, or local news; some function as more personal online diaries. A typical blog combines text, images, and links to other blogs, web pages, and other media related to its topic. Most blogs are primarily textual although some focus on photographs (photoblog), videos (vlog), or audio (podcasting). The word blog can also be used as a verb, meaning to maintain or add content to a blog.

Now, I blog as a means of increasing my reading audience. I’ll use writer Wrath James White as an example. There are people who won’t pick up some of his fiction because he writes extreme horror. However, he has gained a whole new set of fans on the strength of his non-fiction writing in his blog. Professional writers, such as myself, use their blogs to drive traffic to their web site and otherwise give their readers something to read between projects. It is their public professional face. Sometimes, it can be a bully pulpit. Sometimes, since many blogs are little more than personal journals for public consumption, they are a place to gossip.

Whole friend communities can form circles at LiveJournal, Xanga, MySpace, etc. Technology has shaped how packs of friends move as a herd. Cell phone communities, Instant Messaging (and their away messages), as well as blogs can take the pack mentality and give an ease to the pack turning on one of their own.

The take home lesson for me has been to further drill into my head the need to be careful what I say. If I write a blog that I have to pull down later (because I’ve come to my senses and realized it shouldn’t have gone up in the first place), then I haven’t done my job. I haven’t had the conversations I needed to have. Not to mention the fact, and I hate to break it to you, but once you post something on the Internet, it’s out there somewhere. In person is one thing, words can be misquoted, taken out of context. On blogs, in chats, on message boards, my words are only a couple of clicks away from being passed around, context intact. Available to be screen captured and forwarded to all relevant parties. Saved in files on some computer to be used against me later. All the delete buttons in the world aren’t stopping folks from reading it. It’s still there somewhere. Forever.

More importantly, words said, blogged, or forwarded can’t be unsaid.

The anonymity of the Internet, from oh-so-clever screen names to not having to face folks face-to-face, gives too many folks keyboard courage. And the immediacy to write … NOW! Back away from the Internet. Sometimes silence (and time) is your friend. I know some of you messageboard warriors/flamers love to have the last word, but there comes a point when being “right” isn’t worth sacrificing the relationship.

If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say hi, feel free to do so on my message board. I apologize in advance for some of my regulars.