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Blogs give avenue of speech

Nov. 3, 2004

By JONATHAN LUDWIG, guest columnist

Xanga. Blogspot. Thefacebook. Indeed, the baseness of them all.

As it must be an indication of the overall intelligence of the Baylor student body, I've found intellectual ability is directly related to the ability to waste time with unproductive tasks.

Never before have I witnessed the simplicity of joy when I heard from across my apartment a sound so chilling, so tragic, yet so beautiful: "I'm up to 27 friends! [on Thefacebook]." What is it that drives us college students to Internet phenomena, such as online journals and electronic friend-cultivation?

Perhaps it is the need to heard, to be known or, more Baylorish, the need to be seen.

To be fair, not everyone I know has joined the ranks of personal information posters (PIPs). Some people mock the new craze, claiming it is a base, time-squandering activity, and feel posting our lives on the Internet is like driving around Waco with your doors unlocked. To be sure, PIPs reveal intimate knowledge about themselves to the whole world, and some question remains as to the safety of this trend.

But what of the need to be heard? Almost any college student wants to be known beyond his or her circle of friends. On the Internet, this is made easy.

One of the first things I encountered as I researched the Xanga Web log community was the tendency for people to write things that, under normal freedom-of-speech conditions, would definitely not be tolerated. Likewise, profanity and virtual hate speech pervade across personal blogs for many college students.

At the same time, the softness of humanity is also revealed with PIPs; one finds tales of break-ups, happy new loves, and outlandish escapades.

Some of the most personal are students' thoughts on God, in which lengthy conversations follow the original post in the form of comments from other blog users.

Another recent trend has only emerged since February -- Thefacebook. The most noteworthy element of this network of friends is the photo of yourself to match your profile. Here we find the need for college students to be seen.

At this point, it seems like the advantages to PIPs outweigh the disadvantages. Sure there is an uncanny thought in the back of every PIP's mind that somewhere, somehow, a strange little man is following every post, but the fun of meeting like-minded students and reconnecting with old friends is much stronger.

While these online networks grow, with a bit of luck, Baylor students will reach beyond their comfort-groups and help create a more inclusive campus.