My (Potentially Unpopular) Opinion on Blogging:
I think that, regardless of blog topic or blog format, all blog posts can be categorized into two styles based on their motivation and content (note: I am not factoring in readership or views when thinking about these styles – that’s a totally different conversation!):
I mean “promotional” in the most literal, dictionary definition sense of “do you have a message you want to promote?” and not in the context of advertising, marketing, or trying to earn money (although posts in this category can certainly do this as well). I also do not want to suggest that “promotional” posts are not genuine. In this context, I would say that promotional blog posts are those that:
- Have a message that the author wants to share externally. (eg. This is not a post that the author could have written in their private diary)
- Because the author wants to share this message, the post tends to have some “polish”.
I’d compare this to public speaking – the most heartfelt, sincere, genuine speaker is going to make a point of revising and editing, practicing, and putting on more professional attire/ hygiene/ grooming/ makeup etc. (vs. brain dump whilst looking disheveled) to look more presentable to an external audience so the message comes across better.
This is the type of post that’s written for self-expression and not with a message to promote or an audience in mind. Of course, one can argue that by definition, anything written on a public blog has an audience in mind, and I think that is a fair point. But I’d categorize the personal posts as the ones where personal self-expression is the primary motivator vs. the external audience. These are the posts that arguably could have been written in a private diary. These are the posts that might have less “polish” because sharing a message with an external audience isn’t the primary goal. These are the blog posts that feel less like public speaking, and more like casual conversation, or even just venting.
As with all things, I think that there’s a spectrum vs. two distinct categories, and that some posts with have elements of both styles, etc. But I do think it’s important to recognize promotional and personal as distinct motivations for blogging.
Promotional vs. Personal in Judaism/Religion Blogging
I actually believe that the promotional vs. personal classification applies to all kinds of blogging (for example, and I’m sure many people will disagree with me, I believe that this lens applies to mental health, poetry, art blogging – really any other kind of blogging as well), but my focus today is on Judaism/Religion blogging. Judaism/Religion blogging is also where I think the difference between promotional blogging and personal blogging is particularly pronounced.
Most Jewish/Religious Blogs Are Promotional
Based purely on anecdotal evidence, I think that most Jewish and religious blogs generally have a promotional motivation. They want to promote spirituality, inspiration, and faith. They’re written by a rabbi, scholar, or believer who wants to share a teaching so the reader learns something about the faith. They have an outlook on the world/life that they want to share. All of this to me, is promotional.
My Jewish Blogging Is Personal
To the extent that I blog about Judaism (and I fully admit in my updated About/FAQ Page that this blog has not lived up to its stated goal in this regard), with the exception of maybe a handful of posts, my blogging about Judaism is personal. Yes, I use headings, punctuation, images, and humor for readability and yes, I obviously posted publicly on the internet. But there is no great message when I write that I believe in G-d, and more often the case, when I struggle with the nature of G-d or with having faith that keeping the commandments is worth it. There’s no message I’m trying to promote when I write that I hate lighting the menorah in my living space, that I hate Shabbat dinner or that I dislike the spiritual “shoulds” of Rosh Hashanah (Side note: Boy, I dislike a lot of things!) I’m not trying to promote a message that Shabbat dinner is awful and you should hate it too. I’m not trying to promote a message that you should give up spiritual introspection for Rosh Hashanah (or that you take up Rosh Hashanah conversations about strip clubs and anal sex instead) – I’m just reflecting about what hasn’t worked for me.
Interestingly, when I started this blog, I hoped to write more posts in this style that are more promotional of a particular viewpoint or opinion. But as stated previously, I haven’t managed to live up to my own goal yet.
Why Am I Telling You This?
Recently, a promotional Jewish blogger linked to one of my personal Jewish reflection posts. This blogger was quite critical of me, which is fine. No one has to like me or agree with me.
However, what I found odd was that this blogger appeared to have interpreted my personal reflectional post as a promotional statement about Judaism.
I’m not going to link to this post/blogger because this blogger has a history of leaving spammy comments. But it got me thinking about the role of personal blogging vs. promotional.
The Role of Promotional Jewish Blogging
The role of promotional Jewish blogging is obvious. People want to learn. People want to know what is going on in the world and they want to know what key opinion leaders think. People want to be inspired.
And people want to write this content. People have clear messages that they want to promote, and people are generally receptive to reading/listening to this type of content (obviously, there’s a lot of variation and certain content is going to resonate more with certain audiences, but that’s true of everything). There’s a reason that sites like Aish, Chabad, the Times of Israel blogs, etc. are going to get so much more traffic relative to dinky little anonymous personal Jewish blogs like my own.
Not to mention that in the world of social media associations, there’s a limit to how much a promotional Jewish Blogger/Writer/Rabbi/Opinion Leader can even associate with a personal Jewish Blogger like myself. I follow and comment (positive, friendly, complimentary comments) on some blogs written by congregational rabbis and people with a clear spiritual bent. I cannot and do not expect that these rabbis can follow and engage with my profanity-laden posts sharing TMI about my flawed marriage and frustration with Shabbat. Rabbis of all denominations want their congregants to experience the beauty and joy of Shabbat – how can a rabbi meaningfully engage with me and my blog when I say outright that I quit keeping Shabbat because the experience of keeping it sucked? At a certain point, if your professional and spiritual work is to present Judaism in a positive way, there’s a limit to how much you can engage with people who aren’t presenting it in that way. And I wouldn’t even describe myself as a hater nor my blog as anti-religious, and I still appreciate that my blog goes far beyond what a community representative can be associated with.
Personal Blogging to Promotional Blogging
Sometimes, personal blogging becomes promotional. Personal blogging can act as that first step for processing thoughts and emotions before polishing them into something with a clear and coherent message to share. In my case, maybe one day all the personal venting about looking for a Jewish community could become a polished promotional piece about how Jewish communities could improve.
Or not. Sometimes personal blogging just stays personal, with no greater message to share.
The Role of Personal Jewish Blogging
Even then, I think that personal Jewish blogging is important for exploring and sharing the lived experience of Jewish life. There is a lot of content out there about the beauty of Shabbat (notice how all the writers have the functional marriages, families, and time management skills to make Shabbat work and make it worthwhile); there is very little about the times when Shabbat just sucks, and to be honest, sometimes Shabbat really is a really sucky experience, say if you’re sick, alone, in a shitty home/relationship/family situation, or when my grandmother was dying. There’s a lot out there about what Jewish life should look like, and what the experience of living a Jewish life should be. But does that capture the true range of good, bad, weird and bizarre that people are really living? The full spectrum of human belief and experience?
In my opinion (which may be unpopular), there will always be that space between what the religion says and what people actually think, do, and experience. I don’t think it’s hypocrisy; I think it’s simply the nature of humanity. And I think personal blogging is a great place to explore that gap.
TL;DR, aka “The Promotional Part of This Post”
This blog really doesn’t have an agenda. I’m not here to educate or promote a particular message about Judaism. That’s not to say that I don’t have strong opinions on it (Oh, I absolutely do.) But this is probably never going to be a blog that will promote, persuade, inspire, change, or do anything with respect to public opinion on Judaism.
I have no broader message. I’m not representing anyone. I’m one Jew writing (sometimes well, sometimes badly) about my own thoughts and life. That’s it. The end.