A few days ago, Doteco over at Ani-Dotes meditated on the requisites to be an aniblogger. Sometimes a post touches me deeper than usual, and this was one of them. It’s one of those posts that crops up with surprising (to me) frequency amidst the episode reviews and listicles, sandwiched between the first impressions and series reviews: It’s the “I am vulnerable” post. And I think the aniblogger community is the better off for these.
You see, our blogs are nothing without the community—that is, without each other. (Doteco touches on this.) There was a time when media and community were closely tied together, when the newspaper you read was written and printed three blocks over and serviced only your town. With the advent of the age of mass media—with radio, TV, and nationwide newspapers—that link was severed.
For the first time, you didn’t know the person who was delivering your news, and the news as often as not concerned people and events far away from your community. Not until the Internet would media enter the hands of the community again—but with a twist.
The Internet combines the closeness of community with the immense reach of mass media and a release from the limits of proximity. In other words, for the first time we can readily form communities, not because we are neighbors, but because of literally any other reason—in our case, because of a passion for anime and its extended family.
This creates some dynamics that would formerly have seemed very odd. The foremost way our community is formed and confirmed is through the printed word. (Printed on a screen, granted.) There’s usually no face to be seen, no voice to be heard, no hand to shake. It’s as if back in the pre-Mass Media era, everyone walked around with a newspaper over his or her face, and only communicated by reading each other’s newspapers and then responding with typed news articles. (And there’s the premise for your next bestselling dystopic novel!)
In short, there’s a personal aspect that is missing, and that we intuitively seek in our community, even in cyberspace. Between the ‘news’ about our common passion and interests, we also want the reassurance that there is a person to connect with on the other side. (I felt a hint of this tension when Doteco described fellow aniblogger Karandi, tongue-in-cheek, as “an A.I programmed to churn out well-written reviews on the daily with little regard for food, sleep, or writer’s block.“) How, then, to shape this personal element amidst all the ‘news’?
The same way humans always build trust: by showing and sharing their vulnerabilities, and demonstrating care and respect for the vulnerabilities of the other members of our community. That’s why I always am glad to see Arthifis writing about anxiety, or Karandi mentioning in passing being “crazy busy both with anime and with life”, or when Remy Fool revises an upcoming schedule of posts which might have been too ambitious. Your willingness to acknowledge these things adds the personal dimension back into the mix, ensuring that we have community and not just another form of mass media.
The philosopher Martin Buber describes two basic kinds of relationships between beings: I-It and I-Thou. I-It is the relationship we take as aware subjects towards unaware objects (like pizza, cats, or anime). I-Thou is the relationship we encounter with other people, who are conscious subjects like ourselves; and that’s the relation you need in order to have a community. Anime can provide the occasion for community, but it can’t provide the community itself.
Thank you for building an enjoyable and respectful community.