Haneya H. Zuberi writes on how the influx of blogs has made writers — or bloggers — out of the ordinary people
Digital has taken over analogue. People have stopped keeping secret diaries or any diaries of their own, for that matter, and have switched to blogs. A blog (aportmanteau of the term “web log”) is a type of website or part of a website. Blogs are usually maintained by an individual with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video. While many blogs provide a commentary or news on a particular subject, others function as more personal, online diaries. Who needs to go through the hassle of filling ink in a pen in order to inscribe when they can sit in front of a computer screen and effortlessly type away all that comes to mind — open or anonymously.
The Pakistani web galaxy has formed a new layer, Blogosphere. In just a few years’ time, it has been developed to an extent that out of the 10 percent Pakistanis who use the internet, approximately 3 percent have blogs of their own. Today, many notables have their personal blogs which are widely read. At the same time, many bloggers have become notables just through their blogs!
Raza Rumi, a development professional, editor and a blogger, says that his introduction to the blog world was accidental: “I write for the Pakistani publications and was looking for a space to post the writings until I came to know of. As I set up a blog, much of my pent-up energy found an outlet. Initially, it was quite private but I was hugely encouraged by the response I received from Pakistanis as well as bloggers and internet users across the globe. Here I am, now addicted to this medium, and earlier this year I moved to my own domain. My blog, I suppose, like my finger prints and soul reflects me as an individual. So whatever two-penny worth individuality I have been endowed with or I have cultivated is well reflected in my blog”.
Blogs which start as something personal when acquire hits also hold the potential of becoming commercialised. According to Zeerak Ahmed, a sophomore at Princeton University who made a blog to fill in a requirement for his journalism class and has now become a regular blogger, says that “some bloggers are hired by larger parent companies to publish their material, at times even unedited and uncensored, that’s perhaps hitting gold. But, otherwise I think blogs will mostly be just a way to get exposure to find something that actually pays. I thought that people who do get picked up don’t lose the freedom of their blog that got them there.”
He speculates that in the future “a lot more blogs will probably pop up. But mostly I’ve noticed that bloggers hang out in cliques, everyone knows everyone in certain groups. What you might get is pockets of bloggers that think similarly and readers choosing to follow a particular pack. As more ideas pop up more bloggers that share the same ideas or know each other anyway will also pop up, and these sorts of divisions might occur. For everyone’s sake I hope it doesn’t become this almost politicised battle of sorts. But otherwise things seem great!” While according to Raza, the Pakistani blogosphere is “in its infancy stage, Abhi ishq ke imtihan aur bhee hain.”
Ziyad Faisal, a student activist, journalist and a blogger, started blogging because “I just needed an outlet for what I wanted to say and blogging appeared to be the ideal solution. For free, too! In Pakistan today, writing is very heavily intertwined with cyberspace. Internet is a convenient platform for anyone who writes in English here. You can easily reach your targeted audience, much more easily on the internet than even through printing and publishing. I hope to express some of my views through blogging and I hope to influence some of the debates and discussions. If I can’t influence them, well at the very least, I can throw in my two paisas. They could, if allowed to flourish freely, promote democracy. But they could also be used by anti-democratic forces to promote their own agenda. The war-mongering media personality, Zaid Hamid, for instance, encourages his many followers to use blogs to spread their views. If blogs are used by such people, with very dodgy political and financial links, then blogs (and the internet in general) can become another tool of expression, rather than democracy”.
Ayeshah Alam Khan, a TV anchor and a blogger, says that “the best thing about blogging is that one can put themselves in the line of fire, unrestricted and completely free of censorship, and express like they can unlike all other mediums of communication.”
Nur Nasreen Ibrahim, a Pakistani student at Harvard, takes her blog as her “virtual diary”. She blogs about her teaching experience as an art teacher in a government high school for girls in Nathia Gali and wants the international community to be aware of the efforts made towards this school and the many faces of the Pakistani community through her blog. Ali Yahya is a photo blogger who takes conceptual pictures and blogs about those pictures feels that “pictures convey a message of their own, it is deep and needs to be understood and I do that by writing about them. It is my favorite hobby”.
Beena Sarwar, an activist, journalist and documentary film maker, started blogging because of “the desire to reach out to more people, have more control over what I publish and maintain archives of the articles I post. Besides, I can post photos and graphics.”
She feels that blogs ensure a “greater spread of information and accountability. The possible downside is ‘net activism’ which doesn’t always translate to physical action. These tools cannot replace good old-fashioned political organisations and should be used in addition to, not instead of, such organisations.”
With respect to blogs promoting democracy she says, “Blogs are contributing towards awareness, accountability etc. But it is not and never will be a substitute for solid political organisation. Many factors contribute to democracy, like education, information, accountability and a continuation of the political process. That last factor is particularly crucial in Pakistan right now. If the government doesn’t keep blocking the net on one pretext or other, blogging has a bright future here. My only concern is that there are too many people out there spreading rumour and misinformation. On the upside, there are others who counter the falsehoods, which at least are out in the open for all to see.”
The influx of blogs has made writers, or should I say bloggers, out of the ordinary people. It is true that it occupies a growing niche within internet use in Pakistan. But to what extend it goes, only time will tell.