One of the interesting things about blogging is that, if you do it just right for long enough, you're likely to gain a certain amount of influence and respect in the online world. Readers will leave comments. Writers will devote new articles to your posted meanderings. Sites will link to you, regardless of whether or not you're using those vanity-inducing RSS feeds.
But exactly whether or not you're able to maintain this degree of influence is another matter altogether. People will certainly offer you their attention as long as you keep posting your intelligent attempts at articles, yes -- but I don't care to assume that they will immediately offer you their respect just for those.
Respect, after all, is not given very easily. Respect has to be earned.
An online presence is not purely about logging into the Net and writing whatever you feel like writing. There is an additional factor that has to be considered, and that factor involves knowing that, even though you're logged on by yourself, there are about five hundred thousand people in the world who are just about as logged on as you are. You are not writing for the benefit of reading your own works or pandering to your own tastes. You are writing for other people.
You see that Comments option down there? The one underneath each and every article on this blog and others? Comments are the major form of reader attention: They show a writer that his works are being read, and that those works had enough impact to get statements from a member of the audience.
That is not to say, however, that all incoming comments are bound to be good. Readers are free to say whatever they darn well like in their notes, just as the blogger is free to say whatever he darn well wants in his posts. It is exactly how the writer deals with these comments, good or bad, subtle or direct, that formulates exactly how much respect he deserves.
Did you get a compliment? Then don't take it lying down; thank the reader. Did you get a piece of honest criticism? Then don't snap at it; give it a closer look and see if you can improve on that aspect. Did you get a stinging insult? Then don't go into full-blown retaliatory mode; sit down and bring things back to a rational discussion.
Writers don't earn respect by merely posting articles. They gain respect from the way they deal with people, from the way they associate with their readers, and from the way they handle a wide range of comments.
Some writers will not bother responding to readers' comments. Some writers will leap screaming, claws outstretched, at their supposed "critics". Some writers will even misrepresent themselves in order to create their own private world of self-praise. And sometimes these sad, sad people still dare to ask themselves why their reader base is constantly being eroded.
If you think that we're limiting ourselves to bloggers and comments, then think again. Regardless of what you do, people will look up to you based on your general behavior. They won't look up to you based on what you happen to scribble on some silly little internet journal, what you draw in some dumb comic, or what you write in some stupid little story. It'll get you their attention, yes, but you're going to have to work for their respect.
If an observant reader sends you an e-mail saying that he doesn't think much of your work, what do you do? Do you rip into him, claiming that you don't give a damn about his opinion because of how successful you are? Or do you just answer his statement peacefully, and acknowledge that he's perfectly welcome to have his own opinion?
If a newbie introduces himself in your group's discussion forum with a woefully illegible post, what do you do? Do you kick him out for utterly wasting your time? Or do you quietly guide him towards more substantial writings in the future?
If you hold a particular amount of dislike for a person you know, what do you do? Do you spread malicious rumors about them, hoping to get everyone on your side? Or do you willfully meet up with that person and attempt to sort things out?
Do you close yourself from other peoples' words, or do you acknowledge their ideas?
Do you wallow in your egocentrism, or do you reach into self-humility?
Do you insult, or do you apologize?
If you're going to want to earn some respect, then you have to start by respecting other people. You are not talking to hear the sound of your own voice. You are not writing for the privilege of being able to read your own work.
There is a saying that admonishes us to be nice to people on the way up, because they're the same people we'll be meeting on the way down.
But what I say is this: If you don't bother being civil to the people you meet, then for you, there is no other direction but down.