Well, I guess that’s a fairly appropriate word to begin my first blog post. However, it’s a specific type of ‘hello’, the careful, tentative kind that is uttered by a young child that enters a dark room after the inner battle between his (or her, no sexism here) fear and curiosity was (barely) won by the latter. And indeed, honesty commands me to confess that this simple five-letter word has caused me considerable stress. Sleepless nights, nail-biting, leg-trembling and the like, all because of this ‘hello’. (Granted this is exaggerated, but not that much.)

Why, you might ask. Because, kind reader, I am entering the virtual jungle known as the 'blogosphere', where a mighty struggle to survive takes place. Some bloggers aggregate to enhance their chances in herds also called platforms and vicious predators (or ‘blogators’?) await to strike at the little, innocent bloggers like myself with their crippling comments, or worse, their complete indifference. As in any jungle, there are complex food webs to be discerned.The apex predators who stand at the top of the blog chain, and the self-sufficient producers who find themselves at the bottom. The diversity is huge, from bloggers that are night-active to those that need the sunlight to perform. Those that manage with one fairly large post a week, and those that need their daily fix.

Wow, metaphor gone too far. Nevertheless, there were reasons for my initial trivial concern of starting a blog. Firstly, privacy and the internet have never been the closest friends. True, there are plenty of precautionary measures you can employ, such as changing your passwords frequently, not giving too much personal information, etcetera. But still, there is the possibility that someone will find out something you’d rather kept offline.

The second issue is closely related to the first one. I don’t really know whether or not I’m willing to end up in a ‘filter bubble’. Basically, this means that Google,or another browser, records your searches and ‘tailors’ the results ofsubsequent searches to your preferences. Of course, this doesn’t have to be bad, but it remains a strange idea that when you search for something on, let’s say Google, and I search for the same thing, we’ll get (slightly) different result pages. (For a far more eloquent discourse on ‘filter bubbles’, check the video.) The caveat is that we both have to perform the searches from our own computers. Using someone else’s is like popping the bubble, or perhaps ending up in another one.

These, however, are more general internet issues, not limited to blogging. The third reason for my mild anxiety, is the insecurity most, if not all, bloggers deal with to greater or lesser extent. Will people read this? If they do, will they enjoy doing so (without having to agree with everything, of course)? Is my writing up to par? And so on.

If these matters bug me, then why did I even start this blog? In fact, why am I even on the internet? The internet is not perfect. Nothing is. But the internet is one of the most influential developments of the last few decades, constituting a vast repository of knowledge and facts. And junk. But it is up to the user to filter the information that is provided, as a free and open internet naturally precipitates all kinds of information, including wrong, hurtful and manipulative types. The responsibility to make the scales tip towards the‘good’ kind of info (which in itself is already subjective), is ours. Nevertheless, the internet has made sharing and acquiring information much easier and cheaper, provided the user maintains a critical attitude. In my opinion, the risks and benefits are for a large part determined by the attitude of the user, so, if I remain cautious and critical, the benefits of using the internet (greatly) outweigh the potential costs.

Finally,blogging seems to me to be a good way to develop myself. Engaging in (respectful!) conversation with others about subjects that interest me can only lead to greater understanding, which is, in my humble opinion, one of the most noble goals one can have. If this doesn’t work out, what will I really have lost? Some time, effort and self-confidence. But if it does work out, what can I gain? Knowledge, understanding, writing and communication skills, interesting new contacts, and more. So, here the potential benefits also outweigh thepotential costs, warranting the (small) risk.

The young boy that I consider myself to be realizes that curiosity has won the battle,takes a deep breath and, ready to explore and discover, steps into the virtual jungle…