Back in 2001, when blogging was still relatively new and Facebook hadn’t yet been invented, I was all over LiveJournal. I loved it. I wrote daily posts (sometimes multiple posts, even) and read my friends list obsessively. I wasn’t working full-time – just writing and teaching – and I required a lot less sleep than I do now, so pouring hours upon hours into the LJ community was totally feasible.
Plus, blogging was so much simpler then. A good blog had a purpose. A good blogger had an engaging, authentic voice. Using hyperlinks was a good thing. Oh, and if you really wanted to stand out, you’d throw a picture in every now and then. But that’s about it.
No, really. In the early 2000s, this was all you needed to have a decent blog. You didn’t need a hook or a schtick or professional quality photographs taken with a DSLR that cost more than two of my mortgage payments. You certainly didn’t need a massive Twitter following, because Twitter hadn’t even been born yet.
All you needed was a voice and a POV.
Like I said: simpler times.
But there’s a price to pay for simplicity. The easier it became to use a blogging platform, the more people were drawn to the tech. At a certain point, you didn’t even need to know pidgin HTML, like I did when I started. The blogosphere started to expand at an exponential rate. Marketers moved in to the neighborhood. Self-promotion spread like a cancer in the community. And when bloggers started to land six-figure book deals, based on their blogs, all hell broke loose.
It kind of stopped being fun, after a while, is what I’m saying.
My personal activity petered off around the time the blogging boom went bust. More and more people abandoned LJ. I got busier. I fell in love. My personal filter, which had often been lacking during my most prolific blogging days, grew thicker. The most important things going on in my life were not the kinds of things I felt comfortable sharing with the world at large. And when I got a full-time job, in a real office, filled with real people, some of whom read my blog, isht got real really quick.
It’s one thing to talk about your life to people you don’t see on a day-to-day basis. It’s another to do it knowing that your co-worker could walk up to you and say, “Oh, I read about the ant problem in your kitchen. Have you tried Borax?”
I shut it down. Eventually, I deleted it altogether. It was a relic of a life I no longer lived, an archive of a person I no longer was. (Full disclosure: thanks to the miracle that is LJ Book, I have a full PDF archive of every post I ever wrote on Girl, Uninterrupted. Only now it’s for my eyes only – which is how I prefer it.)
During the handful of years that I did not have an active blog (roughly three, but who’s counting?), I launched the now-defunct (sort of) Engage blog for the International Reading Association. It moved from a private-label social platform to a section on the public web-based magazine Reading Today Online. Eventually I opted to fold it into a revamped Reading Today Online altogether, after it was reconceived as more of a HuffPo style blog for literacy educators.
So here’s the thing about working in communications and social media: You spend a lot of time researching best practices. You know what good blogging/Twittering/Pinteresting/etc. should look like. You pour a lot of time into content strategy for your organization’s social channels. And guess what? It’s the last thing you want to do for yourself when you get home. Plus – and this might be the worst part – any active social media presence you have personally becomes part of your professional CV. And yes, you will be judged.
But let’s circle back to the initial question, shall we? Yesterday, an author I know solely from social media posted something about how, let’s face it, blogging is dead. And I was like, really? Is it?
I don’t think so, and here’s why:
People still read blogs. They just aren’t reading them in the same way as the did in the good ol’ days.
We post a lot of content on Reading Today Online. Things fall under different buckets and appeal to different audiences. Most readers don’t come to the home page to see what today’s top story is. Nearly all of our referral traffic comes from social posts – that is, the links we share on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.
What this tells us that Time was right on when they declared You the 2006’s Person of the Year. Sort of. In this age of affordable high-speed Internet and mobile everything, we are now more than ever able to select what it is that we consume. Here’s a good example: the only time I see commercials anymore is when I’m watching The Good Wife On Demand because some stupid sports match inevitably runs over and messes with the DVR recording. Otherwise, I use the DVR to watch what I want to watch, when I want to watch it, fast-forwarding through the ads.
I curate everything I consume in a similar fashion. Music. News. And, yes, blogs.
What I want, when I want it.
Where am I going with this?
I don’t even know. This post started with the title “Blogger’s Block,” because I’m doing this whole NaBloPoMo thing and even though I have tons of blog posts that have been marinating in my head for days, weeks, even months, I had 22 minutes to bust something out…and I couldn’t do it. Because of all of the stuff I go into above. And then the whole question of “Is blogging dead?” started niggling in my brain and, well, this is the result.
1. Blogging isn’t so much dead as it is different.
2. Maintaining a blog was a lot easier when I was young and stupid.
Yep. That about sums it up.