I can’t believe summer’s over and we’re already basically halfway through September. I also realized that I’m hosting book club in a few weeks and hadn’t yet read the book, so last night I quickly downloaded Life Itself: A Memoir, Roger Ebert’s memoir. Conveniently also available as a documentary, if it turns out to be too long to get through before book club time.
As I hastily read the first chapter, mentally assessing whether I’ll be sticking with the book or just watching the documentary, I was surprised and, I admit, saddened over the paragraph where he mentions delving into social media in 2008 by starting a blog. He said, “My blog became my voice, my outlet, my “social media” in a way I couldn’t have dreamed of. Into it I poured my regrets, desires and memories.”
Saddened because I’m one of so many others who started blogging five or ten years ago, seeing it as an outlet for personal expression, who are now struggling with whether it’s time to hang up the blogging hat for good. My friend Mark just wrote about this same sadness, noting how many smart voices are now gone from the blogosphere. What’s happened to the fun and satisfaction of blogging that so many once-prolific bloggers have just stopped doing what they were once so passionate about?
I think it’s a lot of things. The fact that the internet has exploded with “content” over the past few years and what was once called writing is now “content creation.” The information overload that’s the result of new social networks exploding onto the scene , and just the sheer amount of time it takes to navigate even a fraction of it. The other modes of self-expression that are, frankly, just a lot quicker and easier than blogging, like Instagram. The fact that there’s so much incivility online, much of which plays out in the comment section of online publications and blogs. The fact that social media has become so much more visual over the past few years, meaning that it’s no longer enough to just write something and hit “post”; you now have to also come up with an image or three, in addition to making sure your blog is visually appealing on not just desktops but also various mobile devices. Pick one or three or all of these reasons, and I suspect you’ll find the reason(s) that so many have just stopped blogging, overwhelmed by any or all of these factors.
For me, a combination of all these things plus the fact that now much of my workday is spent writing and managing social media channels so that the thought of doing more of the same in my down-time just isn’t that appealing. Which makes me sad, because, as Ebert wrote, blogging used to be such an emotional and creative outlet for me and others I know who have now mostly abandoned blogging. I love writing, and used to love blogging because that’s what it was to me: writing. It wasn’t “content creation;” rather, it was something that had personal meaning and was one of my main methods of self-expression. The fact that it led to so many great experiences and professional opportunities was a bonus.
Now, when I write the kinds of posts I used to write all the time–like this one–it feels like navel-gazing and I feel super self-conscious, and also chastise myself while I’m writing, “who will give a shit about this?” Then that makes me even sadder, because I’m letting whether anyone will give a shit keep me from enjoying something I used to love and do without self-scrutiny or worry about who would read it….mostly because I knew mostly nobody would read it.
Is there still a place for personal blogging in the crazy-crowded sea of “content” that’s out there today? Is it worth putting yourself out there, emotionally and creatively, when chances are that you’ll either be ridiculed or just plain ignored? And does blogging set you up to start craving attention so that the self-expression becomes less important than the number of views/clicks/shares/tweets/pins/comments? If so, is your only recourse to stop blogging and try to find another hobby that you enjoy as much and that satisfies your creative desires the way blogging once did? I guess these are questions that every blogger has to answer for her/himself and decide if it’s still worth it. I, for one, would like to try to get back to the part of blogging that was about the experience and the way it felt to me versus the reaction/actions my posts inspired…or didn’t. I’d like to not let worries that someone will think what I write is stupid or too negative or too whatever impact whether or not I do something that I find personally fulfilling.