Why did blogging go out of vogue? Sweet blogging. Such an innocent pastime for an innocent time. The early twenty-oughts. The internet was fresh—pre-social media, pre-selfie culture, pre-hashtag, pre-streaming, and all we wanted was a DSL megaphone to express our opinions. Then Facebook came along and dazzled us with its stupid status updates and Twitter with its 140 characters and podcasts and … why did we need blogs again?
But here we are, in 2019, in Donald Trump’s world, and I long ago deleted Facebook from my phone, and I am too damn old and my lighting is too bad to keep up posting my round face to Instagram. And who are these people who write screeds in Instagram comments anyway? Does anyone really read them? If I sound old, it’s because I am. More importantly, I am jaded.
Maybe it’s time to bring back the blog.
In the past two years, social media has proven itself to be a shark-infested cesspool; Zuckerberg sells our data, Russia propagandizes for votes, the news cycle reminds constantly us our government is a dumpster fire, and then in the ultimate perpetual gaslight, we can’t be sure we believe anything we see. I have nothing to (ever) offer but anecdotes, but there are people, including me, who have since slowed or even stopped communicating with the world via social media.
Around four-in-ten (42%) say they have taken a break from checking the platform for a period of several weeks or more, while around a quarter (26%) say they have deleted the Facebook app from their cellphone. All told, some 74% of Facebook users say they have taken at least one of these three actions in the past year.
What’s next? is my question. I’m not sure how we have begun to replace the function that social media serves, and that livejournal and blogs served before that—little self-branded islands of content. The exciting part of blogging was the unpredictable path that led people there, to your posts. Search traffic, search engines. People on the other side of the machine asking for information and somehow stumbling on your doorstep. Social media is you preaching to your friends, or at least folks who elected to follow your account. Blogging was screaming into the void and sometimes having strangers accidentally encounter your writing. That was the magic—the aspect of discovery. And the ability to remain anonymous. There’s something exciting there.
Remember blogspot? I used to go blogspotting for fun. I would type in a random address and then blogspot.com and entertain myself reading through mostly terrible entries written by mostly teenagers in 2001 who never revisited their blogs again after the first entry. These blogspots still sit parked on the internet like little virtual graveyards, some of them nearly twenty years old. They are a peek into the most mundane and badly spelled corners of the human psyche.
My “blog” was on blogspot, too. I kinda sorta kept it up for a while. But like this one, it was mostly just a vehicle for shameless (a misnomer, it’s never shameless, we call it shameless because of its inherent shame) self-promotion. The only real traffic I ever saw from it was from a silly post called “An open letter to the person frequently googling ‘girl with huge hands’ and somehow arriving at my blog.” It was truly mysterious, but out of nowhere, I had started seeing an influx of traffic from people (men) googling this term and arriving at my blog. So I wrote this letter.
Of course, search traffic is a self-fulfilling prophecy, so soon because of my open letter, my blog became a destination for these big-hand-loving people—and even the big-handed girls themselves. I got comments from both ends of the spectrum. That post is by far the most popular ever on my (totally not popular) blog. It was really weird. I did not foresee myself becoming a destination for hand fetishism. It was not what I asked for, nor something I desired. But there you go. A connection was made.
Anyway, even though the whole idea of people obsessed with girls with big hands is odd and something you probably don’t want to fall too deeply down a rabbit hole contemplating, I think about that whole experience now and then in a larger context. I love the idea that through blogging rather than social media people were able to create stories and messages to connect with people you otherwise wouldn’t have reached through the simple joys of random subjects and SEO. I first discovered Roxane Gay in her early days by searching Google for literary magazines and stumbling into her personal blog called I Have Become Accustomed to Rejection about trying to be published. I discovered author Mindy McGinnis is the same way from her blog Writer Writer Pants on Fire as I went through the submission process with my agent. I discovered a few totally decent blogs through my blotspotting habit. (Sometime maybe I’ll write a whole post on that, I have hundreds of them bookmarked. Another time.) I discovered food bloggers by searching for recipes, people I still follow and cook with regularly to this day.
Writing is always screaming into the void. The surprising beauty is when someone hears you. I hope that the backlash to social media’s pitfalls will be people carving out their own corners of the internet again and creating unpredictable connections.