why blog

What could be more uselessly meta than blogging about the reasons for blogging? Whatever. Here we go:
The Good
People blog for attention, or in the expectation of getting more attention. Since blogging originated with geeks, “attention” paid to blogs has been turned into a set of equations (trackbacks, comments, etc.). In this realm, blogging is about promoting oneself in a marketplace of ideas. The more traffic you can drive, the more important you are, and the more influential you are. By enlisting your friends, commenting on other more prominent blogs, or just plain pimping your content to others, you can try to get people to visit your site and track your status. It’s a more efficient version of the ways people have always spread ideas, influenced people, and measured their impact. It’s open to almost everyone, it promotes the free flow of information, and it provides a real alternative to existing media outlets for more immediate, more opinionated, deeper dives into topics.
For all the good, blogging has big limitations, however, in the gap between the technical solution and the genuine human need (and, as I am a blogger with just slightly above zero traffic and just trying to impress his wife, I think I’m perfectly positioned for the discussion).
The Not So Good
First, people in general don’t have a getting media attention problem, they most likely have an experience-deficit problem. That is, the fundamental drive to be social and belong does not get solved by blogging, or any mediated experience. You can see this in online romances (the torrid email exchange is followed by an awkward meeting), or telecommuting (people on the conference call or email thread are second-class citizens). The simulation doesn’t satisfy. Bloggers don’t think this way, however; for them, everything important is on the Web, and the first impulse after having an experience is to blog about it.
Second, bloggers are mobs, or latent mobs (and a weird kind of mob, where no one in the mob knows they’re a mob). All relationships in blogs are individual-to-individual (or even hand-to-hand). Where conflict happens there’s a lot of amplified passion and strife that flares up and dies down, without much understanding or knowledge being created (and the winners will often be the people who shouted the loudest). People say things to each other on blogs that they would never say in real life. When there’s an argument between bloggers, small fires turn into big ones quickly and often and the results are boring and stupid.
The distorting effect of the technological solution also causes “blogger-voice,” people speaking with the same high-pitched self-consciousness you hear in loud cell phone conversations, bad acting, or people caught lying. Since the stakes for bloggers are high (‘love me’), the audience goes on the same emotional roller-coaster with the blogger, and that investment exaggerates their reaction (either it ‘sux’ or it ‘rulez’). Doing the public voice gracefully is an art. The people whose writing does stay with me are all journalists or writers (unrepresentative samples: Danah Boyd, Steven Johnson, Mickey Kaus, Paul Ford, etc.). This suggests to me that people who have experience with writing and thinking in the real world are more valuable than those who live in only in the electronic one.
So…
To me, all this doesn’t mean that blogging is bad, I hope that there are more bloggers so all these issues can sort themselves out. It means that blogging doesn’t really change what people’s actual needs are that much. In the end, blogs are just slow motion phone calls, speeded up postcards, tiny threads of communication between two people, with the goal of understanding and intimacy. The public quality is real, but ancillary. The self-consciousness that the public display engenders is something to get over, a test of the blogger’s ability to keep their personal perspective and identity. Good luck!
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