Does anyone actually read blogs anymore?
After a few years of hanging out at the popular table, blogs seem to have crept back to their isolated, anti-social Livejournal-era spot behind the gym. It’s not that there aren’t great things being written on blogs … I’m sure there are. In fact, we should read one sometime. We can’t be that busy watching YouTube unboxing videos, ordering handmade socks off Etsy or drawing neon glasses on Snapchat selfies.
I realize that the preceding statement will soon sound just as old-timey as the term “reading blogs” because technology evolves at an almost supersonic pace and, thereby, renders its former incarnations obsolete. Hello AOL Instant Message, MySpace, Friendster and (fingers crossed) Facebook!
Blogs seem to be going the way of cable TV and full Brazilian waxes: once ubiquitous, but now kind of dated. But, screw it, I’m going to blog anyway.
I fully acknowledge that I might just be talking to myself, and that’s okay. When I first started my daily photoblog back in 2008, I expected that I would be talking to myself. It never occurred to me that anyone would notice me. Blogging seemed kind of like a message in a bottle. Throw it out there, but don't hold your breath for a reply. A blog was easy to set up and publish, but how would anyone know it was there? It wasn’t like Twitter was a thing yet, and Facebook was just a weird place college kids used to rate girls. Sure, there were message boards — which now seem as old fashioned as actual bulletin boards — but it wasn’t like I really hung out on the LOST usenet . (Much.) And even if I did, it would have been weird to tell anyone there to visit my brand new WEBLOG!
I’m beginning to remind myself of that Simpsons episode when Grandpa Simpson reminisces about wearing an onion for a belt. Stay with me kids.
The thing is: only 8 years ago, even when blogs were hitting their stride, I could have never imagined that mine would get any traffic. That I ended up with an active, friendly readership was a (shock!) joy because for most of my writing career, I had never known or conversed with the people who actually read what I’d written. Then again, most copywriters don’t inspire great discussions from content of a pizza commercial or lingerie catalog. Okay, maybe that’s not true. Pizza and lingerie can be pretty inspiring. Even so, it’s not like the one who writes the stuff ever gets to talk to anyone about it. Print journalism was even more lonely. Unless someone was outraged enough to write a letter to the editor about a story, I could pretty much rest assured that my prose would end up, at best, lining a bird cage. The short stories in those tiny literary magazines didn’t even end up in birdcages.
But blogs. Blogs! I know it seems weird to wax nostalgic about a comment section, but the one on my blog was an active conversation. The coolest part? I always got to choose the topic. I also could make anyone who acted rowdy simply disappear with the touch of my moderator’s delete button. Luckily, trolls didn’t really find my little corner of the blogosphere, and I mostly just made friends, shared ideas and felt like anyone in the entire world could stop by and sit on my virtual front porch.
As a photographer, blogging was a great way to share images with other amazing photographers, as well as people who just loved the art of photography. I’m old enough to remember when forcing people to look at your vacation pictures was considered rude. Blogging made it cool! Fellow shutterbugs pushed the limits of the digital sensor, shared tricks and techniques, recommended cameras, and made me a better photographer. As technology advanced, we had a place to congregate, play Show & Tell, and eventually all admit that many amazing, unbelievable shots were actually taken with an iPhone.
Now, in a world of ice-bucket challenges (wait, that’s already as passe as blogs) and Instagram, I know that my blog’s soundtrack is the ceaseless drone of crickets. People are too busy livestreaming on Periscope to bother with anything as mid-2000s as visiting a blog. There are personal websites, but they mostly just have links to social media. In fact, the word “blog” is to social media what the phrase “world wide web” is to the internet. I get it. Blogs are middle aged. They’re no longer fresh. When blogs were in vogue, you still had to say “www” before the web address. The world has moved on, man! A blog is a big, annoying Gen-Xer asking for merlot at a millennial’s Moscow Mule party!
But there’s something liberating about middle age. You can enjoy that merlot. You get to a point where you just don’t give a crap if you’re wearing last year’s skinny jeans in a season of kick flares. Trying to be on point in the digital age is almost like an act of Sisyphus, anyway.
It doesn't really matter, though. Eventually everything finds its way back to itself — hint: those kick flare jeans ARE REALLY JUST BELL BOTTOMS — so if you wait long enough, you might just come around again. Blogs may end up like vinyl records or martinis or horn rimmed glasses or, I dunno, actual paper books. At some point, when everyone is tired of trying to curate a Facebook page that is appropriate for both clients and friends of your grandmother; at some point when the noise on Twitter really does sound like the clamor of birds; at some point when the word “hashtag” is filed next to “groovy,’ when the kick flares have been put away for the new season’s skinny jeans … maybe quaint little old blogs will seem new again. How positively meta.