This is a response to Gord Sellar’s entry, “Ominous, Or, How Blogs Die.” In the spirit of the discussion, I felt that I should write my response here rather than on Facebook or in the comments section. It might even put the stupid trackback function to work for once with something other than obnoxious spam.
There’s no question in my mind that Facebook and Twitter killed the blog. Anecdotally, it was the adoption of these services in my own life that led to the fallow nature of mein own blogens, and the slow decline in particular of LiveJournal was hastened by the adoption of Twitter by everyone I followed there. I suspect at this point, LiveJournal is composed of Nick Mamatas and 500,000 Russians–which coincidentally is either the title of the story of how Nick goes out in a blaze of glory, or a really good Pussy Riot cover band name. Ooh, or the answer to a Jeopardy question: “These people still believe in communism.” (Kidding, communists. Kidding).
For the LiveJournal crowd, which made up a surprising chunk of my blog reading, blogs were never about the form itself; they were about the proto-social network of LJ. They were used in locked form to communicate with a small social clique as often as they were in unlocked form. Being on someone’s friends-locked posts was a kind of club membership. Kind of a private social network in a way.
It makes sense that Facebook and Twitter killed the blog because blogs were a poor substitute for a real social network, and once those entered the picture in a refined state, the blog was doomed as a widespread method of communication. Yes, even for writer types. Especially for them, who as professionals, jealously guard their writing time. Much like my uncle the steakhouse cook–the last thing he wanted to do on the weekend was cook steaks for the family.
So I feel like the culprit has been caught red-handed, wearing a creepy Mark Zuckerberg mask and wielding a knife carved from failwhale bone. What I can’t decide is whether I am bothered by the death of blogs. Would I convict the murderer?
To a certain degree, it’s much easier to absorb what people have to say on Twitter and Facebook. Forced to write more succinct entries, people condense their thoughts and it ostensibly saves the time of the reader. And if there is a cardinal sin in writing, it’s gotta be wasting the time of the reader, right? And Forgive Me Gord, For I Have Sinned. I may very well be sinning right now.
By the way, you should write a confessional/advice column blog and it should be titled Forgive Me Gord, For I Have Sinned. Get on that Gord. Literally dozens of people might read the tweeted/facebooked subject lines and URL-shortened links before shrugging and clicking “favorite” or “like.”
But it’s also much easier to get lost in the crowd. Those sites make it too easy to follow each and every person on a whim, and so you end up having to create nets inside the net to filter out the cream, and even then, you can dip in, dip out, missing important things. And with Facebook, you have to do battle with what Facebook thinks you want to see, and it’s become increasingly hard to see it all. The Algorithm makes so many silent, invisible decisions for you; all in an effort to figure out new, inventive ways to monetize your eyeballs, no doubt. Thanks to the Algorithm, I have missed people giving birth and getting married! Talk about awkward conversations at dinner. “And whose kid is that in the carrier? …what, yours?”
And discourse, man. Was there ever really any discourse? One of the worst things about blogging for me was that I would pour thoughts into a post and then I might get one comment, maybe two if I were lucky. At least with Facebook and Twitter people who are too busy to say anything can click “like” or “favorite.” Those buttons are a vast improvement over crickets chirping. But they’re a huge decline in quality commentary, in debate, conversation too. Official internet currency pegs the conversion rate at 100 likes to a comments, 100 favorites to a re-tweet.
Times are a’changing, as some folk singer once said. As a writer (of sorts), I feel regular guilt at my inability to keep up my blogging. But really, couldn’t everything I’ve said here been condensed into a 140 character tweet?
Social media killed the blog. It kind of sucks, but social media is a better tool for how many people narrowly blogged at friends anyway.
Well, there are fewer pointless jokes. I’ll give the form that. Death by firing squad for the blog then!