I couldn’t help but notice an article that kept getting tweeted about and linked all over the place last week. It was a piece by Jason Kottke titled “R.I.P. The Blog, 1997-2013“. It’s actually a bit of commentary on a longer piece he wrote for the Nieman Journalism Lab called “The Blog Is Dead, Long Live The Blog“. Kottke talks about how people today are more likely to turn to the various social media channels to spread their message rather than the tried-and-true arena of the blog.
Kottke admits in both pieces that blogging isn’t going away. He even admits that blogging is going to be his go-to written form for a long time to come. But the fact that the article spread around like wildfire got me to thinking about why blogging is so important to me. I didn’t start out as a blogger. My foray into the greater online world first came through Facebook. Later, as I decided to make it more professional I turned to Twitter to interact with people. Blogging wasn’t even the first thing on my mind. As I started writing though, I realized how important it is to the greater community. The reason? Blogging is thought without restriction.
Social media is wonderful for interaction. It allows you to talk to friends and followers around the world. I’m still amazed when I have conversations in real time with Aussies and Belgians. However, social media facilitates these conversations through an immense filtering system. Sometimes, we aren’t aware of the filters and restrictions placed on our communications.
Twitter forces users to think in 140-ish characters. Ideas must be small enough to digest and easily recirculate. I’ve even caught myself cutting down on thoughts in order to hit the smaller target of being about to put “RT: @networkingnerd” at the begging for tweet attribution. Part of the reason I started a blog was because I had thoughts that were more than 140 characters long. The words just flow for some ideas. There’s no way I could really express myself if I had to make ten or more tweets to express what I was thinking on a subject. Not to mention that most people on Twitter are conditioned to unfollow prolific tweeters when they start firing off tweet after tweet in rapid succession.
Facebook is better for longer discussion, but they are worse from the filtering department. The changes to their news feed algorithm this year weren’t the first time that Facebook has tweaked the way that users view their firehose of updates. They believe in curating a given users feed to display what they think is relevant. At best this smacks of arrogance. Why does Facebook think they know what’s more important to me that I do? Why must my Facebook app always default to Most Important rather than my preferred Most Recent? Facebook has been searching for a way to monetize their product even before their rocky IPO. By offering advertisers a prime spot in a user’s news feed, they can guarantee that the ad will be viewed thanks to the heavy handed way that they curate the feed. As much reach as Facebook has, I can’t trust them to put my posts and articles where they belong for people that want to read what I have to say.
Other social platforms suffer from artificial restriction. Pinterest is great for those that post with picture and captions or comments. It’s not the best for me to write long pieces, especially when they aren’t about a craft or a wish list for gifts. Tumblr is more suited for blogging, but the comment system is geared toward sharing and not constructive discussion. Add in the fact that Tumblr is blocked in many enterprise networks due to questionable content and you can see how limiting the reach of a single person can be when it comes to corporate policy. I had to fight this battle in my old job more than once in order to read some very smart people that blogged on Tumblr.
Blogging for me is about unrestricted freedom to pour out my thoughts. I don’t want to worry about who will see it or how it will be read. I want people to digest my thoughts and words and have a reaction. Whether they choose to share it via numerous social media channels or leave a comment makes no difference to me. I like seeing people share what I’ve committed to virtual paper. A blog gives me an avenue to write and write without worry. Sometimes that means it’s just a few paragraphs about something humorous. Other times it’s an activist rant about something I find abhorrent. The key is that those thoughts can co-exist without fear of being pigeonholed or categorized by an algorithm or other artificial filter.
Sometimes, people make sensationalist posts to call attention to things. I’ve done it before and will likely do it again in the future. The key is to read what’s offered and make your own conclusion. For some, that will be via retweeting or liking. For others, it will be adding a +1 or a heart. For me, it’s about collecting my thoughts and pouring them out via a well-worn keyboard on WordPress. It’s about sharing everything rattling around in my head and offering up analysis and opinion for all to see. That part isn’t going away any time soon, despite what others might say about blogging in general. So long as we continue to express ourselves without restriction, the blog will never really die no matter how we choose to share it.