This is by necessity one of those “writing about writing” things that I tend to find tedious. More specifically, this is about blogging and the evolution of tech. If that’s not your cup of tea, just swipe right (or left – I can never remember). There are plenty of other things here to read. Or, if you’re interested in my reflections on the matter, as someone who has done a lot of blogging, left it for social media and then returned, then read on.
I ran my own web sites for many years. I started with WordPress when it was still just a nice free script that required manual installation on your site. I did several successful commercial blogs and in the meantime I did a personal blog. The commercial blogs which were laser focused on their subjects did well. The personal blog, lacking any clear focus, never did very well. At one point, I turned off the comments because the spamming got so bad (even with Akismet). This killed the possibility of interaction with the readers.
The tidal wave of social media platforms, particularly Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn, raised a question about the continuing validity of the blog format. Would users even read blogs once they, the users were assimilated into the hermetically sealed echo chamber of social media? In the first decade of the new century, the blog went on the endangered species list.
I jumped onto the social media crazy train about a decade ago, signing up with the four services above. Facebook quickly filled up with my relatives and people I knew in high school. This seriously inhibited my creativity long before the horrors of 2016. I closed my Instagram account when they announced that they were claiming unlimited rights and licensing on users’ photos. LinkedIn filled up with mostly strangers who were looking for jobs. Twitter did all right for me. I got up to 10K followers, and developed a lively online group of friends with whom I communicate almost daily.
I love Twitter for news delivery and the constant stream of creative work that I get. But Twitter is a 240-character fire hose of information that eventually has a numbing effect on my mind. As Twitter users, we are usually in the passive role of absorbing massive amounts of disjointed and unconnected information. There is no “mental sovereignty” when using Twitter. It is mostly reactionary unless you start a flame war with a total stranger.
Twitter is a far less friendly place than it was when I signed up. The advent of tRUmp, his armies of trolls and his critics have turned the atmosphere of Twitter vitriolic and toxic. The abuse of women has driven most of my favorite influencers and inspirations off of the platform. I stopped posting on Facebook in 2018 when the complicity of Facebook in hacking our election became undeniably clear. LinkedIn is boooorrrriiinnnggg. Instagram is silly and suicide-inducing. Tumblr is dead. Flickr is dead. Tinder and Grinder are going great guns but I’m not in the market for that.
Concurrently (I’m not great with dates) I let my websites and blog simply expire. I even lost my domain name. There was a lot going on and I realized that these sites and blogs had ceased to contribute anything in my life. I lacked the energy or interest to run a website and fight the hacker battles. After all “nobody reads blogs anymore. The cool kids are on Twitter.”
I haven’t left Twitter and I still have active accounts on Facebook, Flickr, LinkedIn and Tumblr, but lately I find myself getting aggravated and anxious on social media. Cable news has the same effect on me. At the same time, I have felt a need to work on my own stuff, my own creative process, rather than just having garbage poured into my head all day. When I’m working on my own stuff, I feel happy and fulfilled. I feel like I’m accomplishing something rather than just wasting time.
I have always resisted the constraints placed on posting by social media. 240 characters or 250 words, I don’t care. I don’t like them. I worked a long time in advertising art and web development. I like to format my own pages and if I want to write 10,000 words I want to know I can. Cut to the present – I came to miss the freedom of expression and creativity, and yes, the audience a blog can provide. I needed a home where I could house my content in the way I wanted to present it.
I had a rare bright idea: why not lease a blog at WordPress.com and let them suffer the website headaches? I did that and I was up and running within the hour. It’s an excellent implementation of what is already the king of the content managers. Most of the widgets and extensions that we used to spend hours and days testing and installing are already installed. The platform is mature and stable and just a pleasure to use.
Did I do anything different this time? I thought a lot about the theme of the blog. What would give the blog an identity while being broad enough a concept to accommodate my creative work? What was an idea powerful enough to sustain my interest and that of my readers? The idea which kept coming back to my mind was the “oikos,” our home, environment, cosmos, world, mind, self, street where we live. That was an idea broad enough for some freedom, but with a focus. The result was A Small Blue Marble.
In a way, I have come full circle. I find that my own “mental sovereignty” is important to me. I need to manage my mood and control the content which enters my brain. I’m not a herd animal. I have my own fish to fry, and it seems that for now the blog is the best vehicle for that.