A couple weeks ago I was out and about on a Friday night, having birthday drinks with my brother-in-law-in-law (we both married into the same family, so I guess that’s the right term). Although I’ve met quite a few of his friends before there were a few there that I hadn’t and of course he did the introductions. He started with my name but instead of leaving it there he also mentioned, before anything else, that I was a blogger and the topics that I write about. This was the first time that I had been introduced to anyone in the real world as a blogger and I must say it was both startling and thrilling all at the same time.
For starters I’d never really used the term to apply to myself instead identifying myself by what I do as my day job (IT guy or, if pushed, virtualization specialist) and then usually mentioning that I blog during the week about things that interest me. Blogger in my mind conjures up an image of someone who does this thing at the very least semi-seriously with either the passion to write about something they love or they’re in it for the money. As I’ve mentioned a few times before this blog began more out of a necessity to chronicle my misadventures in joining the grass roots political movement No Clean Feed. However after writing on a few things that interested me and having people say how much they liked them I made it part of my weekday ritual to post about something, sometimes to my detriment.
With the 2 year anniversary of this blog fast approaching it really goes without saying that yes I am in fact a blogger, even if I don’t identify myself as one. Whilst this blog has always been somewhat of a side project it’s still taken up a good chunk of my time over the past 2 years and anyone will tell you that if this site is down I just can’t do much else until its back online again. It’s also works as a great talking point for all the like minded individuals that I may meet in my travels with the added thrill of competition when you start comparing metrics just for the hell of it.
I guess why I shied away from the blogger title for so long was because I’m not really a part of any of the blogger communities. I mean I’ve got quite a few blogging friendsbut they’re all people I know in real life, not ones I made through blogging. Honestly this kind of behaviour is pretty typical of me as whilst I love to dive deep into many subjects I often don’t get involved with the communities that much, mostly because I already spend quite a bit of my time doing other things (which are right now Starcraft 2 and programming). That’s not to say that I don’t want to be a part of them, far from it, it’s probably more that I don’t feel like I’ve got anything of worth to add to the community. At least nothing that I’m not already doing with this blog.
There’s also the scatterbrained approach to my subject interests which makes slotting into a blogging community rather irksome. I write about many things that interest me but I try to do it in a way that would be a least semi-interesting to the wider world. Although the numbers really do speak for themselves with my most popular posts being my game and product reviews, an article about the Internet filter and an aptly timed and titled critique of the iPad. Indeed if I’m honest those are probably some of the most enjoyable posts I’ve written and I’m glad that people enjoy reading them. It does break my heart sometimes when an article I feel really proud of doesn’t generate any responses but it’s part and parcel of any endeavour. All that pain is forgotten in a heartbeat when something I write garners just a single response, either online or in real life.
Does this mean I’ll be introducing myself to people as a blogger from now on? Probably when I’m in like minded company but still I find it hard to say that I am a blogger when its more of a hobby than anything else. I do enjoy the writing and exposure that it grants me and realistically a good chunk of my identity can be traced back to my writings on this site but still I’m just a regular IT guy who takes the time to write to no one in particular almost every day. Maybe one day I’ll take a title like social media extraordinaire when a large group of people start hanging on my every word but until then I guess I’ll settle on saying that I’m a part time blogger.
Yeah, that seems to work
Even though I’ve been doing this whole blog thing for a while now (well, longer than I’ve held most jobs in the past 5 years which is saying something) I still feel that’s probably one of the more out-there hobbies that people take on. Whilst I share this interest in blogging with many of my social circle for the majority of them they have little to no interest in the long form of social media, gravitating much more heavily towards Facebook. Can’t say I blame them either as the format there lends itself easily to posting a quip or comment in under 5 minutes and usually generates a very immediate response. Writing a blog post takes at least 1~2 hours out of my day and the results vary wildly from a slew of comments to barely registering on anyone’s radar. It’s definitely akin to shouting into the darkness hoping someone listens.
Maybe that’s why I feel so comforted by my Google Analytics account.
More interesting however is how the long form of social media on the Internet is on the decline:
Blogging is falling out of favor among the young’uns these days as they move to quicker-moving social networking sites. At the same time, older adults are getting into blogging and teens still aren’t hot on Twitter, at least according to the latest report from the Pew Internet and American Life project.
Only 14 percent of teenage Internet users said that they blogged last year—that’s half the number from 2006. Similarly, teen commenting on blogs is way down from 76 percent in 2006 to just over 52 percent in 2009. It doesn’t matter whether the blog is on Blogspot or buried within MySpace, either—blogs in general are definitely not the new black.
Delving into the statistics that the article above was based on reveals that not only did the teenage population leave the blogging platform en masse but also the young adults. There was a slight improvement in the over 30s and as a whole the Internet has seen a rise in the usage of blogs but for the youngsters and fledgling adults it would seem that blasting your thoughts out hundreds of words at a time is just not the in thing anymore. That left me wondering: why the hell is that?
I could easily write the whole phenomena off as being part of the revolution of mobile Internet. Nearly every modern phone has a Facebook application on it or you’re a Twitter account away from enabling it on any SMS capable phone. I’ve tried doing blog posts on my phone in the past and even with a hardware keyboard its laborious work and I can imagine would feel quite unnatural to a demographic who grew up with short form communication method SMS as their defacto standard. Thus with our increasingly mobile generation the longer forms of social media become outmoded for the quick, up to the minute feeds that services like Facebook and Twitter provide.
However I believe there’s also another side to this phenomena that will be hard to find in statistics like this. The blogging medium has evolved quite a lot over the past 10 years, going from something that only the technically elite were capable of to becoming freely available to anyone who cares to spend 5 minutes setting up an account on Blogspot. Over this time corporations began to see the value in such information channels and so the corporate blogs were born. The same thing could also be said for celebrities with their blogs functioning as a direct channel between themselves and their fans. A great example of this would be the Dilbert blog as prior to launching it no one really knew the face behind the comics that parody our cubicle life so aptly.
To use a musical analogy, blogging sold out. For the most part all the large blogs around the world are centered around driving traffic and getting more eyes on the content you’re either producing or regurgitating. Gone are the days when a blog was someone talking about their life or what interests them. No today you’re more likely to find a corporate blog or niche news aggregator, with the one you’re reading now being no exception. It started out as a platform for me to collate my various Internet censorship fighting exploits and evolved into what it is today. But make no mistake I’m just a few steps away from being the newsbots I used to loathe so much.
Personally though it feels like an evolution of the medium. It initially started out as an easier way for anyone to have a presence on the web and has since evolved into a tool that’s been applied in a much wider sense. The younger generation hopped on this tech because it was new and cool but with all the late adopters coming to the field the platform of blogging has lost its cool and the likes of Facebook, Twitter and MySpace are here to pick up the slack. It will be interesting to see how long social network can go before it starts to lose its shine to, if it ever does.