Do people still read blogs? This is a question that I've thought about a lot lately and not just because I'm a blogger. I used to read blogs daily but, now, I only read when a friend posts or something particular catches my eye via social media and I suspect that's typical for many people. I know, for me, part of the change in my reading habits was related to shifting focus to my own blogging and writing but there are additional things that contributed as well.
Too Much of a Good Thing
As more people read my blog and I met more bloggers, I became overwhelmed with the sheer quantity of blogs. There was no way that I could read everything and support everyone, so, I think I shut down in some ways. At some point, my brain decided that if I couldn't read everything, I'd read nothing at all. I am not saying that was a positive adaptive response, just that my brain works in mysterious ways.
The Rise of Lists
The stories of everyday life are what drew me to blogs in the first place. I loved peeking into lives different than mine and finding shared experiences that made me think and laugh. It was the humanity of it all that hooked me but it seems that many (not all) of the storytellers have moved on to other things and we are now inundated with lists. I've written lists--I even wrote a modified list last week about coping with Miguel going to high school. Such quick and easy posts have always been a part of blogging but the key word in that sentence is "part" and, increasingly, it feels that lists are the bulk of online content and the stories are getting lost. And yes, I realize that I am making a list in this very post that criticizes lists. I live in complexity.
The Pressure to Promote
I hate self-promotion. It's not something that comes naturally to me so I know that the pressure to promote my work online has definitely had an impact on my own blogging but I also believe the pressure to promote has eroded some of the genuine connections that we used to make online. Seeing the same blog post promoted in my Twitter and Facebook feeds seven times a day is a real turnoff. I no longer read blogs that promote to that extent and I am sure that I miss out on some great writing from time to time but I can't take that level of promotion because it feels disingenuous. I no longer trust that posts are promoted because they are good and wonder if there are other forces at work which brings me to...
The Cult of Personality
I am not naive enough to think that this hasn't always been an issue online but I have been around long enough now to recognize it more often. Things that are shared most often seem to be coming from the same voices and it gets old after awhile.
Have you watched the Netflix series, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt? It's a comedy about a woman who moves to New York City after spending 15 years in a cult and living in an underground bunker. Kimmy is naive and innocent and earnest and completely out of place in the big city. In my early days, I was the Kimmy Schmidt of blogging. I loved everyone and everything and every day was a great new adventure! But, I eventually realized that not everything is as it appears. I pride myself on being a positive person and I am all about living that high road life so I hesitate to even say this but...sometimes people write things online that aren't true. Can you believe that?! I couldn't and now I can and I miss my underground bunker.
All of that said, I still believe in blogging and I still love bloggers. Blogging has been very, very good to me. I've been fortunate enough to have been paid for my writing which is an amazing thing. Do I make a living wage as a writer? No. Do I get paid to write? Yes, and that's something for which I am grateful.
But I do miss the days of yore, the good ol' days, ye olde blogge shoppes. I miss writing for the sake of writing. I miss putting words in lines and paragraphs without worrying if anyone would read them or read them but get angry and leave mean comments or cite the words in an angry Facebook post. I miss writing to entertain myself and writing to think through things. I miss stories that do nothing more than entertain or engage, stories that don't have a message beyond "This happened and I'm telling you about it." I miss my blogging innocence and long for a time before page views and social shares and influence and sponsored content. And though my writing has improved dramatically in the 9 years I have been doing this, sometimes I miss being a blogger rather than an essayist. I miss reading blogs that are personal and reflective and stories that are funny. I miss the lift that reading blogs used to give me. I miss it all.
So, do people still read blogs? That is the question.