Coyote Mercury

words, birds and whatever else by James Brush

The Information Hike-and-Bike Trail

I’ve been thinking about blogging and the web lately. It seems quieter out here in blogland. Many of the blogs I read a long time ago have gone silent, just floating on the web like so much dotsam and netsam.

It sometimes seems there are fewer people just hanging around, clicking through from somewhere else or just exploring. Maybe we know this civilized web too well. The blogosphere isn’t the hip corner of the net it once was. It’s starting to feel more like a village after many of its inhabitants have urbanized and moved to the city.

I’m told that the web is moving to apps. That Twitter and Facebook won since they’re so phone friendly. I’ve experimented with Twitter and Facebook and Identi.ca over the past year. Of the three, Identi.ca was the most interesting. I suspect that has to do with its user base: creative types and tech-oriented people. Less of a feeling that you were being watched by corporations trying to figure out how to synergize e-business web-readiness (or even synergize backward overflow) and take over the whole thing.

Twitter is too much. Too much signal. Too much noise. I’m a teacher. I don’t have the kind of job where I can watch a fast-changing Twitter feed stream by, jumping in to offer my two cents and a hashtag before it all disappears. Perhaps I would like it if I had a cubicle job, but it’s just not something I’m able to keep up with. I feel like the guy in Shawshank Redemption who says the world just got itself in a big damn hurry.

Facebook is a little more interesting. I know that most of the people I know in the real world don’t come around my site much anymore, but I send the feed to Facebook and those who are interested read it there but as with Twitter, Facebook is something I’m not able to do at work (which is where I would bet most people do their social media thing). When I get home, I’m usually not interested as I’d rather spend my time writing something with a little more substance for my blog. A good blog post makes me feel good. Twitter and Facebook make me feel empty, like I’m faking my way through friendship and social interaction.

I’ve considered killing off my Facebook and Twitter accounts, but then there’s a voice in my head. It’s an old guy and he lived early in the twentieth century. He says, “Telephones! I hate them damn things. I’m getting rid of mine. It’s just a fad anyway.”

I don’t want to be the guy without a phone wondering why no one calls.

Still, I find the whole thing a little sad. What does it say about us as a culture when we so easily and willingly reject longer-form writing and leave the free open space of the wild internet to hunker down in Facebook and other walled gardens? I guess it’s the same thing Huck Finn was running from, those civilized faux Edens where Aunt Polly kept things orderly, decent and boring.

Keeping a blog these days makes me feel I’ve ridden out on the information superhighway but got off early and headed for the hills, jumped on the information hike-and-bike trail as it were.

I’m watching a train pull away, speeding ever faster toward short bursts of superficial contact. “I’ll call or text or tweet you,” the passengers say as they wave goodbye to the old curmudgeon still hanging out in the sticks. “Stay in touch.”

“Don’t worry,” I yell back. “I’ll write.”

If you’re interested, I am still on Twitter and Identi.ca. I’m on Facebook too, but I only accept friend requests from people I know or e-know.

9 Comments

  1. Yeah, you said it. Oddly enough, someone raised this same point today in a group email exchange with a bunch of bloggers. Part of me is glad to see blogging fade in popularity, because it means that only those who are really committed to it will stick around. There are a lot of people who were probably relieved when Twitter and Facebook came along, because they never had much to say anyway. For those who just want to share photos and links — old-school blogging — Tumblr’s a good fit. For the rest of us, especially as more and more mainstream sites adopt blogging software (mostly WordPress), I think our work comes to seem more and more legitimate. And let’s face it, as long as people are amusing themselves by trading links to cool shit on the web, they’ll need cool shit to link to. That’s us! But I do miss the lengthy, intense discussions in comment threads that used to be so common.

    • Part of me is glad to see blogging fade in popularity, because it means that only those who are really committed to it will stick around.

      Yeah, I’m of a similar mind. One way to respond to so much chatter is by trying to speak louder; the other way to respond is by making a conscious effort to speak more quietly and deliberately. The folks who are sick of noise will hearken to that…and there are always folks who are sick of noise.

      I never fit with any of the blog “trends,” so it’s no big deal to let yet another wave of trendiness wash over me. When and if people want to read something more than 140 characters, I’m still “here” doing my thing, regardless of whether anyone is “out there” listening, reading, nodding.

      I occasionally post status updates to both Twitter and Facebook, just to keep a “toe” in those two ponds. (I was never cool enough to try identi.ca!) And both my blog and Flickr uploads automatically post to Facebook, so I’m “there” as well, for anyone who is interested. So my stuff is “out there” for people to find, without me exactly chasing them.

      I’m reminded of something the first Zen Master I practiced with once said. He observed how many preachers stand on the proverbial corner, trying to attract new converts, but he just did his practice quietly, and people came to him. Of course, Zen Masters don’t judge the success of their practice on the number of followers they have, so you have to be comfortable with that.

      • Lorianne, I totally agree about noise. I’ve really gotten quite comfortable with my quiet little corner of the net. I’ve read a lot of posts over the years about how to “make it in blogging” and get noticed, but most of the standard advice never appealed to me. Other than ‘write well and honestly.’ Doing that will bring readers who are interested and if it doesn’t, well, then, that’s always been cool with me too. To be honest, I’ve always been a little surprised that anyone comes around. That Zen Master you mentioned was right on. I guess you’d say I am comfortable with that.

    • Dave,

      Thanks. I have to say, I also don’t mind the popularity waning. The blogs I do find that are active and have been around awhile, tend to be pretty good. It’s that commitment.

      This made me smile: “as long as people are amusing themselves by trading links to cool shit on the web, they’ll need cool shit to link to. That’s us!” — Yes. I wonder if “source of cool shit for you to link to” has ever been used as a blog’s tagline.

      Thanks for linking to this, btw.

  2. Lovely post. I appreciate “quiet” blogging; I find the less I blog the more I enjoy it (and the more readers I have). Thanks for sharing your ideas.

    • Thanks, bint battuta, and thanks for stopping by. One of the best things I ever did regarding blogging was stop for 6 months in 2008. I’ve enjoyed it more than ever since that accidental hiatus.

  3. James, very good post, and something I’ve been planning to write about soon myself, because at times I do find current trends both discouraging and disturbing. As far as I’m concerned, it’s the speed that’s the problem — both for writers and readers. But I intend to continue blogging and writing the way I do, just as I did with my journal before blogging began, maybe cross-posting some of the better bits to FB Notes. And to worry less about the audience, and keep my eye on the ball, which is trying to think deeply and write well.

    • Beth, I think you nailed with “trying to think deeply and write well.” That’s really the core of things, though I do at times attempt to entertain.

      I’m a long-time journaler too and blogging feels like a natural extension, though the writing is better here since the potential audience helps guard against lazy writing. That’s how it works for me anyway.

      I’ll look forward to reading your post.

    • Beth, it’s interesting that you mention off-line journaling, because that’s a practice I still continue, so as much as I appreciate the instant audience and feedback my blog provides, I’m also deeply grateful for the equanimity I think journaling cultivates. (By “equanimity,” I mean the emotional poise you gain when you do something strictly and solely for yourself: a place to practice keeping your eye on the ball without concern for what any audience might think.)

      I think, in other words, I’d have a more difficult time staying committed to blogging if I didn’t also keep a journal. Having a private, off-line place “just” to write, without the expectation of sharing, helps keep me focused on writing for the sake of writing, versus writing for the sake of online fame, praise, or whatever instant gratification blogging could bring.

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