13 February 2009

Why we blog

The recent Dardos Awards, which I now see spreading over many other blogs as we denizens of the blogosphere rush to recognize our favorite other Dwellers in Darkness, has caused me to ruminate a bit on the art of blogging itself, a form of publishing that has yet to reach its decade anniversary. Weblogs are akin to the amateur press associations that started to flourish in the 1920s, only with a potential worldwide audience.

I’ve come around to a basic question, one I could ask to all the blogosphere, but which I’m certain we would all answer the same way: Why do I blog?

Last month, a friend at work showed me an article in Wired called “Kill Your Blog.” The author advised that because the day of a blog breaking out into general readership and influence has passed—the mega-blogs like HuffPost are now more like online magazines than blogs, and they make it impossible for your clever little article to hit the top of the search engine lists—that people should not consider taking up an online journal. An individual blogger can no longer expect to make a name, a fortune, a career, etc. using the tools of the blog. The author’s argument boils down to “blogging is a waste of time; no one will notice you except hecklers.”

I agree with him… if the only purpose of blogging is to achieve some sort of major fame. In fact, reading the argument, it struck me that the author could conceive of no other purpose for a blog than a tool toward career advancement or making yourself into either a revenue-generating monster or a famous folksy-maven who possesses water cooler-talk notoriety. It comes down to the same argument that Samuel Johnson made: “No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.”

Johnson was probably saying this facetiously, and to get quoted. The author of the Wired isn’t going for sly satire, however. And sorry, we bloggers don’t roll the way he thinks we roll. We who blog aren’t posting because we want to hit the top of the search engines and send the world to our doorsteps (which would result in far more insult comments anyway). We blog because we enjoy the experience.

It doesn’t matter to me how many people read my blog. If more than one person, i.e. me, reads something I’ve written, that’s success to me. I write a blog because I love to write. Writing is the core of who I am. The expression of ideas, whether fictional adventures or rambling opinions on seventy-year-old mouldering pulp magazine, is what I composes the carbon-based entity known as Ryan Dean Harvey. With fiction, I write it and try to sell it to magazines for publication (so maybe Johnson was partially right), but with nonfiction, which I love to write with equal passion, the best place to put it is on a blog. I can write reviews of movies and books all I want, but the thrill that the general public might come across these opinions and read them—regardless of how many people do so—gives me the impulse to write more and write better.

Blogging makes me a better writer. It makes me a more analytical person. And I think any blogger out there in the electrosphere will agree with me on this. Blogging encourages the sharing of opinion and the development of opinion beyond the level of, “Yeah, that was pretty good.” And it makes no difference if it will hit the top of the search engines. That the possibility exists for the world to read makes it worthwhile for us.

I do sometimes use my blog as a networking tool, even occupational tool, of course. It’s like my online calling card. But I don’t use it as some sort of corporate grappling hook. I pass my blog address to people online, or friends I’ve met, or maybe a magazine where I’m looking for freelance work. I expect to draw mostly a personal audience, people who either know me in real life or who have come to me through other bloggers. You know something? That’s enough for me. It’s all I need to want to write even more.

Blogging is expression, a public one. Maybe a small public, but the appeal of anyone else hearing your voice has immense power in our loud, noisy, info-packed world.

And that’s why I blog. And I’ll wager it’s why you blog as well.

And as for insult comments… that’s why I moderate them. Problem solved.

Woody Allen: “Why does man kill? He kills for food. And not only food. Frequently, there must be beverage.”

Ryan Harvey: “Why do people blog? They blog for expression. And not only expression. Frequently, there must be some dope writing ‘U R such a loser LOL’ in the comments.”