Here’s a big question: is blogging a dying art?
Now that we’re all mostly stuck indoors, us single thirty-year-old men can’t help ourselves. It’s either a podcast or a YouTube channel; the ones with well-gymmed bodies will be pursuing a career as a remote personal trainer via Instagram thirst traps. Hey, it’s the era of the side hustle, and we’ve been raving about working for yourself and getting to choose your own hours for a long while now. Lockdown sounds like the perfect opportunity to say, ‘Oh, well, I guess I don’t have an excuse not to do this any more!’, in the hopes that your friends won’t feel as justified in rolling their eyes when they hear you’ve got your first episode coming out next week, please like and subscribe.
Hey, I’m not judging. I’ve started a goddamn blog.
No, but seriously: is blogging a dying art?
Being an aforementioned single thirty-year-old man, I have indeed spent the last few years dipping into productivity and what I like to call ‘entre-bro-neur’ podcasts and YouTube channels. You’ll have heard of some of them – Tim Ferriss, Ryan Holiday – all of whom are tapping into the void left behind by the growing feeling that the regular nine-to-five desk jobs held down by our fathers no longer offer us the path to masculine wholeness that it once did.
Mind you: I do enjoy The Tim Ferriss Show, and it feels good and right to be learning something about how to take charge of my life, career and finances, on my own terms (I say that with the caveat that learning is the operative word here: balancing the books I most certainly am not). But I am increasingly getting the sense – and this applies to well beyond the field of productivity gurus – that The Blog is a medium that has been relegated to the sidelines, merely a glorified version of the Twitter feed that offers more copy space than is considered SEO-friendly. Oops.
I will confess to a lifelong affection for blogging – as an idea, as a platform, as a philosophy. Back in the good ol’ days of LiveJournal – I know – there was a trend for blog-post review blogs, where people would read and review other users’ blog entries and rate them on a scale of one to five stars. One of my friends was utterly crushed when an entry she submitted came back with a rather lukewarm three stars – reluctantly given – and no indication that her post had been assessed to be anything more than a hum-drum piece of teenage journalling. Not everyone gets to be Samuel Pepys, I guess.
My most successful blogging venture happened when I was sixteen, shortly after I’d got deep into Project Runway and, from there, the Style.com video podcasts on iTunes. I started posting my own fashion commentaries to the Blogspot I’d already been keeping at that point, reviewing collections and espousing what I felt to be my unique, well-considered point of view about women’s fashion (which I knew absolutely nothing about). But as the months went by, I began getting comments from readers who weren’t just my friends, and it felt like I was finally gaining some traction. One day I received an email from a fashion news blog asking if they could have permission to quote something from one of my posts.
Sixteen-year-old me thought I was on the verge of a stellar career in fashion journalism. That didn’t happen, of course. I was young, naïve, and stupidly optimistic, and didn’t understand the value of consistent work. But I’d now had a taste of what it felt like to have someone praise your writing and to like your point of view so much that they wanted to share it with their own audience.
I wanted more.
I’ve attempted to establish a blogging habit every year since then. And every year, it doesn’t quite happen. Writing, for me, became an act of attempting to describe something about me – to offer a piece of myself – to someone else, in a way that would get them to see something in me that might be of value, of worth. I don’t think I realised I’d experienced something that plagues almost everyone who uses social media now.
Which means: is there a case to be made that it is a radical thing to do, to return to blogging and try and find a way of doing it that doesn’t identify validation as its primary goal (I would not venture to say, ‘not a goal’)? Blogs have become largely utilitarian news feeds; is it therefore radical and counter-cultural to reject the now-standard video essay format, and write long-form blog posts that isn’t a list or ruthlessly edited marketing copy ‘designed to maximise impact’? What if I attempted to subject people to the meandering way in my thoughts wander, to watch me try to make sense of the world with full sight of the fact that it is an often chaotic, illogical morass, a haphazard junction of people, ideas, observations, truths and Things that are often never as clear-cut as they seem?
Well, watch me try.