I admit, they got to me. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, were my hangouts for the past year and a half. I spent considerable time outdoors, took lots of photos, wrote quite a bit, and it all wound up in one silo or another. Under someone else’s control, that their (and the market’s) mercy. I let myself be drowned in social and political cause content. The headshaking bewilderment about one more strange “life pro tip” that either defied science or made it look easier than it really was, gave way to ambivalence. I reshared. I let myself be guided by algorithms.
It’s 2018. A year I’ll likely not want to forget soon. I am learning something new, challenging my brain in new and, if I am honest, sometimes painful and befuddling ways. I am planning to move. I am going to spend a significant amount of the summer walking. And I am trimming down, partially because everything else is changing and partially because I feel overwhelmed, my possessions. I’m experimenting with audio in German, playing with new hardware (both at work and home), and find myself no longer caring so much about perfection as I do about the path towards it.
It’s the perfect setup to return to 2001, blogging-wise. The tech pioneer spirit then, reeling from the systemic shock of the dot.com bubble’s burst, permeated blogging, a word that had been invented a scant few months earlier. It would still be four years until the first BarCamp, two and a half until the fork that turned b2 into WordPress, and three until Six Apart’s MovableType changed its Terms of Service, essentially eliminating itself from the landscape and turning WordPress into a synonym for blogging.
Those were the days of “Blogger Meetups” in Bay Area restaurants, blogrolls, “bonfire of vanities” blog parades, and more. When “discoverable” meant to be linked to from some hot shot blogger, and the effects were not only as immediate, they were much more gentle and permanent than today. Today’s five minutes of fame or three weeks of shitstorm make exposure fast and furious, but also fickle. Then, with Little Green Footballs still a right wing blog and the Daily Kos being written by one person, getting on the right or wrong side of someone’s political or social sensibilities meant little more or less than being read and having a chance at responding.
2001 wasn’t a great year, by any measure. Thousands of people died in terror attacks on US soil, tens of thousands more would die soon after in the first responses to the hurt that had been inflicted. The stock market, reeling from a busted technology bubble, received another stab to the heart, America found itself divided over its political leadership more than ever, and the world at large was in upheaval. But bloggers talked, hustled, and presented arguments. Click Baiting didn’t work, Facebook wasn’t invented yet, so it was left to convincing arguments to make the move into the greater group consciousness.
It’d be too Vapid Hipster to claim it was better, then. But it was different, and it is something we need back. Not as a step into history, but as a compliment to existing, new, ways of talking and arguing. The online diary made us more human, created more empathy (even with the social or political “other”), and toned down the harshness of debate. We need Twitter and Facebook, but we also need this campfire feeling of early blogging back. Together, maybe, it’ll shape conversation, drown out a little bit of click bait, and lead to healthier minds and conversations.
Who knows? I don’t, but we won’t until we try.