So, Twitter is dead and everyone moved to Mastodon. Problem solved, right?
Not so fast. After all, Twitter didn’t rise to prominence because it was such a remarkable medium. Not at all, really. Sure, it was a great way to share very short (“microblog”) updates, and with that instrumental in letting the world know what happened in Moldova, Iran, or Ukraine, but its success came from another angle.
It “won” by becoming the ultimate newsreader and aggregator, allowing everyone to link their external web log writings, sharing them between followers, and having an out-of-band conversation about them, that did not fall under the control of the blogger.
Three things did happen to end the reign of blogs on Twitter: first, Twitter was so good at being a news aggregator and -reader, it crushed the competition. And once that competition was crushed, Twitter began to de-emphasize external links/blogs, to force people to write exclusively ON Twitter.
Secondly, the (may the fleas of a thousand camels infest their armpits) “clickbait media” discovered exactly that. Clickbait. “This man reveals what he did to a chicken. Number six may shock you!” (spoiler: he cooked one, and he used cinnamon in #6). This helped more and more to push personal blogs below the fold and down the ever streaming river of Tweets.
And then the algorithm happened, which emphasized bubbles and controversy over conversation. And blogs, no matter how bubbly or controversial, are still primarily conversation, not proclamation.
Please Blog (again!)
Blogs are wonderful. Be it Mike writing from Asia, Simon writing about tech, James the Translator writing about everything, Amaka writing about beauty, Emily the architect, or Victoria, the artist, they just are. They’re the time sink, the parasocial relationship makers, the informers, the rocks in the surf of the Internet.
Starting a blog is not hard. You don’t have to be fancy-schmancy. Content matters 9/10, design is the remaining one tenth. Sure, strive to have it loaded within a reasonable time, but most blog templates do that for you.
Blog, then share on your favorite Fediverse client. Or blog directly into it, more about that in a second.
You don’t have to be a tech head to do it, either. In fact, most of the blogs I linked above are on blot.im, a platform that takes a Dropbox,
git, or Google Drive folder and turns it into a blog. There’s also micro.blog with the added convenience that every user on micro.blog is also an Actor in the Fediverse and you can subscribe to them from your fediverse account. WordPress sells blogs, if you’re a little bit tech you can start up a $5 VPS and install WordPress or Ghost or even 11ty, the approach I am taking.
The important part here is to keep your content yours. Writing it into your favorite Fediverse client may lead to it being gone, one day to the other. The history of personal publishing is riddled with this.
It’s bad. The solution to it is simple: blog under your own domain and keep the blog posts in a format that can be easily migrated to a new platform. If, Odin forbid, WordPress has a meltdown tomorrow, there’s an export file. It’s not “easily” migrated, but it can be. And if you were smart and blogged under your own domain, your content will persist where it once was.
Don’t wait for the viral piece
Just write. Write about your day. Write about joys and sorrows. Be political, social, medical, artsy. Give the world those pictures you took, or those poems you wrote. Tell us in the Fediverse when you do, and we’ll become fast fans of your writing. Because personal blogging is not about clickbait or numbers, it is about parasocial and real relationships, about the feeling that we’re not alone out there, in the world.
Blogs are more personal, more anchored to the realities of the world around that screen. Twitter, the Fediverse, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, those are walled garden islands. Places with their own hopes, dreams, sensitivities, feelings, heroes, villains, and social rankings. Blogs are you, you as that person. Not you, the avatar and designed reality.
Show your friends
I admit I have been slacking on this, but have a blogroll. A list of other bloggers you recommend, like, know, wrote about. Give exposure to others and you’ll receive exposure. Blogrolls are great. Write about your friends. React, respond, to their writing. Follow up on someone’s questions or someone’s claims. Have a conversation.
Show your pictures
That great image of a waterfall at sunset you just took? It’ll be below the fold on Mastodon, Twitter, or Facebook in less than a few seconds. Outta sight, outta mind. Blog it.
I took this picture in 2004. Had I posted it anywhere but my blog, it might have disappeared by now. This way, it’ll be around. For me to look at it and remember that warm August day, the smell of someone grilling, the music drifting over from the park, and being madly in love. And it is still here for you to enjoy as well.
To reclaim the public square, the virtual town hall, we need to have a voice. One that is not drowned out in a river of unrelated things, one that does not fade in seconds. We need to speak in sentences, not artificially shortened slogans. Personal blogs educate, advocate, and entertain. They are, more than any microblog can ever be, humans behind keyboards, firmly anchored in the realities and complexities of life.
Blog in a way that is indestructible. Iron Blogging. Own your content, both digitally and personally. The cost is minimal, free more often than not (cost of a domain excluded, .md cost me $30 for five years), but the benefits are wonderful.
Don’t wait for the Pulitzer piece. Tell me about your ride to work, about your food, what flavor ice cream you like. Let me be part of happiness and sadness. Show me, that there is a human being out there that, agree or not, I can relate to. Because without it, we are just actors in a sea of actors, marketing, proselytizing, advocating, and threatening towards each other in an always vicious circle of striving for a relevance that only buys us more marketing, more proselytizing, more advocating, and more threats.