Maybe this isn’t a sudden realization about blogging so much as a sudden remembrance, but in seeking out interesting blogs that are still “alive” here in 2018, I started to recall why I stopped reading them. There is an abject, clinical sameness to so many of them. A lot of them are cold and impersonal. This led, in turn, to my realizing why I had stopped writing a blog for so long: I had no desire to bow down before the great god of Search Engine Optimization.
You have to have a compelling headline, that should follow a formula. What formula? It depends on who you ask. Then the text has to be at least this long, but no longer than that long, and it should stick to this format. What format? It depends on who you ask. Every post has to have an amazing graphic, because adults can’t read anything unless there’s a photo attached to it, because we all know that the great works of literature were all picture books. And there are a million other rules follow as well. What rules? It depends on who you ask. And who you ask is probably trying to get you to sign up for their newsletter or buy their book.
Having been beaten up by listicles, suckered by clickbait headlines, and bombarded by plugs for merch, I became unrepentantly recalcitrant about blogging. I did not want to do that. I still don’t. Please note that the header of this post is a photo of a pancake I made last Sunday, and this post has nothing to do with pancakes. I am simply a human being trying to connect with human beings, and while I do mention when I have released a new book I try to keep it down to a dull roar. It has been the commercialization and commoditization of blogs that killed them, I am now convinced, not the fact that people allegedly no longer read. The zealousness to turn the form into a revenue stream for anyone who made a half-hearted attempt at it is what killed the beast.
I see this happened right now on YouTube. When one person does a “challenge”, everyone does it. When a YouTuber gets a hit with a certain type of video, or talking about a particular topic, everyone does their version of it. Sameness. Certain YouTubers might have already been douchebags, but it’s monetization that drove them to extremes. Commoditization. Anything to get eyeballs on your channel. It’s not about consistently providing quality content, or making a connection with your audience, it’s about sensationalism. As YouTube has cut payments to creators in various ways, for various reasons, people have scrambled to keep making a living. Or, as the form has aged and certain creators have become entrenched, to get noticed and break through so you can gain followers and maybe earn some money.
In terms of the unflinching sameness, it has happened on social media as well. I can’t look at Facebook or Twitter because the screeching hate gets on my nerves, but there’s also the reality that I can only stand to look at the same shared BuzzFeed article, the same memes, and the same political dogwhistles so many times per day. Too few people post anything that is genuinely of themselves. I would honestly rather look at selfies, no matter how staged, because it is at least a picture of the person posting it, taken by the person posting it, and not a joke they heard from someone else and aren’t even repeating and making their own, just copy-pasting and passing along. Can you imagine what people would do if they could actually earn direct ad money on social media?
In the words of Howard Beale, Peter Finch’s character from the movie Network, I’m made as hell and I’m not going to take it any more. I’m going to do things the way that I want to do them, for my own reasons, and the blandness and conformity and commodity be damned. Follow me. Or don’t. Comment. Or don’t. Join me. Or don’t. But I think that personal blogs are the way back to having something closer to actual self-expression and genuine connection again.