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Where have all the bloggers gone?

1 January 2009

Where have all the bloggers gone?
Gone to Twitter every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

It seems that entropy has struck the blogosphere, well, actually the whole Internet.

A couple of years ago I was asking why there were so few black bloggers. Now I’m asking why the number of bloggers is diminishing. More and more are announcing that they have gone to Twitter, or somewhere equally trivial (or have just gone without announcing), and so electronic communication generally becomes more and more trivial. Twitter is for letting people know you will be late for dinner and stuff like that, for crying in a bucket.

A couple of years ago there was a rather good Usenet newsgroup, rec.arts.books. There were always a few trolls, but generally the intelligent discussion tended to squeeze out the trash and the spam. Then a few of the more intelligent contributors dropped out, and suddenly the signal/noise ratio got much worse. Eventually some of them formed a group on Facebook called The Prancing Half-Wits (how appropriate!) — and the trouble is that with Facebook and other web-based interfaces one has to consciously remember to go and look. I look at Facebook once a week or so, and maybe once every ten visits I remember to go and look at The Prancing Halfwits, usually about two minutes after I’ve logged off and gone to bed.

Then came blogs.

Blogs have distinct limitations. They are a one-to-many medium, rather than a many-to-many medium, like newsgroups, but at least they allow people to share ideas and news and thoughts, and allow others to comment on them.

And now even these are disappearing, as more and more blogs are not updated, and people post tweets on Twitter instead. Twitter lets you post one thought at a time, of 160 characters. If this trend continues, soon people won’t be able to string two thoughts together.

I’ve been reading For the sake of silence by Michael Cawood Green. It’s a fictionalised biography of Father Franz Pfanner, the founder of the Mariannhill Monastery near Pinetown. The monks who came to Natal in 1879 were Trappists, a strict branch of the Cistercian order who did not speak unless they were given explicit permission to do so. Silence was part of their life.

On the sea voyage to Durban, however, the sub-prior had to communicate on behalf of the monks. The sub-prior felt some discomfort at this, and in the story his thoughts were

How often in the years ahead was I to feel my face freeze into that fixed smile that did so much to earn me my reputation of kindliness when in truth it was the surest expression of my discomfort in the world. Still, it was an effective aid to silence and, even as my jaw and lips clenched into what was to become their characteristic form, I was grateful for the way those who engaged me in speech inevitably read whatever suited them into the quiet smile almost lost in my beard.

As for the speaker who prompted that arrangement of my features on this occasion, his opinions were sufficient to remind me of how sad it is that those who have nothing to say are the ones most compelled to say it. Like nervous gunners they fire burst after burst into the dark, illuminating nothing and hitting nothing except by accident.

And so it with electronic communications. Those who have nothing to say are the ones most compelled to say it. And some Twitterers have thousands of followers, and some people follow thousands of Twitterers. We have technology that enables us to communicate with people all over the world, and the more easily we can say it, the less we have to say.

Perhaps we should give up, and emulate the Trappists, with a vow of silence, instead of filling the world with tweets.

14 Comments leave one →
  1. 1 January 2009 11:02 am

    I agree. A heap of blogs I use to visit are no longer updated, though the ones I know have gone to Facebook, where they endlessly join ‘groups’, which I find rather pointless.

  2. 1 January 2009 4:59 pm

    Don’t give up your blogging Steve!

  3. 1 January 2009 11:36 pm

    To be honest, it comes down to why one blogs in the first place. This is a hobby for me. I don’t like facebook that much. And I barely post on myspace. I like Orthodox Circle, but I’m not on there alot.

    WordPress seems good, and alot of my friends are on it, but I’m sticking with blogger.

    I post for myself, the things I like and pretty much been into for about 10 or 11 years now. So it’s more like a hobby or nitch for me.

    JNORM888

  4. 23 February 2009 6:05 am

    I use Twitter to share links to articles that interest me, and I have a widget on my blog that displays these Twitter posts. I’m glad to have it, because it saves me posting every time I have an article that interests me but I don’t feel a need to comment much.

    I use Facebook to keep connected with friends, mostly people I know in the “real world.” I also have a Facebook widget on my blog. Very handy.

    With all that, I can imagine giving up on my blog.

    • 23 February 2009 6:37 pm

      Please don’t give up your blog, Adam!

      • 23 February 2009 6:51 pm

        DANG! I didn’t realize until you mentioned it that I have a typo there. Weird. I actually meant to say “I CAN’T imagine giving up on my blog”!

        Sorry!

  5. 23 February 2009 8:03 am

    Hoping I can still string together two thoughts at a time! I should tweet this!

  6. 23 February 2009 5:47 pm

    I have to admit in my lack of blogging and reading blogs lately I didn’t notice I was part of a wider trend.

    I love blogging still, especially the interaction and often friendship that comes from the reading and commenting on each other’s blogs.

    I spend a little time on Twitter–mostly because I spend more time with Facebook, and when I post on Twitter it simultaneously updates my Facebook status. I don’t think I’m switching Facebook for blogging, its just easier to keep in touch with people there while I need to cut down my time with blogging.

  7. 23 February 2009 6:27 pm

    John,

    You actually came to my mind when I saw this subject pop up. It was maybe a year or so ago that you mentioned you were spending more time on Facebook than on blogging. I wish I could remember if that was an e-mail or a post where I saw that.

    I actually think a thinning of bloggers would be good. People who are truly dedicated to the practice will hang on, and at the same time can channel their social networking and minor messages to Facebook and Twitter. In my view, that can only improve the quality of blog content.

  8. 23 February 2009 6:37 pm

    Adam G.,

    I’ve been off and on with blogging for a couple of years. It has been the last 6-12 months that I’ve spent a lot more time on Facebook. For me, this isn’t a choice to spend more time on Facebook than blogging because I’m choosing one over the other.

    I still find blogging the most meaningful form of social media. Its just that Facebook is an easy way to keep in touch with a lot of people in a time when I’m not blogging as much.

    • 24 February 2009 6:10 am

      Facebook (and Twitter) are useful ways of keeping in touch with people you know. I have serous doubts about their value, though, when you have all sorts of people you don’t know wanting to be your “friend” or your “follower”.

      Blogging is a better medium for meaningful communication, however, thoguh not as interactive as mailing lists. I really miss the old BBS conferences, which were better still.

  9. 23 February 2009 6:50 pm

    John,

    I hope you didn’t take my comment the wrong way. I think you and I are taking similar but distinct routes with social media. We both still blog, but break up what we do among Facebook, Twitter and blog. It’s not “either/or” but “both/and” in a way.

  10. 23 February 2009 6:57 pm

    Adam G.,

    I didn’t take it bad. I understand what you’re coming and agree with the both/and approach.

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