Personal Blogs Have Become Ghost Towns

To write. That was one reason I started a blog. Photography, another passion of mine, has contributed no small portion of the content, and I have posted a few videos that I hope are tolerable to those with no direct relation to my family. As a former journalist and photojournalist who missed having his work published, I enjoyed putting my work out there for others to see.

By visiting and commenting on other blogs that interested me, and ultimately adding their link to my list while they reciprocated in kind, I unwittingly morphed my blog into a small community. It spawned what I believe will be life-long friendships with folks far-flung and nearby. I even made my first trip out of the country to visit the family of one of those people, as part of a larger annual effort for three of us to visit the others’ homes. Despite our foray into meatspace relationships, the standout beauty of such bonds is that, from the start, they never depended on geography.

I wasn’t the only one whose personal blog mushroomed into a small, tight-knit online social group. Like mine, many had a loyal following comprising both silent readers and avid commenters. Unlike on political or news blogs, the discussion remained civil — sometimes serious, sometimes funny, but always civil. You didn’t have to be a member to read the content, and actively participating required nothing more than an (unpublished, never sold) e-mail address.

By either returning daily via bookmarks, subscribing to e-mail notifications, or using an RSS reader to track fresh content at our favorite sites, we kept up with the few blogs we enjoyed. We spent a few minutes reading a post, then took a moment or two to add our own thoughts on the topic. At some sites, we subscribed to the comments and returned more than once to a post to keep contributing.

I created a second blog to publish original serial fiction, and enjoyed immediate feedback on what readers loved, kind of liked, and thought was just plain awkward. It motivated me to finish writing many more stories than I had even started in the past.

Then came Facebook, and the giant sucking sound as blog readers, and subsequently personal blog writers, left for the world of five-second missives about banal daily life events, witty e-cards, and privacy-invading games. Sure, in addition to brief status updates, users sometimes post links to articles, but it is not the same as well-written commentary on everyday life found on the personal blogs I frequented. I kept up my usual blogging pace for a while, but soon the lack of involvement from all of us took its toll and I began neglecting this space.

Now I rarely visit blogs except when they show up in a Google search. Even then, most personal blogs I click over to have a final post two or three years old, with no note about leaving or quitting. They were just abandoned, without any forethought or admission of ceasing. Rather than a final post acknowledging that it was over, the last entry was more often like those that came before it — nothing to indicate anything had gone wrong or was going to change. I suspect many do not want to admit that something they worked so hard to create and maintain, sometimes for five years or more, has died.

Occasionally I see a spike in activity, and even new comments, each time BET airs a movie dedicated to a local woman whose tragic death prompted me to write a post. The comment thread, populated by those who knew her and those who just saw the movie, gets rather emotional at times.

I’m being a bit vague because Google search still seems to think my blog is relevant in at least a few isolated cases, and I don’t want to bring people to this entry and disappoint them.

My major disappointment in all this is that Americans seemed to be moving back toward reading and writing as a rewarding way to spend their time. They seemed to value quality over quantity. Then along came Facebook, with its (at first) spartan interface that spared us those eye-straining personalized themes on MySpace, and a new focus on quantity was born. We added “friends” as if we suddenly cared what Suzy from third grade was doing these days, despite having thought of her a total of never in the past 20 or 30 years.

Obviously I feel there is value in Facebook, or I wouldn’t use it. I think more than anything it’s where the eyeballs are, and as someone who once got paid for his words and images to go out to tens of thousands, when I say or display something I want at least some indication that someone, somewhere, cares.

3 thoughts on “Personal Blogs Have Become Ghost Towns

  1. You’re so right about people not updating thier blogs like they used to. I still frequent my Google Reader almost daily on my downtime at work to see if there are any new blog posts to check out. So, here I am. ;-) I’m still out there reading, lol.

  2. Thanks, Trinity. I think a lot of folks never knew about tools like Google Reader, or other ways to use RSS feeds to know when a favorite blog had a new post. So, once Facebook came along and all you needed was to be a member to get overloaded with your favorites and more, that was it. I’m keeping this space alive (barely!) because they’ll all come around. Or something.

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