I recently received a notification that my first blog had turned the milestone age of 21. In commemoration, the platform “gifted” me a “virtual gift” for my profile. Crazy, yes? When did I get so old? Then again, that blog is almost as old as I was when I started it.
The occasion has caused me to think about a few things pertaining to online Orthodoxy, the nature of blogging, women bloggers, etc.
I started my first blog before the word “blogging” had even been widely adopted, and I absolutely hated that sound of it. Calling in an online journal was more my speed, but it wasn’t nearly as catchy as “blog”, and over time, the terms “blog” and “blogging” won out. In any case, I started my first blog when a friend of mine directed me to something she had posted. Not only did I find what she wrote interesting, but I realized what the platform did, and I asked for an invitation, and I was on.
Back then, there were a lot of people who were on, and most of the blogs were people talking about their lives and what they were up to. The thing about the platform I was on was that it had some really good groups, and as I became serious about becoming Orthodox and I moved out of the US, the Orthodoxy group over there really became my link to English-speaking Orthodoxy, but also a good number of the people in the group subscribed to each other’s personal “journals”, and so it felt like a lot of us were pretty close. (Over the years, I probably met 30 people off the platform – across 4 countries – so there was an element of real friendships having been formed.)
At the time, there didn’t seem to be such a big disparity, even in the Orthodox world, between blogs being written by men and blogs being written by women. The thing was that a lot of us were generally at the same stage of life of being near to finishing college or “fledgling adults”.
As blogging “matured”, there certainly was a shift. Sure, there were still a lot of people just blogging about their lives, but there were more and more people blogging about topics. As it became known that it was possible to make money blogging, there were more people who were blogging with some sight on being able to do that, through advertising or what have you, but there was also more of the realization that “the internet is forever” and all those early memes – the ones without pictures – “Friday Five” stuff and what have you, were not just there for the eyes of the circle of people we knew, but was, slowly but surely, being hoovered up into databases and couldn’t easily be erased.
Besides this, I noticed that at a certain point, people got busy. For a lot of people, this came with getting married and having kids, but it also came with people having jobs that maybe had more responsibility or required more travelling, not wanting to share so freely online, or even having more to do with people in real life. The result, then, was a lot fewer posts.
Somewhere around 2008, I also realized that a number of people whose blogs I followed were actually a good bit older than me, say in the range of 20-30 years. These aren’t people who advertised their ages, but with following them for awhile, it became apparent. I think a couple of things that contributed to this were the following: I think these people, generally, had a little bit more time on their hands. First, even if their kids weren’t out of the house, most of them were past the age of needing the intense help kids under about 9 need on a daily basis. Secondly, they weren’t just rambling on about nothing. Even if there wasn’t a set “topic” of the blog, there still was kind of a cohesive feel to the place which often translated to the feeling of an internet community. Third, they were people who liked to write, but had still gone to school back in the day when learning how to write clearly and cohesively was still important.
One of the huge changes to the social media landscape was Facebook, which has elements of the blogging “experience”, especially from the early days, but is much, much more visual. All of a sudden, the old blogs that were primarily text-based looked quaint and behind the times. Facebook also encouraged people to “friend” people that they knew in real life, which definitely changes the dynamic, especially coupled with the heavy reliance on pictures.
Facebook is still a thing, but more and more, “influencers” are less on the blogs, per se, and more on video platforms such as Youtube or Tiktok. It is seriously amazing what sort of things people come up with to post. It is also crazy to understand how much work goes into filming and editing, even for people with modest followings. I remember, years ago, when Sarah Jeffrey of “Team Recorder” had about 25,000 followers, she said that she spent about a day a week working on a weekly video for Youtube. Also, Ariel from “That Awkward Mom” said recently that each one of her videos takes about 25 hours of work to produce.
Blogging also takes a lot of time if one is trying to do it on a regular basis and if one is trying to build up an audience or community. That being said, not everyone with something worthwhile to say has that type of time or technical expertise to be creating video content. Most of the time, when dealing with information, (as opposed to instruction) I’d rather read something than watch someone talking, though there are times when listening to it is “handier” than reading (and here you have the blog vs podcast vs youtube thing).
However, blogging itself has definitely become more of a “multimedia” experience, not only much more visual with the blogs themselves, but that blogs can embed video or can be transformed to podcasting… It’s certainly a lot different than when I started – but I also remember connecting to the internet to blog over dialup, so the huge multimedia files were not really helpful. However, I very much feel that I can hardly post something without adding photos or a YouTube embed or something to make it more visually interesting.
Another huge shift is how people read blogs. “Back in the day”, just about everybody was on an actual computer, desktop or laptop. These days, a lot of people are almost exclusively on their phones, and so the experience is somewhat different because of that. My side menus have a good number of images in them so that they look pretty even in mobile form.
Besides this, blogging is social media, but it also isn’t, and I find myself cross-posting content from here to other places; it’s not that people aren’t interested, it’s just that if they don’t see it where they are, they don’t see it. However, I’ve been avoiding using Facebook. There are still a lot of people who use it a lot, but the nature of it seems to have become toxic, if that makes sense.
I don’t know this for certain, but I think that there are fewer people who just follow blogs as a matter of course; a lot of people are working at writing to get picked up by search engines so that posts get picked up, shared, and bumped to the top of searches. I also believe that this is where a lot of the AI blogs come in – they believe that with review blogs that are written by AI that the writing is “good enough” that the quantity will matter more than the quality. But what do I know? I like to write; I’ve always liked to write, and that’s my plan here, so help me God. 🙂
Consider this part 1 of where this post is going since this is getting to be very long (for a blog post). The landscape has changed, but the “blogosphere” is definitely still part of the internet landscape.