*clears throat, steps up to the podium, taps microphone*
We should all get back to blogging. Listen, I know. I know. It’s blogging. It’s old. It’s telegrams and buggy whips. I get it, I feel you, you’re probably not wrong, but here is a counterpoint:
Our choices for social media are occasionally hellish, and are arguably helping to hasten our collective destruction. Don’t get it twisted, social media also helps us become more informed and entertained — mis/disinformation spreads like norovirus, but good information moves fast, too. I just don’t know which one moves faster, and that’s a grim race I can hardly bear to consider. Point is, though, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, they’re a place you go — like a bar, it’s frequently fun, occasionally interesting, often loud and deranged and usually full of one corner of belligerent drunken assholes who won’t leave you alone. (Unlike a bar, it’s also full of sock puppets and bots. So I guess it’s like a weird sci-fi muppet bar staffed by droids? Fuck, I don’t know, I think I’m losing the thread of the conversation here.)
What I mean is —
Those social media sites are external.
They aren’t yours.
Maybe collectively they can be ours, if we claim them, but just the same: we lack actual ownership. But you need a place to call your own. A place to which you can escape. A place to call home.
And so I present to you —
*wheels out rickety-ass cart with squeaky wheels*
*whips off the blanket covering it*
*inside is a janky old pile of blog*
*does a clumsy pirouette*
Remember those? Remember this place, right here, the one you’re reading? Holy shit, it’s a blog*! Did you even realize you were witnessing such rara avis as a gods-danged blog? That’s right, it’s a “weblog” or “web journal” — not quite as antiquated as a dial-up BBS (and you bet your sweet ass I’d go back to SysOpping one of those if I could), yet still feels like a relic of a bygone era. Most hot takes are done on Twitter. Most cold takes are done on Facebook. Instagram is where you see the pretty pictures. Mastodon is where you go for 10 minutes when you’re fed up with Twitter, then you go back to Twitter because now you remember why you don’t go to Mastodon. Livejournal is where you to go buy Russian dick pills, I think? I dunno. Point is, blogs feel like raggedy junk piles — crashed star destroyers and X-Wings in the Jakku graveyard. Even the name sound awful. BLOOOOG. BLAAAAAHG. BLOOORRRRG. It’s onomatopoeiac: a regurgitative sound, the sound of a dog horking up whatever weird yard garbage it ate.
Here is why we should all get back to writing and reading blogs again:
a) Because Fuck Twitter And Facebook
I mean, c’mon.
b) Because We Need Our Attention Spans Back
Remember being able to read something that took you more than two, three minutes to consume? Not just one glib tweet, not just an article you reshare because you peeped the headline and that’s probably good enough, not some SASSY MEME or ANIMATORTED GIF FILE. Wasn’t that fun? Not having the attention span of a high-anxiety, cocaine-sniffing chipmunk?
c) Because Nuance Is Good, Actually
You can’t build complex flavors on Twitter. It’s social Doritos, man. Delicious. Tasty crunch. Fast to consume. You can’t layer in complexity, though — it’s pretty much just a nacho cheese salt bomb in terms of content. You want nuance, you need more than 240 characters. Yes, Twitter has threading, and I like threads, but it’s still a string of popcorn more than it is a proper meal.
d) Because You Own It
It’s nice to own your stuff. You don’t really own your content on other sites. Okay, yes, technically you kinda do — but trust me when I tell you, the government has ruled that those sites own your shit. Why? So they can petition those places for your info. Twitter doesn’t claim to, or want to, own your shit, but the government says they do anyway, which creates a somewhat sticky situation, legally-speaking. As a person who has literally had tweets turned into a movie, lemme just say: this complicates things. So, as a writer, I note to other writers especially: owning your space, having an Online Place to call your own, is actually pretty great.
e) Because You Control It
I moderate this space. It is not a troll bridge. I control what I say here and who can say what in return. Now, true, Twitter looks to be instituting more robust controls for content posters, which is actually a positive by my metric. So, yay. Just the same, I can institute control over how the information is seen, dispensed, and commented upon without being at the mercy of any kind of giant company, especially one that seems to care very little about the presence of Nazis and a whole lot about the hurt feelings of Nazis. Also, one mis-step on Twitter or one mob campaign can get you suspended or banned outright, losing access to your entire bank of content and access to all your earned friends/followers.
f) Because People Quit Other Social Media Platforms Like They’re Bad Habits
It’s a constant refrain of people saying, “I gotta get off of [insert social media platform here] because it’s bad for me, bad for the world,” whatever. But nobody ever quits blogs. It’s like quitting vegetables. They’re just good for you. Probably. Maybe. Shut up and eat your WORD CABBAGE, jerks.
g) Because It Is Good Writing Practice
This one is for writers expressly, but it’s actually a really good place to churn words and develop a voice, a habit, a feel for language. Twitter is good for jokes, but not long-form content, and most of what writers will actually get paid for is longform content. Not a bad place to cut your teeth. And what the fuck does that mean, anyway? “Cut your teeth.” How would you even cut a tooth, anyway? Scroll saw? Laser torch? Don’t cut teeth, you barbarian. Your teeth are fine the way they are.
h) Because Blogs Can Also Be Newsletters
Newsletters are a new niche hotness, but you can have it both ways: this blog, if you subscribe, becomes a newsletter. Comes right to your email. Oooh. Fancy. High-tech. Mmm.
Of course, blogs have some downsides, too.
You don’t get an instantaneous response, for one. I tweet something and it’s chum in the water — it’s snappy, responsive, lickety-quick. Sometimes you write a blog and… maybe it sits a while. You’ve gone fishing and best put on your PATIENCE PANTS. It’s also not as sexy as Twitter — it’s still the hottest club in town, which means all the COOL PEOPLE are there, even though also all the AWFUL PEOPLE are there, too. For writers, this can feel like there’s less influence in blogs, but it’s also worth noting that publishers, agents and freelance clients might actually want to see some of your work on display. And though I’ve certainly gotten a lot of work over Twitter (Star Wars, the movie, theoretically a portion of my publishing career in general), the blog has long-formed the foundation of my so-called “platform.” (Hate that term, but when I say it, you know what I mean.)
It’s also, if done right, costly — compared to, say, free social media. Which means what I’m suggesting is a privileged option for many. There are of course free ways to go bloggy or do newsletters, just make sure you own what you put up, and be aware what happens if the service shits the bed on you. I own this blog, its domain, and I pay for the hosting (which is not cheap, regrettably), but I know what goes here is mine. I back it all up, and keep it going, and it’s all mine, miiiine, MIIIIIINE MOO HOO HA HA HA ahem. But I’m also trying to justify that by now convincing you all that blogs are a really good idea, and not at all antiquated, but please ignore the selfishness of my request and hie thee hence to the blog factory.
Blogs: they’re not just for breakfast anymore.
Anyway, let’s blog. Let’s blog together! Or at least come read my stupid blog, which will continue on being what it will be in the year 2020 — I’m gonna try to get back here and write more longform content. Hope you’ll join me. Feel free to subscribe. And if you want to help pay for it, then buy my books, like Wanderers, which I hear is maybe good? Books: they’re like blogs, but older and longer!
(If you want a good example lately of blogging working for an author, look no further than this very hilarious blog post about designer dogs by author Janel Comeau. I don’t think it’d work in Twitter format, honestly. But now I know who she is! Yay, blogs.)
* for an additional “holy shit,” recognize that I started this very blog in October of the YEAR TWO THOUSAND, which is to say, in nine months this fucker will damn near be old enough to drink, which really does mean I’m old, doesn’t it? fuuuuuuuuck
* * *
WANDERERS: A Novel, out now.
A decadent rock star. A deeply religious radio host. A disgraced scientist. And a teenage girl who may be the world’s last hope. An astonishing tapestry of humanity that Harlan Coben calls “a suspenseful, twisty, satisfying, surprising, thought-provoking epic.”
A sleepwalking phenomenon awakens terror and violence in America. The real danger may not be the epidemic, but the fear of it. With society collapsing—and an ultraviolent militia threatening to exterminate them—the fate of the sleepwalkers and the shepherds who guide them depends on unraveling the mystery behind the epidemic. The terrifying secret will either tear the nation apart—or bring the survivors together to remake a shattered world.