I was struck to get a significant mention in a recent post on Jim’s blog (Rebuilding the blogging village). Struck not because I was mentioned at all (though that is surprising, as my digital footprint begins to get fainter as my time gets taken up with a variety of other things), but struck because of this quote:
Our small blogging village has been following Thomas for a number of years. We have learned about his university experiences and then his progressive move into teaching.
This was something I hadn’t thought of at all. Similarly, this quote:
As with Thomas, we came to know each other as people, not just individual posts.
actually really hit a spot in me.
I should warn folks now that this post is going to be largely self-indulgent, sappy, and altogether meaningless for those outside of what Jim has accurately described as the ‘blogging village’.
But returning to the main focus of this post. Jim had actually raised a point that I had thought of much, but addressed very little. The fact that there are ‘digital bonds’ that exist between people within the e-communities. I look at the people in my life (that aren’t my family, of course) and look at who I have known (in some significant way or another) and the ‘blogging village’ actually occupy a number of the longest-known spots.
Whether this is a reflection on my socialising skills or a testament to the loyalty of the people I have ‘met’ through blogging, I don’t really know. But I generally think it’s the loyalty of those people I have met.
Irrespective, I have now known some of these people for some five years, going into six. That, in my mind, is quite a significant amount of time. I imagine that the type of ‘friendship’ that we all have is only possible online, as offline friendships require much more maintanence and cultivating. And with the amount of times I’ve said I will write a post (and not), or said I would return to blogging (and not), or promised someone something to do with blogging (and not delivered), in a real world setting I’m sure I’d be cut off.
Yet, I still have people dragging themselves to my blog, expecting something. I guess I had a few good years that get people back. The past couple of years have not been stellar here. In fact, they have been quite lame. Quite simply, I tried to spread myself over too much toast.
I can trace my own decline in blogging in fact. It might not actually be as simple as people think. Yes, it does have something to do with my expanding presence on various social media outlets, but there is more to it.
In June 2008, I first signed up for Facebook (mainly as a result of my trip to the US and an attempt to stay in contact and exchange photos). My blogging didn’t immediately decrease. In fact, I maintained a pretty healthy posting rate through to 2009. February of 2009, however, is where the drought began here. Towards the end of 2009 I had a few consistent months, but even they were 10-15 posts a month, which dropped off too.
The thing that happened in February 2009 though? I had my first honours meeting. While I was still able to bounce back after practicums for my education degree, exam periods for the arts degree, and just general periods of business, I was never able to regain my momentum from a year-long commitment to (*shudder*) academia.
I had never taken university serious to that point. Sure, I had taken pride in my results. And I had worried about failing and not failing. But, for the most part (and I am now not ashamed to say it), I treated university like it was a process, maybe even a factory to get my piece of paper. I hardly think of education as that kind of process, but I generally think of university (which, to me, isn’t education proper) like this.
Anyway, the first time where I had to actually care and focus and think about university, things just naturally dropped off. I wasn’t about to quit work, so that stayed (and, in fact, I picked up more hours). I wasn’t about to stop (what was, at the time) watching movies religiously (I had a reason). And, as it was the new ‘toy’, Facebook became a top priority (I was playing a lot of games on it in those days, as well as updating my status waaaay too much). So in between all that, and university, the blogging just died.
Now before we attribute all the ‘blame’ to this, I would also like to paint you the narrative of what was happening at the time when it came to my number one passion: politics. I’ll be the first to admit that I bought into the whole “We’ll change the world” stuff that both Kevin Rudd and Barack Obama brough to their campaigns. Called it wide-wyed optimism, call it niavity, call it first-time blindness. It was what it was, and I believed it.
In 2009, Kevin Rudd was losing his shine. Little did we know that it was the start to what would end up being him getting turfed by his own party. Sure, we had had all those symbolic things he promised (National Apology, Kyoto), but were the great big changes we were promised? We were still living in a 1990’s Australia, and I was (unfairly) expecting to be thrown into a 2000’s Australia overnight.
Similarly, in 2009 I started to realise that no matter what the slogans, and the promises, and the ‘greatness’, it was going to be business as usual in Washington, DC, with Obama. I thought that … I don’t know. Maybe a single man could change a political culture? Maybe a political party would take political risks? Maybe things would change (not immediately, but progressively). I don’t know what I expected, but I expected more than what we got come the end of 2009. The first year in government was largely uneventful.
When we look at 2010, it was downright depressing if you were an Obama fan.
This ‘fall into reality’ naturally lead to a decline in the ‘passion’ to blog. When the US healthcare debate was raging, I put up some significant posts, but that was it. I didn’t have the passion to blog about politics anymore. Well, not in any meaningful way. Only with, say, 140 characters at a time.
Yes, it was some time in 2010 that I got Twitter, and that provided me an outlet to put the randoms thoughts (that would normally be consolidated into significant blog posts) out into the Internet without nearly as much effort as required for a blog post.
In 2010, it was like there was a perfect storm. Facebook was still very important to me, then came Twitter as a way to communicate (and not to receive information for later processing, like Jim and Neil seem to do), and I was simply too busy (while having finished my honours (first class, by the way, which put me into the final 3 to win the university medal*, but I was now either doing 4 x7 hour university days, or working (teaching and restauranting) 7 days a week) to spare more time to a hobby (blogging) that I had largely lost passion for.
Sure, the passion fired up every now and then. I would say I was coming back, and wouldn’t. I would write the start to a great post, and it would end up in the drafts. I’d comment on someone’s blog, and would do no follow up. I was disappointed in myself every time I did this (really, I was), but I could never muster the fire that got me posting like a trooper from 2007-2009.
Eventually, as 2010 got past the halfway point, I completely changed the way I was using social media. Facebook was a shell to me. I hardly use it now. I realised I had been using that (largely) as a psychological outlet – expressing all sorts of things that I really shouldn’t have. Somewhere in 2010, I went back through my whole history of Facebook and deleted a heck of a lot of my fingerprints. I now really only update my status with references to something important going on, references to The Office, and sharing videos and links with people.
Twitter went from being a way to put my words out there to a platform for communication. Then it changed again, and it’s me putting out a formulated message for the most part. The ‘randomness’ isn’t there anymore. You can actually pick out my voice, I feel.
But the blog still languished. After all the suggestions on what to do with the blog (a distraction from honours, a way to develop my thesis, a place to reflect on teaching, an escape from teaching, etc.), I hadn’t actually done anything with it. The blog was nearly dead, only to be revived with the very rare post a couple times a month.
I still think of great posts, and I have a raft of drafts and ideas that would really kick-start a lot of conversations. But the problem is is that I really don’t have that drive anymore. Maybe it’s not just that. I don’t have the time I used to have to do all the research, and I hate putting up posts that are anything less than 1000 words. Maybe it’s that I’m lazy. Maybe it’s that I don’t think in anything longer than 140 characters anymore.
I don’t really know what it is, but I know that I don’t want the blog to die. One day it might get revived. One day it might return to its glory days. But, right now? I don’t know. I have a few ideas on how to kick-start it, but they require effort and time – neither of which I seem to have excess of!
*I ended up in contention of the university medal, and was the highest ranked male on the list. I was third in the end in my degree.