As I ponder my future and (eventual) next steps in the journey of life, work, and creativity, I find myself trying to turn back the clock and blog as if it was 2001. Well, despite my Sisyphean doggedness, it is 2022. And today was not yesterday.
According to Jane Friedman, blogging (and, by extension, online writing) has changed. She writes about the online writing trends, culture, and publishing industry in her newsletter, The Hot Sheet. The informal, journaling approach to blogging that felt as natural as breathing air for me is gone. Instead, you need to focus if you want to have any impact. Friedman notes:
Instead, for blogging: Think about the potential value and longevity of the content and why people might be compelled to share it with others. Blog content, despite being free, should offer some of your most iconic and impressive material to be noticed and competitive.…If you have little or no consistency in what you’re writing, it’s difficult to create impressions or opportunities around the work you want to be known for—or earn a living from.
For conversation and musings, head over to one of the many Social Media channels. While I agree with Friedman about her accurate prognosis on blogs and blogging, I disagree with her suggestion that we should continue to embrace social media for social interactions. Twitter originated as a way to share status updates, a behavior common among the users of AOL Instant Messenger. It was social signaling among friends and, as such, had very social. It was later tweaked to work on the web and allowed people to share links amongst other objects. That eventually led to it becoming a hub of attention. Facebook, seeing Twitter’s early success, also went down that route.
The Social Internet’s roots were communal but evolved into media once Social Internet companies figured out that they needed to become creators and accelerators of attention to make money. It has brought us to today — where everything is about attention: getting it and then keeping everyone hooked to it.
Social media is a delusion. In his book, Get Rich or Lie Trying, British journalist Symeon Brown points out:
“….social media encourages us to glamorize ourselves and misrepresent our reality as it introduces a profit motive into our social lives, with a profound impact on the way we behave.”
We are living in an endless scroll of spiel. Whether it is Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, or LinkedIn — it is all a cesspool of self-promotion and pseudo-marketing. It is not about conversations as much as about posturing and shouting. (From the archives: Why do you have to share?)
The nature of social media is such that normals find our attention being colonized by the extreme rich, the loudest, and the uber narcissists. It is the cross we have to bear because we have embraced platforms that are driven by simplistic algorithms to do one thing – make money.
It is pretty straightforward that the future of the social Internet is not in scale but intimacy. I have found myself turning more and more to private Discord servers and Telegram Groups for conversations, especially in groups with established identities. For deeper domain-specific conversations, I find myself engaging in arcane Reddit communities, whether they are about Leica cameras, fountain pens, or the art of journaling.
I have an outline of what I want to do next — and you can bet that conversations and sociability will be at the heart of it.
April 12, 2022. San Francisco