So: Why Blog?

Blood Pen

Habits have never come easy for me. Oh, I have my tics — when I shop for clothes, for example, I always buy multiples, right down to matching colors; and I have been known to eat the same meal at the same restaurant every night for years. But regular tasks — doctor’s appointments, car checkups, basic housekeeping — just thinking about these chores exhausts me.

I began blogging over at Blogger in October 2004. I kept blogging in fits and starts for about a year: 4 long entries for September 2005, 2 for October, 2 more in November; there’s an entry for January 2006; then there’s a jump to July 2006 (3 entries); 5 more, November 2006; and the last one, promising to re-commit to regular posts, in June 2007. But clearly, there never was a Golden Age of Regular Blogging to begin with.

While I dreaded sitting down and writing the shortest, simplest entry, I was equally obsessed with re-launching, re-committing, re-dedicating…..I would focus on holidays, the beginning of the New Year, a birthday…..The less I blogged, the more I seemed to think about blogging.

So when I retired my Mac Mini in December 2007 and moved all my files to the new iMac, I decided then to begin again. And did nothing. Again.

A month ago our friend Mike, who had been letting me stash my files on his server, decided to retire his machine. Searching for alternatives, Google directed me to BlueHost, which offered me unlimited storage with 2,500 email accounts, my own domain, access to WordPress, MySQL, Postgres, Ruby on Rails, Drupal, Joomla, TikkaWiki, WikkaWiki, PmWiki, Perl, PHP…..and on and on.

Time to begin again.

Moving this blog to WordPress gave me a chance to take a closer look at those 600+ blogs that had been off my radar for almost a year. Some had folded with a sense of purpose:

My new project for 2007 will involve v-casting my enormous looming ghostly head directly into your living room so that I can harangue you and your loved ones at any hour of the day. This new form will also be available in eight-track format with a “citizens’ band.”

Others ended ominously, with hope. Over on domestically disabled, for example, I found this last post, dated March 3:

At the moment, I’m sitting on my washing machine to discourage it from roaming willy-nilly about the cottage.

Post to come, when less preoccupied. I swear.

But most just…stopped. One of my favorite blogs, Laundry Italiano, hadn’t been updated since April 2007. No goodbye, no excuses. Logging the New Reality stops in June 2006, with a picture of the author and the caption:

The courtyard is at the Livadia Palace in Yalta, the summer home of the last Russian Czar. The fountain in the back is where they placed the bench where Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin sat for their famous photo in 1945. The Yalta conference marked the start of the Cold War.

Spluch hasn’t published anything since March, when it ran a photo of false teeth for cats.

Max Ernst: Rêve d'une petite fille qui voulut entrer au Carmel

Soon all these abandoned aperçus will have merged with my dream state, and I’ll wake one night to find a snippet of film slowly melting: a washing machine careening down the Odessa Steps, Shelley Duvall perched precariously on top; Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin, a toboggan entente, holding on tightly behind; and all along the staircase, buxom Italian women on ladders tending trees filled with wet laundry and clacking their tiny cat teeth. (Wait! Maybe I can v-cast my dreams directly into yours! Post to come. I swear.)

Googling the phrase “stop blogging” gets 171,000 hits: Ten Reasons Why I Should Stop Blogging; Should I Stop Blogging? 20 Questions to Ask Yourself; 29 reasons you need to stop blogging right now; Why Bloggers Stop Blogging; How to Know When to Stop Blogging; Stop Blogging and Get to Work; etc. The tract “What Everyone Should Know About Blog Depression” (Loss of pleasure in the Internet; feelings of sadness, disappointment, anger, self loathing, hopelessness, dementia; passive aggressive moaning and a steady lengthening of the interval between posts) is now three years old. And why shouldn’t people be depressed? According to a recent study (via Jakob Nielsen via grow-a-brain) visitors to websites on the average read only 20% of the text; 28% tops. People starting blogs only to abandon them within months, or even weeks, is such a commonplace that you’re surprised this hasn’t become a a ubiquitous trope on sitcoms. (Neatorama actually discovered — via J-Walk — a blog of blogs with one post only.) Where indeed are the reality shows where the participants, instead of holding out to the last “What have we learned?” episode, instead wander off seriatim, not so much called back to real life as completely unsprung by despair.

Which of course begs the question: why blog at all?

The Blogosphere

One of the best explanations I’ve read is this, from a talk given by Caleb Crain (via Prettier Than Napoleon). Citing Goffman’s The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, Crain writes: “Our tools up here include our words, our facial expressions, and our clothes, and every sign we give, or inadvertently give off, has, according to Goffman, ‘a promissory character’. In other words, while we speak, you’re going to be trying to decide whether we live up to the promise our words and manner imply.” He also writes:

I’ve kept a blog for several years, and although its readership is tiny, I of course notice when the hits rise and fall. I seem to get more readers when I post frequently, when I write about people or topics in the headlines, when I have been drawn into a conflict, and when I write something that speaks to a self-image that a group of people share. Over the years I’ve gradually revealed more personal details; I still reveal very little, comparatively, but enough to entitle me to say that I feel a tug there, too. Perhaps the tugs that I feel are a better data source, come to think of it, than my blog’s underemployed hit counter. If I were to interpret those tugs, I would say that writing on the internet tends to be more popular when it satisfies the reader’s wish to be connected—the wish not to miss out. The writer, too, may have such a wish. I admit that I love it when another blog links to mine; there is great consolation in the feeling of having a posse.

Chris HodgeMick Jagger, who may or may not have been thinking of Goffman, said: “The only performance that makes it, that really makes it, that makes it all the way, is the one that achieves madness.” I can’t speak to Crain’s mental state, but I suspect that underlying the logorrhea of Smart and Wolgamot was a yearning, albeit extreme, for Crain’s “groupiness.” I can remember, back in the 80s, swamping my friends with thick packages of magazine and newspaper clippings. The information kept coming in faster and faster, demanding to be routed, filtered, commented on and rebroadcast. And now, 20 years later, I feel most like a meat puppet shot through with an electric current.

John Clare, another committed poet, wrote in a letter:

I am in a Madhouse and quite forget your Name or who you are you must excuse me for I have nothing to communicate or tell of and why I am shut up I don’t know I have nothing to say so I conclude, Yours respectfully, John Clare.

The real danger is not blogging or not blogging: the Black Dog is having nothing left to say.


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7 Responses to “So: Why Blog?”

  1. Gravatar of Mark Evans Mark Evans
    4. July 2008 at 12:45

    Dr. Johnson,

    Great post. I’ve been thinking along the same lines recently. In particular, I wonder whether there comes a time when you know that it’s time to stop a blog and/or stopping blogging. Do blogs have best-until dates?

    Interesting.

    Mark

  2. Gravatar of A Blogger’s Life: Why Blog and When Do You Stop Blogging? « Lorelle on WordPress A Blogger’s Life: Why Blog and When Do You Stop Blogging? « Lorelle on WordPress
    18. July 2008 at 07:20

    [...] Blogger’s Life: Why Blog and When Do You Stop Blogging? Dr. Johnson’s Cat asks “So: Why Blog?”, a question that plagues many bloggers, wanna be bloggers, and wish-they-weren’t bloggers. [...]

  3. Gravatar of reasonable robinson reasonable robinson
    19. July 2008 at 18:38

    Lurking beneath the ‘rationalised’ reasons for blogging, such as anonymous self expressions, ego-centric self expression, self promotion, professional writing, monetizing etc is something that is rarely mentioned…blogging’s complusive and potentially addictive nature.

    I spent many years in the Gambling business and began blogging a year ago for professional academic interest to get a grip on this social phenomenon. One thing struck me immediately. The interelationship between the ‘expenditure’ of effort and creativity in posting and the metrics that can be tracked. What we have here is one of the most powerfully addictive reinforcement schedules – the intermittent variable reinforcement schedule. Vegas is built on it!

    This works on the blogger through the variety of ‘hits’/visistor numbers on any given day and the irregularity of visitors, such that bloggers ‘chase’ visitor numbers. Little and often stimulates the blogger to keep going and then a rare big hit aka jackpot only serves to feed the compulsion. Not only that we have the ‘Bloggers Fallacy’ which runs something like ‘just one post, just one more, this is going to be the one that scores!’ And finally we have the ‘Illusion of control’ – the blogsophere is crammed with advice on how to generate traffic and build visistor numbers – loads of heuristics and not much proof, just like all those tips on how to ‘beat the system’. That’s why I always rub my keyboard with a rabbits foot and never type in green :)

  4. Gravatar of Why Should I Blog?: Talkin’ ‘Bout My Generation « Trinity’s World Why Should I Blog?: Talkin’ ‘Bout My Generation « Trinity’s World
    21. July 2008 at 10:53

    [...] about. I was readingLorrel On WordPress where she was highlighting a post on another blog called “So: Why Blog”. The post was by Dr. Johnson’s Cat and was a reflection on how his personal blog journey has [...]

  5. Gravatar of arvind arvind
    22. July 2008 at 13:09

    I see a cycle. I see a rush of ideas waiting to explode at times. And other times, completely dry and senseless. Since it has happened so many times, I accept this as natural cycle for any blogger. Good post.

  6. Gravatar of RodeWorks » Why Blog? RodeWorks » Why Blog?
    24. July 2008 at 11:18

    [...] So: Why Blog? | Dr. Johnson’s Cat [...]

  7. Gravatar of A Blogger’s Life: Why Blog and When Do You Stop Blogging? A Blogger’s Life: Why Blog and When Do You Stop Blogging?
    25. July 2008 at 16:42

    [...] Dr. Johnson’s Cat asks “So: Why Blog?”, a question that plagues many bloggers, wanna be bloggers, and wish-they-weren’t bloggers. Why do we keep on blogging when the fun drains away. And what keeps bringing us back. Googling the phrase “stop blogging” gets 171,000 hits: Ten Reasons Why I Should Stop Blogging; Should I Stop Blogging? 20 Questions to Ask Yourself; 29 reasons you need to stop blogging right now; Why Bloggers Stop Blogging; How to Know When to Stop Blogging; Stop Blogging and Get to Work; etc. The tract “What Everyone Should Know About Blog Depression” (Loss of pleasure in the Internet; feelings of sadness, disappointment, anger, self loathing, hopelessness, dementia; passive aggressive moaning and a steady lengthening of the interval between posts) is now three years old. And why shouldn’t people be depressed? According to a recent study (via Jakob Nielsen via grow-a-brain) visitors to websites on the average read only 20% of the text; 28% tops. People starting blogs only to abandon them within months, or even weeks, is such a commonplace that you’re surprised this hasn’t become a a ubiquitous trope on sitcoms. Where indeed are the reality shows where the participants, instead of holding out to the last “What have we learned?” episode, instead wander off seriatim, not so much called back to real life as completely unsprung by despair. [...]

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