Coincidentally, after my previous post mentioning both Marco Arment and Google Reader, Marco himself dismally speculated that Reader’s dissolution in the summer of 2013 coincides with a global cessation of growth among blogs’ readership.
And coincidentally with that, I just earlier this evening asked my classics-loving partner if she saw how Kate Beaton riffed on Achilles today, to which she replied “You know I don’t read online comics any more, right?” Not since Google Reader went away, and the prospect of re-learning how to manage RSS feeds looks quite washed out against the floodlights of Twitter and Facebook. And I know that if she, a typically busy information professional, feels that way, then so do countless others.
I can’t disagree with this trend — the circumstantial evidence seems undeniable — but I do push back against it, starting with a motivation no more revolutionary than simple self-improvement. For the past year or more, I have been nodding at the growing meme that a media diet comprising only social media resembles a daily menu of only snacks and desserts, filling the mind — and one’s time — but providing very unbalanced nutrition. And this cuts in the other direction too, when it comes to writing; to quote a less gloomy Marco post from a few months ago:
Too much of my writing in the last few years has gone exclusively into Twitter. I need to find a better balance.
I don’t think avoiding Twitter is pragmatic if your audience is there, but it’s also unwise to dump all of your writing into bite-size pieces that are almost immediately skimmed over, forgotten, and lost to the vast depth of the mostly unsearchable, practically inaccessible Twitter archive.
Twitter is a complementary medium to blogging, but it’s not a replacement.
To the observation that I certainly do seem to link to Mr. Arment a lot lately, I can only nod and say that, well, clearly, I just don’t read enough blogs. So: I yesterday opened up my neglected copy of ReadKit to spend a goodly while hosing out all the feeds that I don’t really want to read right now, or the feeds that haven’t updated in years; I didn’t count, but I must have ripped out half of them, amounting to dozens. I’ve added a couple of new feeds since then, and hope to continue adding more.
I intend to start opening my feed-reader on my phone before tapping on Tweetbot, just to see how that feels for a while. I have also given myself permission to skip over dozens or hundreds of tweets at a time, whenever I do open Tweetbot and discover a three-digit number floating up top. I could easily spend an hour or more on my back, phone in hand, munching through my whole timeline, paying minimal attention to each tweet just for the sake of choking the whole thing down. Again. I want to try not doing this, for the time being.
And, obviously, I have for the last couple of months been blogging rather more than I have in quite some time. (I feel a little self-conscious that so much of my blogging is about blogging, but so goes novelty; I really do intend to cap that to a minimum over time. For one thing, I look forward to continuing to log the books I’ve been reading more often lately as a side-effect of my recent Twitter tune-down.)
Twitter first clicked for me, years ago, when my friend Doug correctly suggested it had more in common with a chat room than a blog. Inevitably, of course, I started using it like a blog anyway, for both reading and writing, and it took me a long time to notice, much less feel bad about it.
It’s time to recalibrate, for my own health. I hardly feel like part of any global “back to blogs” movement this way, but I do feel confident that blogs on the whole will stay with us, and that middle-to-longer-form writing is good for me, allowing me to write more often in a voice much realer than that which whips away into the twitterwind. By sensibly complementing my blogging with continued, mindful use of social media — the little bluebird-buttons all over this page aren’t there by accident — I might even manage to build a new audience for this voice, too.