The Rise of the Blog

The below is an article my good friend Amanda Reese and I collaborated on for CultureWest, but again, like the previous post, the whole magazine was axed before our article had a chance to be published/posted. This is not a funny post, and it is rather formal compared to what you’ve been used to getting here, but Reese and I worked hard on it, and it deserves to be shown somewhere. So here it is.

Facebook. Twitter. Blogosphere. Five years ago, most people had never heard of these words. A few people, perhaps aspiring writers or journalists, kept blogs, but Facebook was just starting up, and Twitter wasn’t even on the radar. In these days of instant updates and fast-paced media, the “state of the blogosphere” is becoming a new source of fascination that not even the most technologically advanced mind could have fathomed. To many, the rise of such outlets on the Internet is a frightening sign of the decay of our society. But for most, the newest wave of technology is refreshing and full of unending possibilities, continuing to find ways to bring people together faster.

The advancement of e-mail and texting continues to prove that human beings crave connection. What’s the point of writing a Facebook status update? Why the need to text? Because we all desire information, and the quicker the better. But before Facebook, before Twitter, before texting and e-mail, there was pen and paper. It’s interesting that putting a stamp on a postcard and placing it into a blue box is now considered snail mail. What was at one point the most effective way of receiving information is now almost a thing of the past. And much like sending an e-mail or updating your Facebook profile is preferred to mailing a letter, many people choose to keep an online blog rather than writing in a journal or notebook. Why? Because it’s an easier way to make a connection. It’s a faster way to write a story and get it out there for everyone to see.

In December 2004, almost five years ago, Technorati, a well-known source for quarterly “State of the Blogosphere” reports, tracked 23,000 new blogs daily. As of April 2007, Technorati was tracking more than 70 million weblogs; that’s 120,000 new blogs created worldwide each day. Or, to put it more simply, 1.4 blogs created every second (http://www.stephanspencer.com/blogging/blogging-stats).

Not surprisingly, the creation of and posting on blogs jumps up dramatically during the summer months. People are out doing things and seeing people and generally have more to write about (http://www.sifry.com/alerts/archives/000493.html April 2007).

Blogs are also quickly becoming a viable source for news and other information on a broader level. While blogs are still used as a sort of personal diary, there are many other uses as well. Blogs have also become a place for commentary on current events and hot topics from around the globe—politics, celebrity gossip, religion and the newest president, just to name a few. It’s clear that we like things bigger and faster than the day before. Today’s news can spread with the push of a few buttons, and we no longer need a phone call to update someone on our current status, which poses the question: Does human interaction have to be face to face? Not anymore; and just as “snail mail” is being replaced by the convenience of e-mail, are blogs also replacing books?

Aside from blogs, the newest wave in book technology is the electronic reading device—the most popular of which is certainly Amazon.com’s Kindle—by which readers can download entire books electronically to a handheld device and read (virtually) wherever they are. With the rise in popularity of these devices as well as the rise of blogs, are we seeing the end of printed books as we know them? Are books being edged out slowly, eventually to become a rumored piece of history, a mere story the elders tell to enthrall the children? And what hand are blogs having in this online–physical-print struggle?

A cursory perusal of the most heavily trafficked blogs on the Internet may yield an interesting trend. At first glance, the shorter the post, the more comments a blogger seems to get. Since we are finding new and quicker ways to send and receive information, skimming and glancing are of the essence, and posts that get to the point appear to be what readers prefer. Is this a positive trend, or is it something that will eventually cause all English teachers to revolt? With emphasis on shortquick, are grammar, syntax and style being sacrificed? After all, blog and -post comments are rife with common text lingo, such as atm (at the moment), imho (in my honest opinion), b/c (because) and btw (by the way). Beyond that, concern over the correct use of your and you’re becomes obsolete because both are effectively communicated by typing ur. While grammarians and English teachers worldwide are cringing over such blatant disregard for a beautiful language that appears to be going the way of the once elegant and revered language of ancient Rome, there is no need to revolt just yet.

For yes, anyone who can manage to navigate a computer and the Internet can create and maintain a blog. But if one spends even more time perusing the blogosphere, one will learn something entirely different: Well-written blogs can become just as popular as short-post blogs. The sheer number of comments on long, well-written blog posts appearing on such popular blogs as Waiter Rant (www.waiterrant.net) or Attack of the Redneck Mommy (theredneckmommy.com) or Starting Over at 24 (startingoverat24.blogspot.com) proves that there are still readers out there (and many of them!) who prefer the intelligent use of language to speed.

So what do these popular bloggers write about? And how do they get so popular (besides a talent for writing, that is)? An even closer scrutiny may prove that themed blogs are generally preferred by readers over blogs that seem to have no specific purpose or focus.

To use the aforementioned examples, Waiter Rant is a blog dedicated to sharing what it’s like to be an underpaid, professional waiter in New York City. The blog was so wildly popular that the previously anonymous writer and maintainer, Steve Dublanica (formerly known as just The Waiter), was asked to emerge from the shadows of anonymity to compile a book, which he did—Waiter Rant: Thanks for the Tip—Confessions of a Cynical Waiter—and which was released in 2008.

Attack of the Redneck Mommy and Starting Over at 24 have not yet achieved that kind of fame, but they are both still prominent in their own right in the virtual world, amassing large amounts of followers and subscribers that most flash-in-the-pan bloggers could never hope to attain. Redneck Mommy keeps her audience entertained with humorous, cynical commentary on her frazzled but lovable home life, and the writer of Starting Over at 24 (who generally just calls himself SO) has gained his following (of mostly women) by writing on the perils of modern-day dating, while being able to make fun of himself and his own failures.

All of these blogs seem to thrive because they are real, well written and vulnerable. The writers willingly make themselves vulnerable by sharing intimate details from their lives, and vulnerability is the factor that creates human connection more quickly than anything else—save perhaps humor, which is also a prevalent element in each of these blogs.

In the end, people who actively participate in the blogosphere are still looking for only one thing—human connection. Status updates, Facebook friend requests and blogs. Where will we be five years from now? Odds are, we will all be still writing, still talking, still communicating with our fellow man. We won’t stop wanting to know what’s happening in the world around us, nor will we stop wanting to share our dreams, thoughts and daily lives with anyone who will listen (or read). And even though older generations might not necessarily understand what they view as the impersonability of the online social networking world, it remains clear that blogs, whether themed or un-themed, short or long, are just another (albeit much more high tech) avenue of feeding that connection we all inherently crave.

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