What if instead of keeping a written diary or journal, someone offered you a free software package that allowed you to do the same at your computer; and instead of storing your writing on your computer and having to transfer files every time you bought a new machine, it allowed you to store your thoughts in the cloud, where they could also be accessed by friends and family?
That’s the theory behind the original weblogs — later shortened to blogs — such as the one you’re reading right now, and names like Blogspot and WordPress, and SquareSpace became synonymous with being able to do this in a time when the new meanings of words such as “share” and “like” hadn’t been fully developed. Blogging also replaced the Bulletin Board (or BBS) means of posting information to a wider audience (which is why foreign spammers often use the word ‘board’ in their message) and also absorbed people whose sense of online community was previously developed in online forums or chat rooms (in an age when that term didn’t only have sexual connotations).
In the last 12-24 months however, we’ve seen a big change not only in blogging, but in the various other forms of social media that have arrived more recently. As I said a few days ago, you can only be creative on so many fronts at once, and some great writers online have gravitated to fortune-cookie-length writing on Twitter, while others simply say it with pictures on Instagram. But as time goes by, platforms get corrupted as the purveyors of the free programs need to show revenue to satisfy their personal bottom line or the demands of shareholders.
Thus, you’re seeing advertising on this page you never saw before. At least I think you are. I use Firefox as my browser with the AdBlock add-on, so I don’t see advertising here or anywhere else. But WordPress will remove it entirely if I pay them $30 per year. Or at least, $30 for this year, with fees certainly due to rise. And on the Facebook page for my small business, that company is now asking for $5 every time I write something, or $30 per post, if I really want it “boosted.”
My online diary lately, for lack of a better word, has been my Twitter account. But even there, the emails I receive from them seem obsessed with the idea of me building a following, and sometimes I get people following me on the chance I will go to their Twitter and follow them, and then quietly un-following (there’s no email notification for that) once enough time has passed, or they realize they didn’t really care what I had to say.
Blog comments (even the good ones) and Twitter ‘follows’ are essentially a new form of spam. Not in all cases, but many times.
We want to be heard. We want to be seen. We want to be somebody. We want to have significance.
Of the writing of blogs there is no end. Literally. In my quest for daily content at Christianity 201, there seem to be as many blogs — even faith-based ones — as there are grains of sand on the beach. The promise to Abraham is fulfilled, online.
So many voices screaming into the wind.
Still, words communicate. People are listening. You can have a part in what they hear. If the Butterfly Effect can be proven, it can be proven online. Someone writes something and the internet gods are smiling and the article goes viral. Got a video that reached 25,000,000 views? You’re tomorrow’s next author. (To be clear, not undeservedly so; not everyone makes it to Thomas Nelson.)
As I write this, I am active on WordPress (4 times over), Twitter, and manage a Facebook Page (for our business, under my wife’s account) and YouTube. Each has a different audience and a different purpose. I do, in fact write to be heard. I do want people to listen because I feel I have something to offer. But I recognize that I am one of millions of voices screaming into that windstorm.
However, I also recognize that the social media landscape changes rapidly from month to month (even day to day) and if God puts it into your heart to be a communicator — or an influencer – you have to navigate the current and be willing to adapt.