Once I had decided that I was going to do NaBloPoMo this year, I had a lot of decisions to make about the logistics of blogging in 2013: where would I post the entries I was writing; where would I find prompts for days when I had no set topic to write about or for ideas that needed some kind of framework, etc… When I was looking around online at the tools and platforms available for bloggers right now, i realized that the landscape of blogging had changed a great deal in the past few years.
And it’s definitely changed a lot since I started my first blog in about 1998. My first blog wasn’t really a blog at all, but just a personal website that I built when I was in high school. CoMmOnLoGiC’s DeN (it was very cool to alternate upper and lower case letters back then) was created using Netscape Composer and was basically my platform for trying to show how grown up and sophisticated I was. I had a category of pages devoted to my favourite poems (I actually typed out many poems from anthologies to post them if I couldn’t find them online), my favourite quotes and, most importantly, my thoughts on a whole host of topics. At the time, the term blogging had recently been coined, but I wasn’t really aware of blogging as a phenomenon. At that time, if you were spending a lot of time online, building and maintaining your personal website was just a natural part of your online life.
I maintained my personal website until around 2000. I had a lot of fun running it and the guest book was a great way to keep in touch with my online friends, but eventually proto-blogging social networks took over, and I wound up following a few friends to Open Diary. I spent a little over a year on Open Diary, which was a pretty interesting site at the time. There was an strong focus on anonymity there — users were not permitted to provide their family names and they had a pretty awesome random post/random diary function that allowed you to find new diaries at random, which was more amusing than any other similar feature I’ve seen since. I made some good friends using the random entry button that I kept in contact with for years afterward, one of whom I had a pretty significant romantic relationship with for quite awhile. The content of my diary, as far as I can remember, was pretty well the same as that of my personal web site — my reflections and observations on the world around me and on my personal life.
Those themes continued again through my transition to LiveJournal in late 2001. I posted regularly on LiveJournal until mid-2011, with some long gaps here and there, and while my posts in later years were often related to the fictional media I had been consuming, the focus of my online presence had always been personal. I made friends online through various methods, though often through the blogging networks themselves, and I shared my life and views with those friends through blogging. There was no set topic or theme or aim for my blog, it was just there to give me an outlet. I liked having a witness to my thoughts, and, in turn being a witness to the thoughts of others.
I feel like blogging isn’t really like that anymore.
This isn’t to say that there aren’t blogs out there that are essentially online journals or diaries, but if you look around for online blogging tools, you’ll notice that the idea of the personal blog has declined significantly in popularity. A Google search for entry prompts will generally lead you to tips on monetizing your social media empire. The prompts that you find are often geared toward bloggers who have a particular focus, such as fiction writing, self-help, cooking and baking, or health and fitness.
The sense of community also seems diminished, especially as we move toward tools and platforms with limited comment functionality. One of my favourite aspects of blogging on a site like LiveJournal was the message-board style comment functionality where threads of discussions could go on pretty well seamlessly. You weren’t just putting something out into the void, but having a discussion. Sites like Tumblr have all but removed comment functionality, which seems counter-intuitive to the concept of social media itself. Liking and re-blogging isn’t particularly interactive or social, at least not to the extent that I’d like it to be. Instead, I’ve found that the real sense of community comes from being a part of a website/community that just happens to also have blog functionality, such as Giant Bomb or aarinfantasy, but sometimes I find that it’s difficult to find the courage to post more personal content on a site that’s clearly focused on a particular topic or cultural phenomenon.
I was fortunate enough to find an excellent site for blogging prompts, Plinky, which I would recommend to anyone who needs some blogging inspiration. The prompts there are pretty similar to LiveJournal’s daily Writers’ Block prompts, which I made use of quite often, especially during NaBloPoMo. There are quite a few that I’ll be trying out over the course of the challenge, so it was a spectacular find.
I’m still determined to do my own thing and keep blogging the same way I always have. The tools and culture around blogging have certainly changed over the years, but there’s still a good bit of that precocious teenager in me who will always want an outlet on some little corner of the internet.