Recently there appears to be a spate of people flouncing off and “leaving the internet” (as if that’s really possible unless you move to, say, Canada, where they’re lucky if have dial up in the far corners), and assuming that most of them aren’t running off to service the underprivileged in the sub-Sahara on a personal, spiritual quest, where do these bloggers – more precisely, their BLOGS – go when they die?
Julia Allison, Jakob Lodwick, two prolific lifestreamers/bloggers/fameballers (and forever inextricably linked if you believe that whatever you put on the internet is always there, with which, for the record, I disagree) who many love and many love to hate, have recently become fed up with the internet (especially the haters) and have gone silent - at least for a while.
Lots of comments I came across while searching for stats on this phenomenon (in order to see if anyone had studied it yet) show that many people said they'd deleted their facebook and twitter accounts. Most comments were about social networking sites, not about actually shutting down their blog. Less vested in an account on a network than their blog, I suppose. But they no longer post to their blog and aren't sure what to do with it. “Going still” as one blogger called it. Another said deleting her social network accounts amounted to “reclaiming my life.” Julia’s appeal today to leave her blog in order to get some sanity back in her life sums it up with an: “I don’t want to talk about it" - we assume she means, any more. Or at least until next week.
love this picture btw
What happens when you’ve put your life out there for people to scrutinize and -shockingly- people come out of the woodwork to criticize and pick apart your thoughts and critique your looks and beliefs? In a way - you kinda' asked for it, non? It doesn't work both ways. If you vomit out there for the world to see, then you have to be willing to expect the negative alongside.
Hundreds if not thousands of blogs thus “go silent” each month. No one knows what the stats are because the blogging hosts (mainly WordPress and Blogger) aren’t telling, nor do I blame them as they have nothing to gain by doing telling their investors and advertisers how many blogs are really dark or abandoned.
So many people start off excitedly saying "I'm going to start a blog!", carefully selecting & planning out their layouts and themes, linking to their blogrolls to their own favorite bloggers and sites, starting off fresh faced and full of wonder at the screen in front of them, an endless cup into which to pour their deepest thoughts, witty prose and daily musings. Maybe they’ll even set up an adwords account so they can make some money off of their wonderful insights and rants and objective (cough) reviews. They excitedly post pictures, think about their lives and what they can talk about. They bring up & dissect past memories, wrongdoings, mea culpas, lessons learned. They “talk” to dead people. They possibly even get a few commenters and feel a wider connection with like-minded people out there – OMG someone’s actually reading my blog, and my writing provoked a response! The drug is thus injected.
Bloggers begin to notice and then track things like page views, comment numbers, technorati list placement, trackbacks as they get more technically sophisticated [read: obsessed]. Validation is cued and the race begins. Certain blog posts will elicit a frenzy of responses. Other ones that are lovingly crafted and possibly borne with emotional fraught are ignored. It can be frustrating.
Writers begin to think What can I write about today? And here is where the fatigue first places its gentle fingers over the blogger’s.
And after a while, a lot of people simply run out of things to say. They’ve already discussed the news, politics (and some just as quickly jump back out as those page views & comments are not worth the vitriol), personal opinions, problems, and shared much.
Perhaps too much? The lines are already blurred between living one’s life and thinking of one’s life as a fodder for blog posts. Some people obviously become desperate for readers, for comments, for that validation that what they think and feel matters to someone outside there if only they’d FIND MY BLOG AND READ IT, that they lose years staring at the blinking screen, wishing it to extract good content that will engage and keep those lovely, lovely readers who earn them a whopping $1.17 in adword revenues each month.
Life begins to become a series of things happening THAT THEY CAN BLOG ABOUT. And then true exhaustion has won. Because the blogger is no longer living his or her life – they have become a character in his/her own life play talking about this life. Jerk goes the circle.
Ursula Hegi wrote a book titled Intrusions, and this Amazon.com review sums it up well:
It has been said that art often imitates life. For a writer, the difference between the two is a fine line of creativity, one that is often crossed without even realizing it. In Ursula Hegi's book INTRUSIONS, Hegi writes about the struggles of writing a novel while being invaded by the thoughts and opinions of the very characters she is trying to create.
There is a grown man riding in Hegi's shopping cart, freezing beneath frozen vegetables as he demands a re-write of his character. A soggy, distressed woman sits in a tub for three weeks while Hegi tries to come up with ideas over what to do with her next. An old professor demands hot and torrid sex of Hegi's characters, attempting to turn even the most delicate of chapters into lewd pornographic pulp. This melting of reality into fiction has resulted in a fast reading, well written novel that will strike a familiar chord with writers everywhere.
And thus we have it. Are bloggers writers? Or are they life casters? How much of their world and inevitably the people in it are unwitting characters in these dramas? Many have crossed the line and fights have ensued and relationships ended over seemingly innocuous things written (or even those cold and deliberately posted) where a person’s life invariably intertwines with those people around them. Some do manage to make a living at it. Most do not. Some find a real voice, a solid niche and exploit it well. Most do not. Most blogs are abandoned after a time.
But for the “blogs left behind” what becomes of this blog graveyard? These innermost thoughts and feelings, scattered and fragmented words across the ether, these mini time-capsules of the bloggers’ lives carelessly strewn across the voids of the internet as it races towards its FASTER! FASTER! REAL TIME! MORE CONTENT NOW! direction and leave the ghosts of the past further and further behind (i.e. lower and lower page results rankings on Google).
We’re at a very, very nascent stage of the internet. The first generation has been born that will never have known life without it. Lives digitized and documented. I can’t even imagine what the technical future will hold (although in my mind it's a lot like a horrible mixture of Minority Report and Gattika). But for those of you who’ve started blogs or online journals and forsaken them, put up family websites but found then that the person who was so enthusiastically updating the family photos got sick or that pesky LIFE intruded upon them again, or who would simply love to go back and revisit their online “personality” from a previous age only to find that their old stuff has been deleted or the company is no longer in business, what then?
Let me ask you this. If you knew that your Great-Grandmother or Great-Grandfather had kept a diary, and you learned that movers tossed it aside because they thought it was useless (come on lady, that worthless old book was 80 years old!) wouldn’t you be furious?
How will our future ancestors react when they learn through genealogy and online search that there WAS an account at XYZ site for Mrs. Marsha Jones from Calaveras or Harold Joe Walker Jr. from Birmingham but Oops, sorry! It’s been deleted due to inactivity!
Think about it. THIS is why we [STORY OF MY LIFE] exist. This is why a site that has a monthly subscription fee for your life stories is a joke. What happens when you stop or blogging, or die? Cuz' we're all going to die. Back up your blogs. Copy them to our site, print them out, email them to your 912 cousins, do whatever you gotta’ do but PRESERVE YOUR CONTENT.
We have the technologies. [One aside it to keep in mind that technology changes. Those DVDs will be as useless as 3.5” floppy disks or 8-track tapes are today.] Online digital and physical copies are the ways to go. We have no excuses to not control the legacy that our future ancestors, our great-great-great-grandchildren read about us in 10, 50, 100 years from now. Don’t leave your legacy up to whatever scraps the search engines are able to ferret out.
And if Julia and Jakob ever do marry and have children (presumably at this point not with each other), let’s hope that their grandchildren and great-grandchildren are able to read about the things they shared with complete and utter strangers before the virtual trashcans are emptied.