Just the other day I saw a post from a friend’s blog in my reader. He hadn’t posted in awhile, and only came back to his blog to post info for an upcoming event. He said that most everyone had migrated to Instagram, but this post was for the straggler or two who hadn’t made the transition. When I commented that it would be nice to see more blog posts from him again, he basically said something like don’t count on it, no one seems to care anymore and all the feedback is over on Instagram.
I felt disheartened, to say the least. I still like reading blogs, but over the years I’ve seen all these blogs wither away and die. There’s not as much content on Ye Olde Blog Reader like there was “back in the day”. And then to see a blog that I liked say that it was probably not going to be around much longer. I’m pretty sure I was introduced to this person through his blog, so that made it sting even more.
The Urban Adventure League blog started in 2005. At the time, I was still a dedicated zinester, and saw my original Blogger site as a way to quickly and cheaply disseminate information about upcoming events, especially since I didn’t use (and for the most part, still don’t) use “Social Media”, though 2005 Social Media was pretty primitive by 2018 standards. I didn’t get into “blog culture” during those days, and sporadically updated the blog up until late 2010.
Then for some reason, I got over my Fear Of Blogs and dived head-first into this world. This was the height of the Urban Bike Fashion Blog (for want of a better term), so I made connections with other bike folk and upped my blogging. I met people through blogging that I wouldn’t have met any other way. Some of these people became my friends, and I would visit them in my travels or see them when they paid a visit to Portland.
But that era was short-lived, and by about 2013 many of those Urban Bike Fashion Blogs withered away. I got the feeling that for some folk, blogging was just a tool to get out there. Writing compelling blog posts on a regular basis isn’t easy, and some of these folks may have run out of things to say. Now Instagram is easier: upload a pic or three, write a little blurb, put some #hashtags in there, and go.
I resisted Instagram for a long time, as I’m the opposite of an “Early Adapter” when it comes to tech and internet. But when I joined in the spring of 2016, I found out where all these folks went. And I also found a lot of cool folks out there. Some of these people became my friends, and I would visit them in my travels or see them when they paid a visit to Portland.
And then I look at my blog. I try to write on a semi-regular basis, at least several times a month. (There was a school of thought that blogs should be updated every weekday, but I never treated this as my job.) But the comments and likes aren’t what they used to, and I’ve maybe met a handful of people through the blog over the past few years. I’ll admit, there are times I wonder why I still even bother to blog.
But Instagram? I update pretty much daily, usually a few times a day. Almost as soon as I post something, the “likes” start rolling in, and maybe a comment or three. It’s instant gratification, usually for just posting a pic of my bike in a setting and adding a couple sentences.
But is it always good? It’s easy to “like” something on Instagram. I know some people “like” everything in their feeds, sometimes because they “don’t want to offend”, sometimes because they’re playing that algorithm game, hoping the more they do the more followers and likes they’ll get. I know of at least one person who likes everything because that’s how they keep track of where they are on their feed.
And what about words? Instagram is the place for a few sentences, not lengthy pieces. It’s hard to write something of substance through the medium as most people scroll quickly through their feeds, barely stopping to read anything. (Then again, have you tried to read long pieces on Instagram?*) For example, the times I’ve had contests on Instagram, in which someone simply had to respond? I’d get 79 likes but only 2 actual responses. All people had to do was message me their address and I would have sent them something through the mail. Barely any effort required. But more effort than hitting that heart icon.
Now am I saying that Instagram is inherently bad? No. I realize its limits and flaws, but also realize that I have fun with it. It’s brought me into contact with lots of folks from all over the world, moreso than even the blog. (Part of that comes from it being a visual medium, so I have followers that probably have limited or no English comprehension.)
But would I dump everything else and put all my eggs in the IG basket? Hell, no. I still like blogging, sporadic as it is. I still enjoy reading long form pieces from others, and also writing long form pieces too. A blog is the perfect place to do a good ride report, share information, flesh out my thoughts. I may not use the blog in the same exact way I did in 2010, but that’s a good thing.
I guess part of this is because I’m (for want of a better term) a Retro-Grouch. I like some old things and old ways, and wonder what will happen when they become dust. I still like listening to terrestrial radio, sending and receiving mail, collecting paper maps and the like. I don’t think that blogging has that “retro” edge yet, but just you wait. (Heck, the ’90’s are “retro” now.)
But the funny thing about this modern world is how fast things can turn to dust, especially with the internet. How many of those free Geocities and Angelfire personal websites from the ’90’s are still out there? Probably not many, if at all. I’m willing to bet that many of these sites had a good deal of blood, sweat, and tears that had gone into them. And now they’re gone.
And I don’t think blogs are that much safer. Yeah, Blogger still exists, but I always got the feeling it’s been a burden to Google for far too long, and one day they’re going to pull the plug.** Those who still care about their blog may go through the trouble of migrating their blog to a different site, but I’m sure that thousands and thousands of blogs will simply cease to exist with the flick of a (metaphorical) switch at Google HQ. Not to mention all those personal domain blogs whose owners ceased paying the hosting fees because they didn’t care anymore.
And it’s not just Blogger: For those of you who use Flickr, you’ve gotten a notice this week that “free” Flickr is going to be just 1,000 photos. If you don’t upgrade to a paid account, you’ll be limited to the 1,000 newest photos. And if you don’t download and save those other photos somewhere else, they’ll also be the equivalent of dust.
But physical media? There’s a few zine libraries around the world that have a twenty year old copy of my Ten Foot Rule zine. And I’m guessing it’ll still be there twenty years from now. Thankfully, I don’t have to worry about that.
What am I trying to say in this long winded and rambling post? I like pictures, but I also like words. I like reading blogs, and want to read more, not less. But I’m resigned to the fact that “the glory days” of blogs are over. I’m not happy about that, but hopefully I’ll move on. Or maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised when people get sick of pictures with few words and a resurgence of something resembling blogs occurs. They may not be through a “traditional” platform like Blogger, WordPress, or somesuch, but who cares?
In the meantime, I’m thankful to all of you who still blog and still read this blog. Thanks for making it through almost 1500 of these words. And I would really like to hear from you. What are your thoughts about the dwindling blogging landscape? Did you used to do a blog, but don’t anymore? Am I off track, too fatalistic? Please comment, especially if you haven’t commented in a while. Because likes, faves, and stars only get me so far.
*I think there’s a good reason Instagram limits any post to 2,200 characters.
**This is a big reason why I migrated to WordPress a few years back.