Pardon Me, I Have a Blog in My Throat
Posted by PintofStout on October 16, 2006
According to a 2003 Pew Internet & American Life Project phone survey more than 53 million American adults have contributed content to the internet. Of that number of contributors a mere 2%, or 1.06 million people maintain a web journal, a.k.a. a blog. I would wager some of those million-plus bloggers contribute to or maintain more than one blog, bringing the total number of blogs above 1.06 million. But why do we do it?
I first came across this phenomenon in 2004 during the presidential election when candidates would post about the day’s events and maybe do some stumping on their site. Mostly, from my perception (which has no basis in fact or science), it was the small decentralized individuals with opinions but no outlet (their friends and family were either sick of or not interested in such opinions), or people keeping in touch with friends and family in one location instead of sending multiple emails, or people sharing pictures who made blogs as widespread as they are now. Now even major media outlets have blogs in addition to traditional mediums.
The motivations for each blog’s existence vary. The larger blogs do it for money and market share. Some exist to simplify communication to groups over large areas and still others are simply there to have a certain opinion heard. Most blogs’ goals are to maximize readership, which either makes communications more efficient, or increases profit and market share, or further propagates a certain opinion whose purpose is, after all, to be shared by as many as possible.
In the case of this blog, whose purpose is to propagate opinion and to practice that propagation for possible larger venues for even greater propagation, the content and low volume (which is threatening to become a singularity) of readers sometimes makes me feel egocentric just for having it. Perhaps that was a latent motive behind asking others to join in the writing; to move the apparent focus off of me. I don’t feel egocentric for having written, necessarily, but for my constant desire for the writing to be seen, which was the overt reason for asking others to write (more, varied content means more, varied readers). I obsessively check to see how many views I have received since the last hour when I checked. I open my email with constant hope of a comment being placed and thus emailed to me. I even wait expectantly for the spam filter to catch anything, just in case it is a real comment that was caught accidentally. But if having an opinion isn’t egocentric – and it can’t be – is it possible for the sharing of an opinion to be egocentric? I’d answer with a resounding maybe.
Blogging is a very passive medium. I write, post it on the blog and then wait. The reader has to initiate the exchange of opinion once it is posted, unlike in conversation where the opinion can be offered even when unsolicited and completely unwelcome. Interjecting an opinion in conversation unrelated to the context of the opinion, I would dub egocentric; making an opinion available to those who wish to partake is not.
So if blogging isn’t just an egocentric self-indulgence, why, then, do we do it? We blog for the same reason we enter into conversation: to exchange information. Our sphere of knowledge, experience, understanding, and opinion is composed almost entirely of information synthesized from outside sources gathered in tiny bits through communication in some medium. Like an observer effect in physics, one cannot come in contact with someone else and not be altered, if even minutely. By making my opinions available and friendly to read, with witty prose and unique personal insight, I hope to expand my sphere of understanding through reader feedback (therefore the more the better) and, hopefully, to expand the readers sphere as well.
Even in the simple act of writing with the expectation of an audience can have an effect in one’s opinions. Writing about an idea helps me to formulate it more clearly and solidifies its place in my mind even before anyone reads it. I believe this hints at a fundamental drive to grow and expend creative energy in the vein of Nietzsche’s Will to Power (so often misunderstood as outward dominance of others). The drive to be creative, I would postulate, is a result of the Will to Power’s desire to have power over one’s self through understanding of the self via creativity. Blogging, in this sense, would be a manifestation of a primal drive for creativity and understanding.
All the haughty reasons aside, we blog to persuade people closer to our own opinions because that makes getting along in the world much, much easier.