Back in the days before influencer marketing, affiliate links and precisely curated aspirational lifestyle shop-my-look blogging, there was just blogging. It was new and strange and beautiful. It connected people. I was in love with it. I still am. And I’m pretty sure at least some of the people reading this now are too.
To give you a bit of context here, I’m 37 years old and I’ve been online in since I was 16. Yes, I realise that I’ve been online for longer than some people who are reading this have been alive. Yes, that feels weird. No, I’m not having a mid-life crisis (yet).
Do any of you remember when a blog was a place to ramble and muse, a space to share whatever you were into, whatever you were doing, whatever you were thinking about? Because I do. And I miss it. I mean, it still happens. Some of us still approach blogging that way, but it isn’t the main direction that blogging as a thing has been heading over the last few years. I would love to see that direction making a return though. And I feel like it actually might be, like the time is right. Bear with me. Here’s why.
Not everyone who uses the internet is under 25
A lot of articles I’ve read about social media use and internet use in general (I’ve worked in online comms and marketing, and I still keep up with those industries) focuses on younger age groups – what they’re doing, what they want, how to sell to them (yuck). But here’s the thing – people don’t just drop off the internet when they hit their thirties. We – and by ‘we’ I mean people my age and older – BUILT THIS. We aren’t out of touch or perpetually confused by technology. Shit, even our parents aren’t those head-scratching what is computer machine? people anymore. We, the ones who aren’t buying that thing cause some rando on Instagram posted a picture of it, still exist, still share and still connect.
I’d happily bet that a lot of us had blogs back in the day and I know some of us still do. I’d also happily bet that I’m not the only person who enjoys blogging just because. And I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person who wishes it was easier to find other people who are simply sharing, not building an empire, not seeking comment-for-comment to boost their stats and work with brands. I’m not saying everyone who feels this way is over 35. If you’re 21 and relating to all this, I’m happy you’re here. Welcome. I just feel like most of the people who I’ve encountered who have this perspective aren’t Generation Snapchat.
Authenticity and integrity are, and always will be, valued
I’m not going to get too far into the whole everyone is fake on social media panic. So far, it hasn’t been my experience, on the whole. Yes, I’m aware of bot farms promoting political agendas by polarising people’s views in the most toxic and dangerous ways. That’s the darkest end of the fake-online-people scale and I fully acknowledge it. I also acknowledge that there are influencers (does anyone else find that word kind of icky?) who pretend to use products because they’re getting paid to promote them or who are miserable and lonely in spite of their shiny happy online persona. All those things exist and they matter. But a lot of people online, a lot of people using social media and creating content (sorry, that one feels kind of gross too, but you know what I mean), are actually just being themselves, for the most part. At least to the extent that any of us are ever truly, fully, 100% ourselves in literally every situation in our lives, but that’s a whole ‘nother thing.
What I’m getting at is that when it comes to up-close interpersonal online interactions, rather than mass retweet-bot action, people respond positively to authenticity and integrity. And by respond positively I don’t mean buy the home decor products you recommend. I mean when we encounter someone who is just being themselves, who is open and genuine and friendly, we like it. That’s how friendships happen, right? When you realise you have something in common with someone and you enjoy their (virtual) company. Personal blogging is such a wonderful way to share our worlds and that’s the beauty of it – all these worlds, overlapping, merging, connecting. I truly believe there will always be room for that.
We’re bored of being sold at constantly
I don’t have anything against people making money. I don’t have anything against people making money from the fruits of their labour, their education, experience, skills and abilities. I don’t have anything against people making money from art or entertainment. Obviously. Hell, I don’t even have anything against people making money from being a social media influencer, curating their online existence for the specific purpose of earning a living, if that’s what floats their boat. You do you. BUT. When literally everything you put online is a sales pitch, a buy-my-thing, or an interesting-looking blog post or YouTube video that’s actually just an advert, it gets old really fucking fast.
Think about the writers on Twitter who only ever post links to their books on Amazon and then compare them to the writers on Twitter who share lines from their works in progress, retweet other people’s work, chat about research they’re doing and generally hang out with their creative crew, being welcoming and supportive. Now, think of the blog version of that. I don’t mean just writers. You can replace writer with photographer, artist, landscape gardener, dentist, whatever. This kind of links back to the authenticity and integrity thing, but I feel like it deserves its own section.
When I find what looks like a fun, interesting, insightful blog, I get excited. When I realise it’s just a vehicle for selling (not even the writer’s own) products or services, I get hardcore disappointed. I know make money blogging! is a big thing and I’m sure someone somewhere is rolling around on a bed of money made from hosting company affiliate links disguised as genuine advice. But can we, for a moment, remember that blogging can be about more than that, or about something else entirely? Seriously, please remember that blogging is not synonymous with selling or earning or marketing. Look deeper. Create more.
It feels like a shift is happening
OK, I can’t explain this one precisely. I’ve been trying to put it into words for months and I never quite get there. I’m not talking about social media trends or whatever. I’m talking about a cultural shift. Perhaps it’s wishful thinking. Perhaps it’s confirmation bias. I don’t know. But I do know I’ve been feeling…something. A move closer to the authenticity and integrity I keep talking about. A move away from curating your entire existence based on what is being marketed to you, sold at you. A move away from the obligation to be A Personal Brand in a clearly defined on-trend niche to successfully sell someone else’s product.
A move towards shrugging your shoulders and saying, “This is me. All of this. I am not a single interest or a curated feed. I’m a person. There are things I love and things I do and things I think about. I want to share them and talk about them. I see the internet as simply another place to connect with people, not a platform upon which to create a sanitised version of myself for public consumption.” If you’re one of those people saying those things, maybe you express yourself through videos or photos or snippets of life in 280 characters or less, and maybe you also express yourself through a blog. Just because you can.I edited this later to
If you want to blog, just blog
When I see people talking about wanting to start a blog but not knowing what to write about, it makes me sad. You don’t have to have a thing. I mean, if you do have a thing, that’s awesome. If you want to write solely about your faith or your clothes or your travels, go for it. But if you feel like you have to squish yourself into a neat little box to be worth something, please remember that you don’t. I’m totally speaking from experience here. I’ve stared at my Posts page on WordPress until the titles of the posts blurred and swam in front my eyes, thinking, “Could I focus on just writing? What about just creative living? Is this a lifestyle blog? Maybe? WHAT IS EVERYTHING ANYWAY?” And you know what? It totally sucked and it did not inspire me, make me happy or help me find direction.
If you want to start a blog, if you just want to share your little corner of the world with other people who are sharing their little corners, do it. You don’t have to have a niche or a fancy domain or paid hosting. You can, but you absolutely do not have to. You don’t have to have the best looking photos or a custom theme. You don’t have to have any of that stuff. Literally all you have to have is somewhere to blog and the desire to do it.
Then look for other people’s blogs, find things you love, read them and comment on them. Click on other people’s comments and visit their blogs, read them and comment on them. I need to do more of this too, because I genuinely really enjoy it but somewhere along the way it got lost in a sense of obligation that I’m only just now starting to shake off. And by all means, have fun with a more structured blogging experience, and social media experience, if you enjoy that. Having a content strategy, planning what to post, when and why, doesn’t mean you’re a terrible fake human. Of course it doesn’t. People do things in different ways. But if you favour a more free-form do-the-thing-when-you-feel-like-it approach, that is also excellent and you should definitely do it!
Remember when the internet was an adventure? Let’s create that experience again, together ❤