Help me understand why people write blogs and journals.
April 30, 2004 5:07 PM   Subscribe

Why do people write blogs and/or journals? Is it a fad? When will it end? Non-rhetorical, more inside.

I’m wondering about why journal writers, bloggers, diarists, and autobiographicians, do it. What are your personal reasons? Why do you think people do it in general? Do you see “blogging” as the latest and most logical extension of a long tradition of writing about/for oneself, or as the latest techno-evaporative craze? If so, when will it dry up?

I’ll go first.
Autobiographical reasons first and foremost. I believe whatever we think of our past today is colored heavily by ‘the now’ -- much better to have some indication of what you were actually thinking about at that time. Plus, I’m curious about my parent’s lives, and hope my kid will be equally curious and I’ll be able to deliver the goods when the time comes (probably through insta-telepathy link).

Secondarily: keep in touch w/ family (mostly) and friends.

3rd: I fantasize that secretly all y’all are visiting my site, somehow bypassing my logging software, and marveling at the depth and variety of my life, and how one can capture it quite so fully by only posting once every 23 days and exclusively taking photos of my 2 year old. Please, don’t burst my bubble.

I suspect the major reasons people blog are similar, probably with a bigger emphasis on item 3 above. Also:

As a means of publishing writing (or other works) to the wider-world for political or other ends.
To be part of a social group
To share new web finds
As the only means of expression that ‘lives on the web’ (No tattoo will get you noticed online unless you publish it)
To ‘get it off their chest’ (particularly diary/journal)
To make sense of it all (as above)
To combat loneliness

I actually think Blogging is an extension of self-writing, and will persist, although I suspect the term blogging will disappear along with most of the tools we know now in the next 5 years or so.
posted by daver to Society & Culture (25 answers total)
My personal reason is that, well, I just like to write. My stuff is often meaningless to anyone who doesn't know me, and though sometimes I do something I'm quite proud of, I'm just as likely to write something I know sucks, and sucks hard, if i think I'll feel better having put it out there.

(Also, when my grandchildren are learning about, say, homophobia, in the same way we learn about segregation and see firehoses aimed at black schoolchildren, I want them to see and be proud that their granddad wasn't one of those kinds of people.)
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 5:20 PM on April 30, 2004

I don't blog (I still like paper and pen) but I have always thought that it's at least good practice for a writer. You work all your cliches out, and you also get some free peer review from, if no one else, your friends and relatives. All those trite teen bloggers will probably end up being pretty decent writers someday.

As to whether it's a fad, I just don't know. It will probably just evolve into another form, it seems unlikely that it would disappear completely.
posted by milovoo at 7:04 PM on April 30, 2004

Why do people write blogs and/or journals?

People write journals (meaning private writings) because they want to remember their lives. People write blogs because they want attention.

It's funny-- every snowflake is unique, but very, very few of them are worth the time it takes to study them.
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:16 PM on April 30, 2004

Thats a cynical view Mayor Curley. One of my friends put up a weblog with writings so gorgeous it gave me a new view of her. I can't think of any other way she would have shared her writing with me.

I'd also take the phrase "want attention" and spin it into "seek community" just like you are doing here. This is the reason many bloggers I know ultimately started livejournals - what they were really looking for was conversation.
posted by vacapinta at 7:27 PM on April 30, 2004

I post in my blog so I don't bore my friends with my repetitive complaints about the american government, my co-workers and general asshattery.
posted by Capn at 7:28 PM on April 30, 2004

Very cynical, Mayor Curley. I blog because I've been living thousands of miles from home for the past five years. I've got family and friends around the world who like to keep up with me. It saves a hell of a lot of money on phone bills. The other things - a place to rant, seek community, and practice writing - are just secondary benefits.
posted by web-goddess at 8:04 PM on April 30, 2004

Because my photos are digital, and my handwriting sucks.
posted by casarkos at 8:19 PM on April 30, 2004 [1 favorite]

Because I want to remember
posted by puffin at 8:30 PM on April 30, 2004

All of the above...PLUS as a way to stay up-to-date on current events (political, humorous, meme-y, etc) and "discuss" them with like-minded people...PLUS as a way to sort of keep a "file drawer" of things that you want to be able to access at any time, from any location...PLUS interacting with interesting people from different places/cultures/regions/etc and reading (seeing) things from a slightly different perspective.

"Verbal Exhibitionists" is another term that I've seen used to describe bloggers.

Oh - and posting to MeFi (blue/grey/green) counts, in a way, as "blogging" to some small degree, I believe.
posted by davidmsc at 9:34 PM on April 30, 2004

I think there's a difference between blogging as a "here's a bunch of neat links" approach, and blogging as an "online journal" approach (and as I see it, the links approach came before the journal approach). I'm actually much more comfortable with the former, even if I only do it very sporadically here and elsewhere, with the motivation of trying to share neat stuff with other folks.

I have often wondered how/when/why blogging went from the 'links' to the 'journal' form.
posted by carter at 10:00 PM on April 30, 2004

Attention and what Capn said. The link to my blog is in my profile. Enjoy.
posted by sciatica at 10:18 PM on April 30, 2004

I blog because stripping nude publicly in real life would get me arrested.
posted by FunkyHelix at 10:18 PM on April 30, 2004

Me, I write a blog about prison in order to get the area some critical attention and to give my own spin on things.Mind, when the entire world is condeming one very specific instance of prison abuse, it can be hard to keep up...
posted by humuhumu at 10:23 PM on April 30, 2004

Sorry, that wasn't a very considered answer. I write to stay in touch with an area which I left after spending years researching; I write to give a different perspective on an area which I don't believe is well represented in the media or on the Internet; and of course, I write for ego: because I think that I can look at the issues in a particular way that may be of interest to others. I have some knowledge and can disseminate that knowledge in the blog. I also blog to play with web design, but that is really a side issue. Maybe because I don't do a 'personal' blog per se, my reasons are a bit different to others.
posted by humuhumu at 10:35 PM on April 30, 2004

So I can remember what got me into medicine, and maintain a healthy skepticism about it. Helps me destress, too.
posted by gramcracker at 1:36 AM on May 1, 2004

I started my blog, in back in 2000, for the following reasons:

(a) I couldn't be bothered modifying my personal website by editing files and FTP upload anymore. I wanted something where I could post-and-go automatically.
(b) I thought it would be a neat way of organizing bookmarks, cool links etc. - all together, on one site, as I find them, rather than peppered through the bookmarks menus of several computers, never to be looked at again.
(c) I had a "News Application" I had developed that I decided I could turn into blogging software very easily.

I like people visiting my site. I don't think I'm an expert on anything, though, and I think above all I keep a weblog because I can't stand to "lose" things...links, articles, thoughts.

This was all back in the day, before people started thinking online journals and weblogs are the same thing...before convential wisdom placed the birth of the weblog some time after September 2001...before every hack and his mother-in-law decided that weblogs were a new journalistic paradigm, and set about proving it by posting twice-daily links to whatever happens to be found on Drudge.

And y'all calling the Mayor a fucking cynic...

posted by Jimbob at 2:19 AM on May 1, 2004

Because the novel cycle is slow.
posted by scarabic at 3:34 AM on May 1, 2004

I'd agree with all 3 of daver's points. Point 2 will become even more important when all the members of my group blog go to uni, and I'm looking forward to see how the blog will change and grow.
posted by Orange Goblin at 4:30 AM on May 1, 2004

I'm a frustrated writer and I have both a journal and a weblog. Neither gets much in the way of readers so that allows me to write pretty much anything I want. The downside is that I don't think it's helping to improve my writing since there's no editing and very little critique.

When I do write "off line", it's usually fiction, my online writing is all technical/biographical. Just another voice among the multitudes, I guess.
posted by tommasz at 8:16 AM on May 1, 2004

my blog is new, and exists to collect links where i can find them again, from various computers. like a list of bookmarks with notes. i don't publicize it.

my website hasn't been updated in over 2 years, but from about 1996-2001 it was my portfolio, digital art studio, strange fiction online magazine. I used to make a new splash page Every Day.

WebZine was the term floating around a lot, and on the old webzine mailing list, dori from referred to her site as a "MeZine."

I liked that. I think personal sites used to be MeZines.

I think the blogging movement came out of the personal/independent online publishing movement--you can find pics of Ev, Jason, Matt, the old webzine events in SF--and specifically from such communities such as The Well, and Cyborganic--remember that daily "cereal" thing they did? Justin Hall and some others writing about their lives.

prior to the internet, people have been [and still are] making paper zines, chapbooks, mini-artbooks, etc...for about as long as there has been the medium to do so....which to me indicates that the process and the results--sharing thoughts, art, information, poetry, etc...--will always remain while the medium [cave walls, paper, bbs, www, mobile phone] will change in a constant storm of marketing buzzwords.

I believe whatever we think of our past today is colored heavily by ‘the now’ -- much better to have some indication of what you were actually thinking about at that time.

trying to either accuratly record what is going on or to record how you wish things went has always been the aim of journals, letters, history, memoirs....

web stuff is so informal though...rather than very eloquent exchanges of letters [letters to a young poet?] we will have gigs and gigs of "dude! totally!" "fuck yeah!" "LOL" for our hoped for descendents to sort thru using their SuperGoogle brain chips.

i could be totally wrong about all of this, as i have had Zero caffiene so far today.
posted by th3ph17 at 11:00 AM on May 1, 2004

(and as I see it, the links approach came before the journal approach).

Online journals started long before blogs. In fact, according to the online diary history project they started in 1995, but the first blog you'll find is from 2001 or so.
posted by SuzySmith at 12:10 PM on May 1, 2004

I started blogging (link in my profile) in 2001 originally as a way of blowing off some steam and trying to sort out some issues that were going on at the time. Still going on, actually, although lately I've been doing less navel gazing and more fist shaking.

I usually include a link to the blog on sites where I'm a contributor, but only as a way of providing additional biographical information for people who want to look for it. I can see how Mayor Curley and probably others might think that blogging is just for attention whores, but it has never really been my intention to drive traffic to my blog.

Given the coworkers, family members and friends who have discovered my blog (most of whom have never acknowledged this to me, but by perusing the visitor logs I've been able to figure it out) I always chuckle when I notice the same visitors coming back and Comments:0 after just about every post.
posted by emelenjr at 12:37 PM on May 1, 2004

I keep an online journal as a giant notepad of things that interest me. Whether others read it or comment is secondary [to me]. It's great for clearing the mind clutter; I've searched archives many a time for a forgotten link.
posted by yoga at 1:40 PM on May 1, 2004

Sure, the number of visitors and whether or not they leave a comment is secondary to me too. What I post is available for public consumption, and I don't care at all who reads it. Of the biographical stuff, all of it is true and most of it is fairly mundane. If someone I know wants to search Google for me, I want them to be able to find me. But more often than not when people do find my blog by looking on the web for instances of my name, I never hear anything about it. So I wonder about their motives for tracking me down, and their motives for not wanting me to know they've tracked me down. I have to think that, much of the time, site visitors (specifically the ones who know me but don't want me to know they're reading up on me) feel like they're getting away with something.
posted by emelenjr at 1:55 PM on May 1, 2004

I started a bloggy journally thing because I was tired of my Mom flipping out when she'd call me Friday afternoon and I wouldn't get back to her until Monday. It started as a "see, I have a life!" item and a way to practice my HTML skills and make little notes about what I was up to in a way that would trigger my memories but not just regurgitate my day in a 1:1 way. When I started my obviously-a-blog blog it was because I wanted a way to share an ongoing grouping of links on a particular theme, had a great domain name, and hate group/mass email. It was a way to say to people "I think this is important, if you like it, read it. If you don't, don't read it" It's a way for me to share information, to note things as important, interesting or useful, and a way to connect with other people [in this case, librarians] who I might not otherwise meet because as a profession they work in one building, don't get out much, are not very online, and when they are online, until quite recently, they've mostly passively surfed the web and used email. Now there's a lot more librarian bloggers and it's great to learn more abotu the profession, other than what goes on day to day at my rural library job, from reading what other people have to say about their jobs. Otherwise we mostly only get together at conferences.

Plus, I like meeting strangers and I make lots of weird random friends by having a public presence that's more or less accurate to what my real-life presence is. I live in rural Vermont and if you don't go to church it's hard to meet people. Harder still to meet people who use and understand technology. Having an online presence helps twiddle the meet-new-people dial a bit to include mostly people who at least know how to use the web.
posted by jessamyn at 2:09 PM on May 1, 2004

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