Sunday, June 3, 2018

How Social Media Killed The Blog (But Not This One... Sorta Kinda)

When I started this blog in the dark ages (circa 2007!) the objective was simple: I wanted to share opinions with people far and wide, and most importantly, I wanted them to share their opinions on my opinions. Because a blog with no readers is just a diary.

While I definitely took some inspiration from other blogs that I frequented, once I found my voice he content began to pile up. I basically just wrote about what I liked, from sports, to music, to social commentary. While things started slowly (I mean "me and my sister-in-law were the only readers" slow) I caught some fortunate breaks along the way that fueled by an unexpectedly popular post called AverageBro Blogs Live! From Jena, LA. In it, I posted some very contrarian thoughts about the Jena 6 case in which I noticed some distubing behavior amongst those who descended upon the sleepy Louisiana town to protest the unfair jailing of six black men for the beating of a white classmate. The story was, in many ways, the embryonic stage of the Black Lives Matter Movement. The first social justice case of the social media age.

My critique was mostly about the performance art nature of all the protests and some of the high profile media members and civil rights icons to ran the protest. Much about that (not the undue treatment of the kids) irked me, and I said so. It was not a very popular opinion, but it's one that I stand by and which oddly made me a go-to voice for people who agreed and disagreed with me.

From there, the blog grew immensely. I got some special co-signs that really increased my exposure. The collection of regular commenters was well over one hundred, which made AB.com a community in and of itself. International media outlets started to quote me. Daily hits reached the 10,000 mark with regularity. I got opportunities to do national radio, guest podcasts, and perhaps most importantly, make good money writing pieces for other far more reputable sites thanks to an enterprising editor who saw the value in my "tell it like it is" style and brought me along with her as a freelancer as her career advanced. The whole thing culminated with a truly bewildering interview with ESPN because some nitwit at Reuters picked my story about Diddy's kid getting a football scholarship to UCLA on a slow news Friday.

I had officially arrived.

At this fork in the road, I could have really really dug in more and probably turned writing into a full time job. I have a great career as an engineer that I love (and which pays well) but who wouldn't wanna make money talkin' shit if it in theory paid somewhere in the same ballpark (and I'm not sayin' it would, but thinking out loud here)?

Among the many reasons why I didn't is because by this same time, social media (specifically Twitter) had become the go-to location for instantaneous sharing of thoughts. While I always prided myself on being someone who could take a story idea and turn it into a fully sourced, well written blog post in under 20 minutes (a quality my editors loved), nothing beat the interactive nature of a snarky tweet.

I continued blogging, although for many reasons unrelated to writing my frequency dipped (as did admittedly the quality of my posts) but found myself spending far more time on Twitter for very aforementioned reasons. It was like an Easy Button for sharing thoughts, and eventually I found myself spending so much time on it that I'd go weeks without updating the blog beyond putting an "open discussion" post for the regulars who hadn't left or followed me to Twitter themselves.

And then, an odd thing happened: I quit Twitter.

The reasons are many (and yes, unrelated to writing) but I realized I was spending far more time in a virtual world talking with people I didn't know that those in physically surrounding me everyday. While leaving Twitter cold turkey is easy, doing the same to a blog you'd spend over a decade regularly penning long form thoughts for wasn't. Plus, there was the small matter of me hosting plenty of ads here, which gave me a little pocket change on the side. It didn't make cents (see what I did there) to shut AB.com down, so I decided I'd keep it here and reap the periodic benefits of a new ad. Why not?

That said, I owed my (still visiting) readers an explanation. And just like that, the blog was comatose. With the exception of a few new posts when I really had to get something off my chest, the only new stuff here for the past couple of years has been ads. I've moved on to periodically sharing thoughts on Facebook, which I've found to be a far less engaged community than what once existed here, but otherwise I get my fix by talking to real people now. It's just better that way.

I'm not saying there's no value in social media, or that it's the sole purpose for me ending this blog. There were plenty of life related reasons (ie: a 3rd child, a day job that grew exponentially more complex and time consuming, etc.) for this. Likewise, many of my contemporaries who began blogging around the same time have since graduated on the real, full paying media gigs. While I'm happy for all of them, that for many economic reasons was never my end game.

Do I miss having a blog? Yes, I do. Sometimes I wish I'd simply chosen to use whatever energy I had maintaining this community instead of splitting it with Twitter (although that was certainly the case with most bloggers). We had something special here, and I in many ways regret just abandoning that. But life, as they say, doesn't have a rewind button. Most of the regulars have long since left, and the blog seldom gets more than a couple hundred hits a day.

But if there's one thing I don't regret, it's keeping the blog alive. Sometimes I'll wonder "what did I think about" whatever random event happened in 2011, or how I reviewed a movie when it came out. And lo and behold, since I wrote about basically everything for a full decade, there's a good chance I penned a post about it that I can just pull right up. It's like a time machine into your thoughts. It's sorta kinda cool, and the kinda thing you hope your kids might wanna read someday.

So while the blog is dead, the blog lives on.

- AB

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