of salesmen and disc jockeys

It’s a question that people have been trying to answer ever since Fyodor Dostoyevsky1 invented blogging:

Why do you blog?

I’ve always had a ready answer to that question: I blog because I’ve always wanted to keep a journal but was never able to keep up with it. Somehow blogging is different to me. Somehow I keep up with it.2

I’m sure this is due to blogging’s biggest distinction, which happens to be its biggest draw and its fatal flaw: The Audience.

Knowing that someone may read and may reflect or opine upon something you wrote is pretty much the raison d’être of Internet 2.0.3 News outlets – formerly shapers of public opinion – now turn to social media to reflect public opinion. Tunisia and Egypt are different places this very day because of social media. This is how powerful the notion of an audience is. What was once very much so alive to actors and musicians is now a factor of everyday life.

I suspect this is why blogging works for me. If that’s narcissistic, then so be it.

But What I’m more concerned about today is:

Why have you stopped blogging?

I remember an old salesman I knew, his left hand crippled in a Bob-Doleish kind of way, told me once – sounding sagacious as one can sound with a dried bit of egg yolk on his chin – that it happens to salesmen and disc jockeys: that one day you go to knock on that door or tap on that microphone and realize – really realize, like deep down in the place where you stop analyzing yourself as you analyze yourself – that there are people out there who’ll respond to that action. And it happens, of salesmen and DJs, that you just can’t bring yourself to complete that action. You raise your hand, but it won’t come down. It won’t make contact. And that’s when you’re done.

In a relatively short amount of time I’ve seen many great blogs become so much flotsam in digital waters. Some people just stop. Others write a grand final post. Regardless, as Dave mentioned earlier this week, it’s weird for a reader to be involved in someone’s life for years and then just…not be.

That’s the problem with a web-audience: there is no one to usher them away from the stage when the show no longer goes on.

I’ve met great friends through blogs, and to put it as plainly as possible, I owe the course of my life over the last five years to blogging, albeit in an oblique way.

To paraphrase Milan Kundera: Blogs are not to be trifled with. A single blog can give birth to love.4

They are in danger, though. They’re threatened with a digital diaspora: the movement of personal content from a place of space and expansion to a realm of limited characters and larger audience. This is nothing new: I remember Avitable blogging about this roughly three years ago.

But this isn’t the problem. Not really.

I can sum up the real threat to blogging with one, simple bit of LOLspeak:

TL;DR

For those not in the know, this stands for Too Long; Didn’t Read.5 I could go on about the idiotification of the literate world and whatnot, but I won’t. That’s not the point. That’s not the threat.

The threat is that fewer people are willing to invest that kind of time – for make no mistake; in today’s world time is our most valuable commodity – in something untried, untested, and un-recommended.

Remember how you used to find good books to read? You’d ask people whose opinions you trusted and respected what they enjoyed reading.6

The Facebook Like button7 is an extrapolation of that ages-old practice. And – not just because of Facebook – in today’s high-and-fast media culture, people generally aren’t going to invest time in something that some entity hasn’t approved.8

A good number of the world’s citizens have lost the freedom of time to make up their own minds. Not the desire, I assure you. We are fiercely individual these days and individuality involves at least the illusion of a critical thinking process.

But we don’t have the time.

This is the threat, I believe. The great personal blogs out there, the blogs about life’s troubles, pains, joys, élan, melancholy moments and deceits are slowly dying off. Some people just quit. Others – following the lead of television – desire to appeal to as many people as possible and their blogs change. Over time. They begin to blog about products. About services. About being a mom. About Malay food. About politics. About celebrities.

And they stop blogging about what it means and how it feels to be human.9

The quest for audience, I think, drove many of us to blogging.

The quest for more audience, I think, drove many away from blogging. It is the raised fist before the closed door, the index finger prepped to tap the mike.

But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe some have other reasons for not bringing connecting their knuckles to the door. If so, please fill me in. Because I miss the personal blogs of yore. I miss those friends, yes, but I miss the willingness of human being to expressively discuss this unique state of being human.


  1. I may not have my facts straight on this one.
  2. Mostly.
  3. Presaged in a letter to his second-cousin by one James Augustine Aloysius Joyce. “Your battles inspired me – not the obvious material battles but those that were fought and won behind your forehead. In the future there will be a way for me to know every single that occurs under your pate, whether grocery list or jeremiad. No doctor will perform this extraction; no, it will be called LiveJournal, moocow.”
  4. Trade blog for metaphor and you have the actual quote.
  5. Which let’s be honest: this post (and most of my posts) breach the TL;DR threshold.
  6. Yes, there were other ways. But let’s stay focused here. (That goes for me mostly.)
  7. Do I need the trademark symbol there?
  8. For what is a recommendation – even WordPress’s Freshly Pressed – but a stamp of approval?
  9. This, frankly, is all I want to know in life.
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