There’s something in the collective subconscious of the internet right now. We’ve grown tired with social media. We’re frustrated with brands taking over everything we build. It’s been almost twenty years on the web for me (and I’m only 32), and I never thought I’d say this, but I miss blogging. What we used to call blogging. I started thinking about this a few weeks ago, started thinking about buying some space on a hosted server and pointing my name dot com at some static HTML pages instead of this Tumblr.
Then I read this by Paul Ford, about his ~Tilde Club experiment. Michael Sippey wonders why people joined ~Tilde and immediately started blogging (he answers his own question, too). Matt Haughey wrote a reminiscence about the early 2000s indie web. Andy Baio wants to start writing in the middle again. Gina Trapani and Jason Snell have joined the chorus. Why are we feeling nostalgic for something that hasn’t really died?
Me? I’m feeling stretched thin, and the only social networks I actually care about are Tumblr and Twitter. I’m not vlogging on YouTube. I post my photos to Twitter, not Instagram. I still don’t even know Ello is. When I joined Tumblr in 2007, reblogs hadn’t been invented yet. It was a place where you posted stuff and people followed you to see that stuff. There’s nothing wrong with change, of course, but I miss making stuff.
As someone who came to the web as a writer, I thought we would rule forever. The internet used to be a platform for .txt files and hyperlinks. Photos and video took up space and bandwidth we just couldn’t afford. That’s changed. Today’s web currency isn’t blogs; it’s fanart. Whether redesigned movie posters or comics about superheroes, artists, illustrators, photographers, and designers have made Tumblr, and by extension, the internet, something different than it was twenty years ago. And that’s OK. Because everything has to change. But I miss blogging.
Reblogging was only meant to be a stop-gap between written posts. I stopped worrying about keeping my blog current because I knew something interesting would cross my dashboard, something worth sharing. I was still sharing, and isn’t that what blogging is? But what I was sharing was someone else, someone else’s work. That gap between written posts stretched until I snapped. I realised I stopped sharing myself a long time ago.
I maintain a few different identities on the internet. I think everyone does. At least, everyone who got in on the ground floor. Back then, you didn’t give out your name to everyone you met. You didn’t share your school or your work, your home address or even your face. That’s something different today. It’s not hard to track someone’s daily movements these days. It’s not stalking; it’s subscribing to their feeds.
I have more than one name, and probably a few I’ve completely forgotten. I own too many domains, and I’ve lost more passwords for gmail accounts than I use today. I have a dozen sideblogs. Not all of them are active every day. Not all of them have followers. They serve different purposes for different parts of my life. At least, that was the plan. I have to give a piece of myself to each one. As little or as much as necessary, as little or as much as I can spare.
It’s exhausting. It’s why hitting the button to reblog a quote on Tumblr is easier than writing a paragraph about how much you loved the book you finished reading in bed last night. It’s probably what led me to think about shutting it all down in favour of a folder of static pages on a shared server. The city of the internet feels too crowded these days, but the spirit of the web abhors a hermit. We have to be more than a thumbs up or thumbs down. I want to share your favourite thing, but I need more than a gifset. I want you to tell me why it matters to you. I miss reading what we think about stuff. Tell me a story about your day.