There are many [unnecessarily ordered] lists with legitimate reasons to blog. Most reasons on these lists answer “Why should people blog?” by suggesting wonderful potential outcomes from blogging, like becoming a better writer. I completely agree that blogging makes me a better writer (and most items on these lists), but the idea of becoming a better writer would never cause me to navigate to this site to type things. So the class of reasons I’m more interested in understanding are those that try to answer “Why do people blog?” and investigate what desires actually motivate blogging. We have limited willpower to make ourselves work on the list of things we should do, but we often have unlimited energy when it comes to channeling our innate desires through productive mediums. For me, the desires that result in blogging center around wanting to have conversations.
The desire to talk to myself
One reason I love the drizzly, overcast winter weather in Portland is because it reflects how much of my mind feels – a foggy ecosystem of facts, opinions and assumptions. Most of the time, this means that my frequent internal conversations are inconclusive ramblings. This is a perfectly acceptable/necessary means to explore the landscape (mindscape?), but sometimes I’m looking to have a well-reasoned conversation with myself instead.
Realizing that I have intense but confusing thoughts about something really nags at me, and starting a blog post whenever I feel this way is a relief – like weeding! As a result, there are many drafts here of topics I’m still working to understand – like why various medical technologies for conceiving biological children bother me (despite my interest in human egg-laying), or how I think the current men’s rights movement is necessary but contaminated with misdirected anger. Without this blog, these things would just fester uncomfortably in my head, and with this blog, I just feel slightly less uncomfortable thinking about how I “should” be writing more about important controversies rather than writing about writing.
The desire to talk to my friends
I now have a lot of friends who are far away and some who hate talking on the phone. Many people keep their friends updated through twitter, facebook, or instagram, but none of these mediums feels like enough expression for me. I’m reminded of this wonderful post on “being busy” where the author laments that we don’t talk enough about the state of our hearts. Posting photos and short factual updates is mostly trading in symbols, while I wish people shared more content – why they chose a particular vacation destination, how they’ve changed after adopting a dog, etc.
In the same way, I feel like posting brief updates to my friends is meaningless – I want my friends to know what’s happening to me, but only if it’s accompanied with how I feel about it and how it relates to things I’m thinking about. Writing a long form blog is the only “social” (i.e. mass-distributed) thing I can come up with to channel this desire to update my friends.
The desire to talk to strangers
Some of the energy that motivates me to blog is from the same pool that convinces me to talk to strangers, go on dates, or go to meetups. I’m moved to post things here rather than journal privately because there is a thrill in potentially reaching people who aren’t in my immediate circle. This reminds me of how much I love authors like David Mitchell who often write many-part stories about strangers and how they’re unpredictably connected – it suggests a universal human community rather than the pods we settle ourselves into. One of the best (or maybe worst if you’re an ancient philosopher) aspects of writing is the potential for interaction unbound by geography or time.
I’m historically a passive reader (I can’t stand marking physical books, even with removable post-its), but lately, I’ve started taking notes on books and articles I’m reading in a journal or evernote. I think this is due to an increasing desire to participate in the discussions happening in the world, rather than just absorbing them. As a [relatively] young person, I don’t feel the need to say too much, since it’s so important to observe before making judgments to avoid polluting public forums with senseless noise. However, as I’m growing older (turning 26 soon!), I increasingly feel that it’s a responsibly to form thoughtful convictions and find ways to effect necessary changes in my community – which for me starts with thinking and writing.
I started writing this post with selfish intentions – i.e. because I want more of my friends to keep blogs. But after thinking through my motivations, I’m wondering if other people just don’t have the same desires as I do or if they channel the desires I’ve mentioned towards talking to people at normal social gatherings rather than drafting blog posts. So I decided it’s a little narcissistic to dwell on my wish for the return of long form social media (no, I don’t mean medium) if my friends don’t want to take time away from their busy lives to document them for me. But for those who do feel some desire to blog, what would make it easier? If Xanga were to regain popularity, would you participate?