Lately, there’s been some buzz about reviving the practice of blogging. Warren Ellis has posted about it, as has Chuck Wendig, and a bunch of other people, I’m sure. There seems to be a growing collective awareness of how ephemeral social media can be, and how devastating that can be when these social media platforms are already so ubiquitous.
Or, in short, everyone seems to be asking: When we look back x years from now, what will we find? And that’s a question social media encourages us to avoid, if not resist altogether.
It’s a big question. We humans aren’t wired to handle thoughts about our future. Little wonder that we tend to be bad at building answers — even in the smallest, most inconsequential way, like maintaining a blog.
But as Chuck Wendig points out, we don’t own any of these social media platforms. Our tweets and Facebook posts are released into the aether, and if we wanted to leaf through them later on, maybe trawl for persistent threads in our thinking — we couldn’t. If we wanted to leave a platform, we’d decouple ourselves from everything we might’ve published there, too.1 I know: you can download copies of your data. But the downloaded data isn’t immediately available to anyone else, and migrating it to a new, publicly accessible home takes time.
X years from now, none of us might be on the same platforms we’re using today–and even if we were, the trails we would’ve made would be so muddled and inchoate, they might as well be mush. The findings in that Slate article I linked up there cuts both ways: our future selves might be strangers to us now, but so will we be to them x years from now, if we’re not careful.
And so: blogging, a more lasting record of the people we are from day to day in the mad swirl of information that is the internet. Categories, tags, and other such systems assure us that we can make sense of whatever publications we accrue over time, but that kind of meta-organization is secondary. 2Consider the “log-like blogging” that Venkatesh Rao wrote about recently, which seems naturally resistant to most of these systems, at least insomuch as these systems come to approximate the effects of naming.
The point is that all of it is owned, in a space that you own and control–a space that you can return to and make sense of, time and again. However you choose to order that space is icing.