I have been blogging for 12 years now. For at least 11 of those years, people have been predicting the end of the blog. The reasons have changed, but the predictions have been consistent: It is only a matter of time before the blogosphere collapses.
Last month Christianity Today ran an article by Amy Julia Becker titled “Why Bloggers Are Calling It Quits.” She points to high-profile bloggers Andrew Sullivan and Heather Armstrong. Both of them have recently decided to walk away from their blogs at the very height of their popularity. She focuses on several reasons that bloggers quit: They grow weary of the anonymous vitriol that dominates so much online discussion, they realize that these blogs have come to dominate their lives, forcing them to inhabit a fast-paced always-on digital existence, and they want to slow down and to focus on a different kind of writing. Becker laments, “With the constantly changing and endlessly available content, and the pressure for writers to garner as many ‘clicks’ as possible, the Internet lends itself to a loss of storytelling, and a loss of careful thought.”
I do not disagree with all Becker says. I, too, sometimes grow weary of blogs and the blogosphere. I hate that even the most bland or innocuous statement will inevitably be taken by someone somewhere as an outrage. I completely agree that “We need to preserve a place for storytelling that takes time, and thought, and care, storytelling that provides a sense of telos, of purpose and meaning and not just an ever-changing present reality.” But the blogosphere isn’t meant to be a replacement for such works; it is meant to complement them. Ironically, the people who write those great works will immediately turn to the blogosphere to spread the ideas and sell the books. Both media are improved when they work together. We do not need to downplay one in order to give due respect to the other.
I predict that the blogosphere will continue to grow and thrive. At least, the idea of the blogosphere will grow and thrive. The idea that gave rise to the blogosphere is that it offered people with ideas a voice that circumvented the traditional gatekeepers. Newspaper editors no longer stood between opinions and audiences. Book publishers could no longer determine the authors who would introduce and evaluate the big ideas. Magazines and news shows were no longer the only curators of interesting news and information. That anyone today can have a voice seems normal in 2015, but we forget that fifteen years ago it was a novel idea.
Blogs have given a voice to the people, and the people do not intend to give it back anytime soon. News and information, both in its content and curation, has been democratized. I don’t see that changing for a long time. We don’t want to go back to a world where a few giant media outlets control the ideas and suggest how we ought to think about them.
The medium will inevitably evolve and (I pray) mature. Some of the traditional elements of a blog (such as a comment section, which I pretty much leave closed these days) are disappearing or migrating to platforms like Facebook. Someday we may even lose the word “blog.” But the idea is here to stay. Yes, a lot of bloggers are quitting. But many others are taking their place.
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