I started blogging 15 years ago. I started with TeenOpenDiary in high school (now dead), OpenDiary (also dead), Livejournal (2003-2010), Blogger (2003-2006), then WordPress since 2009. Thousands of words typed into the internet. Sporadic bursts of updates and enthusiasm, then fatigue at chasing views and feedback through comments. Lots of wondering if anything I said had any value, or would have been better served writing in a paper journal instead.
And then I found Twitter in December 2008.
For someone who starts a lot of posts and abandons a significant number of them out of fear and a short-attention span, Twitter has been a perfect medium. The investment is minimal. You can write a tweet in a few seconds or a few minutes, if you want to add photos or edit it to pack in more words. If you want to write something longer than 140 characters, you do a tweetstorm or Twitter essay.
I’ve sent many more since them, many of them gaining attention even though I sent them during Night Twitter. I think I underestimated how many of my friends are up past 11pm and scrolling through Twitter like I am.
Kevin Nguyen perfectly explained what they are in an interview with Brooklyn Magazine:
Basically a night tweet is a tweet that you deliberately post during the hours when very few people will see it. What that usually turns into is extremely dorky jokes.
As a philosophy, it’s sort of a rejection of the notion that you tweet for faves or retweets, or that Twitter has to be performative at all. In the early days, people weren’t as afraid to be weird or silly. I’d like to think Night Twitter harkens back to that era.
The consensus is the practice had existed for a while, but Becca Laurie was the one who coined the term.
I recently met her and told her my adoption of them was so fervent I was interviewed about them by a journalism student. We also mentioned how the service’s “while you were away” algorithm screwed things up a bit. You can easily tell when popular Night Tweets are suddenly gaining traction again the next morning.
After I gained a significant number of Twitter followers in multiple time zones, Night Twitter became sort of a farcical thing. Well after the approximate start time of 11pm Eastern, it became apparent there was always going to be someone up and probably reading in Vancouver or Alberta or Hong Kong. And more people were staying up late reading, especially on the weekends.
I thought about all of this again after reading this post on The Hairpin encouraging people to blog again.
There aren’t very many good daily online writers anymore. There weren’t ever very many, but now, in 2016, I think, speaking generously, there are four. All of the old good writers aren’t writing anymore. And it seems like the new young people aren’t very interested in blogging and instead want to write long personal essays about sex, which is maybe a generalization, but if they are so interested in blogging where are all of their blog posts and why are all of the things they write long personal essays about sex? You see my point. And now Gawker is dead. What are we supposed to read now? There is nothing good, except, uh, Awl Network websites.
It ends with a simple plead: “Just blog more, please. (If you’re good at it.)
I’d like to read it.”
It was published the last week I was working at The Globe and Mail, right before I started journalism school for the second time. I put off really reading it instead of just skimming it. After I did, I couldn’t stop it from rolling around in my head.
Rusty Foster also pointed out the issue of wanting to write more and using that time to actually earn something that helps you pay rent.
Then there’s the issue of value. There’s more stuff being published than ever, but how much of is it worth reading and setting aside time for? I see so many terrible blog posts. I hate the feeling of disappointing people. I can’t imagine having some read something I wrote and thinking, “I wish I had that time back for something else.”
Then I had a revelation.
So I started blogging again. To be honest, part of it is because I’ve been explicitly told my student visa means I’m not allowed to work for pay until graduation in May. So if I want to write and get my words out somehow beyond the 140 character limits of Twitter, this is the way to do it.
I won’t often be able to do it every day, but I’ve been trying to expand on things I tweet or observe in life, and so far the reaction has been good. In the last few weeks, I’ve written about why it felt so difficult to purge stuff, the emotional and financial cost of moving, rejecting the exhausting expectations by men to be a Cool Girl, my mom helping me move to New York, lessons from nearly setting my oven on fire and advice about journalism school I wish I could have given myself the first time I went.
But it’s also really difficult to fit into my current schedule. Every time I blog something I’m spending time writing instead of doing readings, prepping for classings, reviewing accounting notes, thinking about my thesis topic or generally spending time on campus involved in my program. Blogging has become my extra-curricular activity rather than joining an affiliate group like AAJA’s Columbia chapter, another club or even going to the gym. It’s easy for me to spend hours on it without realizing how much time has gone by.
And this is the problem I had even when I wasn’t in graduate school. After 8, 10 or 12 hours of reporting and writing or working at another demanding media job, one of the last things I wanted to do was come home and write for another two hours for public consumption.
And for some reason, tweeting never felt like it counted the way blogging did, so I spent a lot of time during this period of my working life on it instead. And I was lucky, I didn’t really experience the threats and harassment I saw many women and people of colour get, so the only deterrent for me was realizing how much time I spent on it compared to every other leisure activity.
But there’s value in writing something longer, with actual paragraphs and bigger thoughts. It’s easier to read and find older blog posts. And because they take longer to put together, blog posts feel less disposable compared to Tweets.
People are interested and reading my stuff, even if the numbers aren’t huge (and I’m actually glad they’re not). I see how Anil Dash and Postlight’s Track Changes still blog and why it’s still important. Blogging feels different than a newsletter, though I’ve been tempted to send some of the things I write here out also through my Tinyletter, White Guy Confidence.
So even though it’s going to be hard, I’m going to try blogging again. I’m going to try and make it fun. Life’s hard enough as it is.