This is the post in which I don’t welcome you to my new blog.
I don’t say “Welcome Friends!” (more like “Welcome Strangers”).
I don’t say “I’ll be blogging about my passions x, y, and z” because I don’t even know what true passions I have yet to discover, much less what I’ll have to say about them.
I don’t say “Leave a comment about what you want me to blog about” since either (1) nobody will comment, or (2) the comments will be about topics I don’t even want to write about.
I don’t say “Check back next week for another post!”, since for all I know, it will be a year before I post again.
(By the way, If I wanted to make a goal of blogging, stating that here would make it more difficult to accomplish.)
Nearly every website I’ve made (including mine and ones for others) has launched with a blog and a “welcome to the new site” post with the promise of great things to come. My off-hand estimate would be that at least 50% of these sites never had a post beyond the initial welcome.
Looking back, there was a fad that said everyone had to have a blog (this continues today, but is more focused on social media). Everyone has to be broadcasting to the world and striving to be at the top of Google, have a million followers, or whatever popularity-based metric is chosen.
Ultimately, the dreams of running a successful blog (along with the commensurate business/personal success) never materialized for many, so they stopped trying.
Part of the problem was that people assumed blogging would be easy and could be swiftly leveraged to meet certain business goals. But it turns out to be much more difficult to gain a following when your goals don’t align with those of your readers. It doesn’t mean you can’t get people to read what you say, it just only results in a superficial connection.
Of course, maybe this superficial level of connection is all that some people and companies seek in this age. There’s no shortage of restaurants and car washes that will give you a free service just for “Liking” their page. As stupid as I thought this was at first, it’s a practice that works. Instead of paying for advertising (which can be expensive and a hassle to set up), companies will pay you (in the form of a free taco or express car wash) to follow their page and be subject to their promotions (often in the form of “exclusive deals” to reinforce the importance of liking their page).
The ease with which one can “Like” and “Follow” has enabled this publishing of low-quality content that never would have gained traction before.
This devaluation of the “Like” and “Follow” is one of my biggest grievances with social media right now. First, I don’t know whether my friends are following a given account because of inherently liking its content, or because they are being compensated in another way (and one of those ways could be a simple follow back). Second, when I evaluate the accounts I want to follow, I want to ensure that I’m not going to be subject to content designed to bias me toward a particular product or service. This is nearly impossible to be sure of.
Social media was better before businesses became tech-savvy. Blogs were more genuine before they could be rapidly monetized. Snapchat was more fun when I only received messages from friends and not advertisers.
This isn’t to say that the internet is tainted and we can’t have genuine conversations. Regardless of the medium, there will always be those with concealed agendas, and people learn to detect that. But it’s a problem when people stop critically examining the content that gets pushed in front of them on a daily basis.
There are a few basic principles I follow to keep myself from getting overwhelmed by social media:
- I choose what content is dispersed to me. Every email, tweet, post, and push notification needs to come from a source I mindfully authorized. Better yet, nothing is pushed to me, I pull when I’m ready to peruse.
- If I see an email or story in a feed and I don’t know why I’m seeing it, I’ll unsubscribe from however I received it. (This is pretty much impossible with Facebook and Twitter now since they inject sponsored posts.)
- There are cases where I see content that I disagree with (maybe a friend’s post), but that doesn’t mean I unfollow the source. As long as I know why I’m seeing this post (because of choosing to follow said friend), it is healthy to be exposed to other viewpoints in moderation (which makes the next point critical).
- Of the content I do choose to receive, I ask several questions:
- What is the author’s perspective? How is their background different from mine?
- What is the author’s motive? What do they want me to do based on seeing this piece of content?
- If I take a certain action based on seeing this content, have I fully researched all possible ways to respond, and concluded that this is the right way? (For example, I wouldn’t choose to buy a new car based on a single company’s ad. I would test drive several brands and then decide.)
I hope my own posts pass this test, and you’ll see that my only motivations are to share interesting ideas (and improve my ability at expressing them) and maybe spark a critical thought that someone wouldn’t have had otherwise.
Maybe next time I’ll write about something I’m passionate about.