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Pickle Me This

January 18, 2019

The Back to the Blog Movement

“I blog to make sense of the world,” is the way that I’ve always explained my attraction to blogging, the way that I use my blog as a workbook, a scrapbook, part of a process toward understanding. But in the last couple of years, the world hasn’t made very much sense at all, and in ways great and small, I’d started to suppose that blogging was futile. Certainly people weren’t reading blogs anymore, and enticing readers to do so required wading into the mires of social media, where standards of behaviour were abysmally low and one gets the sense that with every scroll, the world becomes a place that’s slightly worse. But still I kept scrolling. “I’m not getting off twitter,” I’ve said on more than one occasion too late in the evening, scrolling, scrolling, “until the world becomes a place that I can understand again.” But it turns out the Twitter is even more futile than blogs are for sense-making, plus it’s passive, hijacked by capitalism, stupid algorithms, and rife with violence and abuse.

Last fall I experienced a distance from my blog, which I continued to update, but mostly with news and book reviews. I wrote fewer personal posts, though that was partly because Instagram really has taken over as my receptacle for quotidian things. I wrote less about my children, but that was more because they no longer exist in the world solely as extensions of my existence. I didn’t write many of what have always been by favourite posts, random explorations of connection-making, experiments in thought and narrative. I was always busy with paid work, and I was writing a novel, so much so that I didn’t worry so much about what was happening with my blog. But I was beginning to lose the habit of writing a blog, and the habit of thinking like a blogger, which is going out in the world with my eyes open to story and connections and questions. In losing some faith in the world, I’d also lost faith in those questions and connections’ ability to bring me closer to answers, which is a self-fulfilling prophecy when the end result is endless scrolling on Twitter.

The blog posts I was writing last fall didn’t always feel satisfying, didn’t seem to illuminate my understanding. I think I was feeling dispirited and and a little bit sad, writing posts about the crime of underfunding public education or about what it was like to have published a novel that was not a commercial success. By October, it had been a year since I’d last taught a blogging course or workshop, the longest break since I’d started teaching in 2011. “And really, I’d be happy never doing it again,” I remember saying, because I didn’t feel comfortable claiming to be a blog authority. Having forgotten, apparently, the cornerstone of blogging form, which is that having questions is far more important than having answers, and that no one is an authority ever.

Teacup with reflection

But I did remember one thing I always told my blogging students, which is to write your way toward any answers you’re seeking. So a random post about a missing hat, or another about how I was looking for a babysitter. These were posts I wrote because it felt good to be writing and employing the first-person perspective again, though I wasn’t sure what they all added up to. In some ways, it felt like I was learning to be a blogger all over, learning to be uncomfortable. Questioning what this space was for, what stories I was telling, and what my voice was. So what’s the point? There usually wasn’t one.

Then in late December I spent a week and a half offline.

And when I returned to the internet in the new year, I realized there wasn’t much about the internet that I missed at all. I still liked Instagram, but that’s only because it is essentially a blog. Twitter brought me no pleasure. Facebook seemed like a waste of my time, and I would leave the site altogether…except for the people I like there. But then, if those people really want to hang out with me, can’t they come over to my blog? I’m really not hard to find—and suddenly the possibility this online space permits me seemed wide and exciting. I felt hopeful about life online for the first time in a long time, because I can conduct it on my own terms, in my own place. What if we stopped spending our time on websites owned by multi-million-dollar corporations that are demonstrably making the world worse all the time? What if the forty-five minutes I spent this evening having my brain turned to jelly trying to fathom the perspective of some guy on Twitter cheering on a right wing politician had been spent on anything else? What would life online be without the bots and the manufactured outrage, stupid algorithms, the trolls and the racist uncles? Totally meme-free, with unlimited characters, and nobody’s sharing any fake news article created by a shady network in Outer Siberia.

It would be a blog, of course. Right back where we started in Web 2.0, with stories and voices in a range that the world has never before been able to read, voices not in chorus, but not so polarized either. Connected, but not in a thread, more like a quilt, if we’re thinking in textiles. Niche onto niche, something for everyone. With room enough for stories, and questions, and nuance, and reflection, and changing your mind. And also for changing the world, in the small and subtle ways that blogs have always mattered—turns out I’m not ready to give up on that one just yet.

21 thoughts on “The Back to the Blog Movement”

  1. Drew says:

    Yes, this captures my feelings so well. Thank you.

    For 10 years I’ve maintined my blog and have been through these same waves of question/connect/disconnec/encouraged/discouraged. But I keep coming back to the blog for the same reason: in writing I make sense I can put together the disjointed moments that add up to a life.

    The world needs more heart, less hurt. Please do keep on.

    1. theresa says:

      I love this. And I keep my own modest blog in order to think aloud when I need to. Twitter is OK in small doses but it’s also a rabbit hole (or at least that’s been my experience) and how I love to read real writing, real musings, and generous commentary on books, ideas, places. More, Kerry!

      1. Kerry says:

        Thanks, Theresa! I love your blog so much.

    2. Kerry says:

      Thank you for reading, and I’m glad you’re blogging too.

  2. dee says:

    Agree totally about all the social media. I’m still on twitter but I’ve pared down my feed and I don’t tweet any more. Yeas, there’s some good stuff on there, but it is a total time waster for the most part and makes me feel bad. I can get news from news sites. Been off Facebook for over 5 years and haven’t looked back. Still on instagram, like you, but minimizing that too, as it had been too much a part of my life. I am actually remembering how it is to think for myself again (maybe I’m too easily swayed but all this social media takes me away from me too much). I’ve read about other bloggers doing the same as you getting back to the blog. There’s going to come a time when all of the social media companies go bust for some reason and then we would have to make do without anyhow. Blogs are more in one’s control…

    1. Kerry says:

      Yes! That control is important for sure. Also, knowing your “content” will not one day just disappear…

  3. melanie says:

    This was exactly what I needed to read today Kerry. Having made up my mind in the last week that I was just going to go for it and start blogging again. So I did and I wrote all about this post and blogging and everything. Thank you!

    1. Kerry says:

      It’s very nice to not be alone in the Back to the Blog Movement! Especially since part of the movement is blogs to read…

    2. Erin says:

      totally also decided that my focus for the new year is getting back into blogging!

      1. Kerry says:

        Do it!!

  4. Diane says:

    gosh, can I ever relate to so much of this. You’ve stated it all so well. I’ve been blogging for years and a few months ago wondered why I blog at all. Your statement, “But then, if those people really want to hang out with me, can’t they come over to my blog?” was something I said to myself. I’m so glad you wrote this. I’m proudly continuing to blog and doing it my way. Thank you.

    1. Kerry says:

      Thanks for reading! And I’ve added your blog to my blog reader—looks like my kind of thing.

  5. Medeine says:

    Love this.i struggle with wanting to stay connected to people I’ve met or known in past life contexts but am unwilling to engage very much in the social medias so end up scrolling and scrolling… which is frankly boring. But your blogposts never are.

  6. Suzanne says:

    Oh, this resonates with me so strongly. I really miss the halcyon days of blogging, when that was your community of your people, and you kept in touch and up to date with the minutiae of each other’s day-to-day. I’m looking forward to more of your posts.

    1. Kerry says:

      glad you get it. Thank for reading.

  7. Sarah says:

    I loved this post and it really has me thinking. I struggle so much with wondering what to write about outside of the personal stories that are happening in my family that are not mine to tell but take up so much of my brain. Then I’m left feeling guilty and stay away but miss it!

    1. Kerry says:

      There are plenty of creative solutions to your problem, I think! Thank you for reading.

  8. Ann Marie says:

    Just the inspiration I need at the moment, Kerry. It’s back to the blog…thank you. xo

    1. Kerry says:

      Can’t wait!

  9. Manisha says:

    Kerry, I followed a link through Shawna LeMay and found your blog today. It was very good for me to read your words. I have had a blog for many years but drifted away but last December a had an ache to be blogging again. One of the things that was discouraging was my inability to connect with her bloggers (mostly white women but a few very successful WOC)yet knowing that I was always doing it for myself. I feel encouraged to try again because of you. Thank you!

    1. Kerry says:

      I am so glad, and happy to discover your blog too! Thanks for stopping by to leave a comment.

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