Yes, you should blog

Personal blogs seem to be on the wane today. While blogging now seems like table stakes for every organization, company (especially in tech) or celebrity, fewer and fewer regular ol’ humans seem to bother anymore. I think there are a couple big reasons for this. Among those people who might otherwise think about blogging:

  • They think blogging is hard to do.
  • They don’t see the advantage of blogging over using social media.
  • They simply don’t think they have anything worth saying, or that others would actually want to read.

I’m going to dispatch numbers one and two in a sec, but this blog post is really about rebutting #3, and to say – don’t listen to the cynics. If you have even the slightest inclination, you should blog. About whatever. Blog about unicorns, or growing ghost peppers in your flower box, or about raising a child with autism, or even about your views on politics. (Really!) You should blog because it’s good for you, it is often fun, and dammit, it’s good for the internet.

Own your own platform

The rise of social media has suddenly convinced many people that blogging, especially on a platform separate and distinct from a social network, is hard. But I promise, it is not.

Platforms like WordPress, Squarespace and Wix make it pretty easy to get set up with everything you need from jump. I’m cheap, though, so I went just the tiniest bit more DIY. I bought a domain on Google Domains and pointed it at an AWS IP address associated with an EC2 instance. It sounds more complicated than it is – there’s even an AWS official how-to article on it. The long and short is that if the monthly fee from one of those vendors above, which is already pretty low, is too much for you, running your blog on AWS can be even cheaper.

And there you go – a full-featured WordPress blog on your own custom domain.

“Own your own platform” is sort of a digital prepper’s mentality, I admit. (Facebook may have a file on me, but they’ll never be my online identity!) To me, owning my own tiny little space on the internet is appealing. More importantly, if you’re a professional, your site acts as something of a living resume. You can learn a lot more about me by poking through my blog than you can reading my actual resume, and this is true for pretty much any blogger.

Clearly, a big reason why blogging has faded somewhat is the ubiquity of social media. Not only do social platforms give you a ready-made place to throw content into the wind, but that’s where all the eyeballs are. Owning your own platform is great, but if no one ever sees it, who cares?

And indeed, if you’re not on social media, the reach of your network is extremely limited. For a lot of people, that’s probably fine by them. I do believe, though, that it’ll increasingly be the case, even more than it is already, that being on some kind of social network really won’t be optional for any effective knowledge industry professional. Even the most hyper-connected guy in meatspace still operates under his Dunbar’s number, which even a lightly active Twitter, LinkedIn or (ugh) Facebook profile makes irrelevant.

If you’re the kind of person who has ideas they want to develop and share, however, social media is a tough place to do it. Long-form writing doesn’t work well there. In some cases, that’s okay – a lot of ideas turn out to be condensable into tweet format. (As the saying goes, most books could be a blog post, most blog posts could be a tweet, and most tweets shouldn’t be sent.) Other times, expanding into a blog post, or perhaps a series, is exactly the length that’s called for.

You should blog

Okay, okay, I said I’d return to this. The biggest reason that I hear people say they don’t blog is because they feel embarrassed, or like they have nothing worth saying. And I disagree.

Obviously, writing for fun just isn’t everyone’s thing. You can’t blog without enjoying the act of writing, or at least articulating ideas. But there are still a lot of smart folks out there who have ideas worth sharing. Like I said earlier, these might be on monetary policy or the Middle East, or they could also be about dog nutrition, crafting or stargazing. Whatever does it for you.

A good indication that you’re ready to blog is when you’re reading something about a favorite subject and you start thinking, “well, wait – I don’t agree with that, exactly,” and a couple of sentences start forming in your head. Or perhaps you agree with it strongly, and have even more to add. Stuff like that should go online. Content like this enriches the internet, and fundamentally centers your experience online on what nourishes and excites you, rather than what maximizes your engagement on an advertiser’s platform.

Rand Fishkin wrote an interesting piece not long ago questioning whether blogging was still “worth it.” (You subscribers to my email update probably saw it.) In short, if you view blogging primarily as a professional exercise to establish yourself as a “thought leader” or expert in a field, then it’s a tough slog. There’s just more noise than ever that you need to cut through in order to cultivate a loyal following. Reaching a “large” audience is just extremely difficult, and requires a ton of time dedicated to pumping out shareable content.

That said, if viewed as a hobby, blogging brings a lot of benefits. It makes you a better, clearer writer, for one. Nothing forces you to reason through an argument like writing about it. (Social media doesn’t help with that – I attest from personal experience.) In the process of engaging with other bloggers, you also discover new ideas and arguments that make you a sharper thinker. If you enjoy that sort of thing, then blogging cannot be beat.

What’s a large audience to you? If a thousand people read something you wrote, would you find that amazing or disappointing? When I started blogging, if 30 people visited my site in a day, I was really happy (and a little nervous). Today, a somewhat low day for traffic, I hit a multiple of that (and some days, it’s a much bigger multiple). The idea of people reading some shit I thought about and put up on the internet never ceases to kinda thrill me. This is organic content, the stuff no one gets paid for (least of all me), and I think it’s what really makes the internet great.

I have a tiny, tiny patch of the internet. There are many like it, but this one is mine. You should think about going out there and finding your own.

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