Personal blogs have been on a death watch since 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011, with the Facebook and Twitter named as co-conspirators. This shift seems inevitable given the ease of posting links on Facebook. The software pulls the headline, first few lines and a thumbnail along with the URL. Facebook even has a comment system built in, as well as all those friends and friends of friends to read our posts. Twitter has a built in link shortener allowing deep URLs to fit within the character limit and hashtags serve to group like subjects together, globally. Yet, despite, or perhaps because of, this convenience, collectively these services have dumbed us all down.
When I first started a personal blog, it served as a way of commenting, publicly, about the news and events in the world. I posted a link, maybe quoted the article, and most importantly, offered some bit of commentary alongside the headline. Blogging was not about collecting interesting links, but about sharing in the discourse and participating in the dialogue. An article link usually served only as a starting point or as a way to support an argument.
Web empires like Gawker were built around the principle: collate the most interesting headlines and add snarky commentary. Individual bloggers built careers too, either by profiting directly from their sites or using their sites as a portfolio.
Facebook and Twitter allow users to post more quickly. Articles, videos and photos go viral faster because we are all constantly posting and reposting new links. Our friends all bombard us with new pieces of information they have posted, and we bombard them back.
But rarely do we end up posting extensive commentary. And how could we when we’re so busy sharing new links.
Posting a new link on Facebook is a process that requires little effort — and as result — little thought. Comments are usually snarky banter, or even easier, we simply “like” an article to show how much we appreciated it. And how often do we post a new link without bothering even to write anything at all, instead allowing the software to create a headline to speak for us? Twitter’s character limit goes even further; any added commentary must fit in the 140 characters, less the characters of the URL. We all share lots of new links, but rarely say anything about them ourselves.
When I first launched my blog, usually I wrote no less than a paragraph of original thought to accompany every article link I posted. Often I wrote more. Now, I easily post a link to Facebook without any commentary at all. Facebook and Twitter have converted as all from producers of content to merely consumers of content. Personal bloggers were once all producing and contributing to the discourse. Now at best, we leave a comment or reply with snappy one-liners.
We are saturated with information, but we are not necessarily actively engaging in any of it. We consume it. We take tiny snippets of information without ever contemplating it. Like television, we passively absorb the content.
Whether Facebook and Twitter killed the personal blog or if they simply changed the format, the one thing they certainly have done is diminish the discourse of the internet by reducing the importance of original, comprehensive thought in favor of fragments and one-line wonders.