“A blog is not writing. It’s graffiti with punctuation.”
Though the movie Contagion might have been a snooze-fest for most people (my dad fell asleep midway), it did drop this gem of a quote and managed to offend bloggers everywhere. This line was said to Jude Law who played a blogger whose blog had about twelve million unique hits. If he’s just a mere graffiti artist, how about smaller blogs that only have a couple of dozen hits a day?
I wrote this post because I’m seeing a lot of my friends setting up their own blogs. This is a bittersweet phenomenon for me because on one hand, I love how more of my friends are trying to write, which gives me more opportunity to learn more about them through their blogs. On the other hand, some of them are horrible writers, and because they are my friends, I am expected to like their blog–even though some of their posts make me cringe.
However, I’ve been writing for years now and I know how hard it is to develop one’s writing skills. I’ve written a lot of things and I still have a lot of areas that need improvement. So all I can say to my friends with blogs and those who are thinking of starting their own blogs: keep at it.
“Writing is a form of therapy; sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose or paint can manage to escape the madness, melancholia, the panic and fear which is inherent in a human situation.”
So why do people blog? This post is not to dissect the psyche of people who start blogs that are geared to make money. I do not subscribe to the uber-capitalist thinking of earning money for everything you do, which is why I don’t have ads on my blog. This post, however, will look into why people have personal blogs and, in extension, why people write.
So why do people write? And don’t give me that hogwash about people writing because they want to touch other people’s hearts and whatnot. Humans are selfish creatures (even the show FRIENDS and Immanuel Kant think so), and as such have selfish reasons.
So why do people write? Well, let’s see.
Writing to Talk
Some people just can’t get enough of talking. You would think that after firing off two thousand words a minute at me every time we meet, my friend would lose steam at some point and just sit in a corner, waiting for her brain to regenerate with more words. But no, she goes online and writes down even more words. Where are all these words coming from?
There are a lot of people like this, and I think it boils down to them wanting to be the center of attention. They need to be noisy, they need to be in the midst of it all, they need to be in the loop and they need to be talked about while still doing all the talking. I bet you know people like this in real life (it’s sad how a lot of hardcore bloggers use irl or ‘in real life’ a lot—just shows how removed some us are from the real world) and if you check, they either have a blog or they post a lot in social networks.
Writing for Attention or Notoriety
This is a bit related to its predecessor. As mentioned above, people who like to talk are also used to being the center of attention. Having a blog is just another way to be the center of attention even when they’re just sitting in front of their computer while still in their pajamas. It’s a hassle-free way of catching someone’s eye and telling them things they don’t really want to hear about, which is exactly what they do in real life (there we go again).
This is similar to dancing in front of your intended audience butt-naked with a tea cozy on your head—you just want to be noticed, and you’re not exactly being subtle about it. You write a 200-word post every hour and you post links to it on every social network you can find. Yeah, that’s not annoying at all.
Writing to Educate
Of course, not all the reasons to write are annoying as hell. I know a lot of bloggers who are experts on a given field, so they do what they can to help people who are interested in it. For example, say that someone you know loves gardening and specializes in growing medicinal mushrooms. That person might think about writing about their love in their blog, and might even drop tips and tricks to help out other people who are interested.
There are a lot of blogs like this all over the Internet—experts writing about the things they love, thereby indirectly helping out a whole lot of other people. You can find blogs on fashion, gardening, house renovations, real estate, pet care, and just about any other topic you can think of.
Writing to Stay Connected
The last reason was about people trying to stay professional–these are people who are experts in their own field trying to connect with people who are interested in that particular field. This reason, however, is about people who want to stay connected to people they already know and have relationships with.
There are a lot of these blogs out there, and some of them can be real personal. The best thing about blogs is that you can write about anything, and you can limit who sees your blog or even individual posts. This is why a lot of people use their blogs like their own social network–they post photos, write about their day, talk about their love life or their sex life, rant about how unfair their parents are, or talk about how they cheated on their final exams.
That’s great and all, but you have to understand that everything you put on the Internet stays on the Internet, forever. And there are ways around so-called “privacy” measures. Those pictures of you and your girlfriends getting freaky in a limo? That video of you and your classmates drinking heavily and puking like crazy during an inter-school conference? That post you wrote about how horrible your parents are? You can’t undo that once you click Publish.
When an employer Googles your name, what are they going to find? That’s the one thing that you always have to keep in mind when you work on your blog, or whatever else you do online. Here’s a tip: Never say anything online that you won’t say in person.
Writing to Change The World
Two things: (1) with the Internet, the whole planet is virtually at your fingertips–you can literally reach just about anyone from anywhere in the world with a couple of keystrokes; and (2) words are magic, and they can effect change better than guns or tanks or weapons of mass destruction.
A few months ago, for example, there was a case of bullying in my alma mater. Not a lot of people knew about it though because everybody was afraid of the bully and no one wanted to tell on him. I wrote this blog post about it and in a few days, the highest echelons of the school were calling me to their office to talk about what happened. I think that’s great proof that the written word is stronger than the sword.
“Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it.” -Albus Dumbledore
The same thing happened during Arab Spring. It may not be blogging per se, but people used the Internet and they wrote on their Facebook Walls or used their Twitter accounts to get the youth together, and they eventually toppled murderous dictators and instituted the biggest democracy sweep in recent history. What more proof do you need?
For me, what underlines all these reasons, what they all have in common, is that people write to express. People talk because they want to express, people become the center of attention because they express, people express what they feel about topics they love and help other people in the process, people express to their friends so they can stay connected, and people express to change the world. It’s all about expression.
These are five reasons–very valid reasons, mind you–but if you’re like me, you don’t need a reason. You write because your mind is filled with thoughts that just swirl around your cranium, just banging on the walls, eager to come out. Short of getting a Pensieve and sucking out your thoughts a-la Dumbledore, you need some way to think straight. You need some sort of output. You need to write.
In short, I write to think. I write to express.
I write so I won’t go insane.