I’ve read these two bloggers since they began and, in many ways, defined blogging for all of us. But blogging has changed, as noted in an excellent post by Amy Julia Becker at her•meneutics. Becker is also pulling back from blogging to focus on other types of writing.
Stepping away from the very platforms that shaped them and popularized their careers, these celebrities raise questions about the future of blogging in particular and of social media in general. In announcing their departures, Whedon, Sullivan, and Armstrong all mention wanting to move away from the barrage of “haters” who leave their reckless disagreements and insults in comment sections and replies.
…Like these celebrity bloggers and tweeters, I found the amount of anonymous vitriol that emerged in my blog’s comment sections personally demoralizing and discouraging.
It cannot be denied that the online atmosphere has become more toxic in the last couple years. I cannot quite put my finger on why that is. I’ve spoken to a lot of people who’ve told me that they used to read blogs all the time, but they don’t anymore. Others have said they still read, but they no longer read comments.
The nature of blogging has changed as well. There’s money to be made blogging, but here’s the truth: not much money. When I left Patheos at the beginning of this year, it had nothing to do with the people there, all of whom I love respect. It had more to do with 1) the ads that were being served on my blog, which I thought degraded my ability to be taken seriously as a theologian and commentator, and 2) the pressure I felt to get more more more traffic.
And what gets traffic? I can tell you that when I was at Patheos, I knew exactly what I needed to write about to get traffic: Mark Driscoll, Rob Bell, and gays. Over half of my top posts during my last year at Patheos had to do with those three topics. And, thank God, I left before the listicle fad really took over.
I want to write books. That’s my first love, and one of the reasons I didn’t blog as much in 2014 as I did in 2012 and 2013 is that I was writing a book, the most ambitious book of my career. The irony is that my blogging platform is a big part of what interests publishers in my books. But they’re not asking me to write books on Mark Driscoll, Rob Bell, or gays. Nor would I want to.
With the constantly changing and endlessly available content, and the pressure for writers to garner as many “clicks” as possible, the Internet lends itself to a loss of storytelling, and a loss of careful thought.
We need to preserve a place for storytelling that takes time, and thought, and care, storytelling that provides a sense oftelos, of purpose and meaning and not just an ever-changing present reality. Such writing assures us of a moral arc to the universe, in Martin Luther King Jr.’s words, an arc that is long but leads towards justice, towards peace, towards the kingdom.
I completely agree with her.
I’m hoping to fall back in love with blogging. I’m committed to blogging once again, maybe even five days per week. But I’m going to feel less (no?) pressure about pageviews and monetization.
And I’m also hoping to write more books. A lot more.