I do not have the time to read regularly all the blogs to which I have established links, on my own blog. As a result, sometimes months go by without me reading them, and when I finally decide to catch up, I find out that they no longer exist, or that they have not been updated in months — and probably never will be again.
At that point I remove the link, of course.
I have just finished the above operation, and see that my link list is almost half as long now. There have apparently been many casualties among fellow bloggers, over the past twelve months. And yes, my own blogging has become more difficult and slower, over the same time frame. And I do think that the two things are related.
I cannot help feeling a bit melancholic, every time I see that a blog is no more (of course I am not talking of cases in which blogs are simply moved) — as I do every time I am reminded of the passing of time, in whichever way that happens.
I do not want to sound needlessly melodramatic. It is not as if anyone has died; most of those bloggers are still around (in blogosphere, I mean) — in fact some of them, with their comments, preciously contribute to keeping the debate lively on other blogs. Still, the fact that those blogs are gone, or in any case dormant, reminds me of the transient nature of this activity, and I start seeing the day I myself will decide to end my own stint with it.
But, what is it that makes one stop blogging ? The “canonical” explanation is lack of time, but it does not seem convincing, in general. Why is it that, two or three years after starting to blog, one would suddenly find oneself with less time to devote to what is essentially a pastime ? Does life really get busier as we age ? I think a more likely explanation is that one simply tires of blogging. And, why does that happen ?
Well, I can speak for myself only, but I have been at it for slightly over four years, and can certainly see how and why coming up with new and worthwhile subjects about which to write, has become arduous over the past year and a half. No, it is not lack of time — I have the same time at my disposal that I had four years ago, in fact if anything even more of it.
I started blogging because there are a few subjects and issues that are dear to my heart, and felt the need of expressing my views in writing, in a somewhat coherent and organized fashion. It was exclusively for my own benefit, of course. And it has worked really well for me. I have managed to produce a handful (maybe four or five) of posts of which I am proud, which others have found (and still find) useful — especially some having to do with graduate school and science careers.
But, I am talking just “a few” such issues — as in, two or three. If it had been just about that, I would probably have stopped a long time ago. It is hard to sustain a regular writing activity based on “a few issues” alone. Repetitiveness is inevitable. How many times and in how many different ways, can one write down what one has to say about a specific subject ?
I think that what makes blogging fun and sustainable in the long run, is the second reason why I started blogging to begin with, and that is the regular interaction with fellow bloggers whose writings we find interesting and compelling, and which in turn are the main inspiration for our own posts, in the long run.
I would venture to say that each blogger starts out also, perhaps mostly, because (s)he enjoys reading some specific blogs. We lurk for a while, then timidly start commenting, maybe anonymously at first but then disclosing our identity; with time, we find that our comments become longer, more articulate and confident; and finally, the day arrives when we finally think to ourselves “Hey maybe I should write a whole post of my own on this…”.
There are many, many interesting blogs worth reading, even if one restricts oneself to those discussing one’s favorite topics. One has to start somewhere, and I am sure that those who follow some blogs regularly, for the most part arrive at them in the first place by serendipity — after all, blogs are born and die every day.
Titles like “Incoherently Scattered Ponderings”, “A Mad Tea Party”, “I postdoc therefore I am”, “Transient Reporter”, “Professor in Training” mean nothing to anyone moving his or her first steps in blogosphere now. They are the titles of blogs that no longer exist and/or are no longer updated, which I used to read every day before taking the plunge myself, in December 2007. Some of the authors have actually become my friends, and therefore I interact with them in different ways — but it is not the same as reading their thoughts, mulling over them, wanting to respond with my own opinions. And, as these blogs have faded, been more and more seldom updated, eventually disappearing altogether, my own blogging has become less frequent, and my enthusiasm toward it has weakened.
All of this suggests to me that in many cases it is not about any individual blog, but rather a community thereof. Whether it also means that, for many of us, it may make sense to “join forces” and contribute to a single blog, I am not sure.
There is still something to be said for owning one’s space. Let’s see how long more I last.