People blog for a number of reasons. The three big ones appear to be – a marketing tactic for selling their book, journalistic aspirations or because they have passionate opinions they wish to share. Regardless of the cause or motivation, we bloggers share one thing in common – the quest for readership and connection. Humans are interesting creatures. Once we’ve met all the requirements of survival such as food, water, shelter and safety, we quickly move on to connection and attachment. One might argue (and many have) that facebook, blogs, twitter and the like are feeding a narcissistic desire to be famous. I don’t disagree. I would argue that for many folks , though, it isn’t about fame, it’s about engagement with others. And blogging provides an intellectual engagement beyond the one-line status updates and tweets.
Social media and all its forms are just another step in the web-based evolution. Blogs are a way to share thoughts, opinions, ideas and information and to connect to people interested in the things the writer is interested in. And although different and perhaps a little more one-sided, Blogging is a natural off-shoot of platforms like Chat Rooms and Dating Websites.
The Chat-room: In my opinion it all started in the 90’s with those AOL chat rooms. If your too young to have experienced the phenomena, I’ll share a brief recap. You basically “Dialed In” to your AOL account. Went to a chat room that had names like “Love 30s” “Divorced Adults” “Astrology Lovers” etc etc. The chat room name didn’t make much of a difference. It was all the same venue. People looking to meet people. There were a ton of romances, hook ups, and friendships that spawned from these chat rooms. It was, however, a lot like an old west saloon – a fast paced and crazy environment. You had to be a quick typist and very witty. You lived and died on your words and ability to effectively engage others. Many just sat on the sidelines and watched. Unfortunately, finding interesting conversation was a exercise in futility. It was not a place of sharing equal screen time. I’m certain there were lonely people who just wanted someone to talk to, but chat rooms became a stage to dominate, and for the slow or measured communicator – they were a disaster. Like all things, a formula for success developed. For Men – Engage the female screen name, corner her in conversation, block other dudes involvement, try to move her to a private chat…oh and then exchange pics to see if you were interested. For Women – Get a sexy screen name, be enticing and flirty, laugh with all the boys.
Date.Com: It was only natural that since people wanted to connect on line, websites would develop to provide such services. Here you could get right to the heart of it. Post a pic, post some interesting information and perhaps an enticing little tag line…plus all your vital statistics (height, build, income, job, interests). Of course the pic was the most vital part of the equation. I’d imagine these services allowed photoshop and other photo editing software to make tons of money on their products. I experienced first hand the magic of picture manipulation. It didn’t bother me so much when a woman brushed a little bit here and there – but when I fell victim to complete dishonesty, my first thought was always, “why would I have a relationship with someone who goes to such extremes to deceive?”
Blogging: My motivation and I’m certain that of others, in visiting these places was to meet intelligent people to connect and converse with. I wasn’t necessarily looking for a date and I definitely wasn’t looking to “hook up.” I just like to talk to interesting and intelligent people and engage on-line. I was not alone. Blogging seemed to be the answer to that desire to communicate and meet new people – without having to date them. Of course finding those people requires a readership. In a sea of blogs, readership challenges can be every bit as competitive as a chat room or Match.com
Boys will Be Boys…and so will Girls: Aesthetics still play a role even in the blog world. For a while I was on Writers Cafe, a mostly poetry driven site to share and get comments on your work. Females with pretty profile pics tend to get more comments and friends than those without a profile pic. It’s human nature even for the intellectual writing type and something no longer just an aspect of men’s interest. Blogs seem to have less of this, but I would bet that “attractiveness” still plays a role in blog following to some degree for some followers.
Entice Me: It’s marketing one-0-one, a good title draws a reader. It’s no different than the titles, phrases or screen names used for chat rooms and dating sites. Naked Angel is going to draw a lot more attention than Gold digger. Looking for “Long romantic walks and holding hands” is a better hook than “Casual sex my wife won’t find out about”…unless you’re female and then the latter is far more enticing. Blog enticement works the same way. Readers are far more likely to click a post called, “There are things worse than death” than one titled, “Chapter One of my Book.”
The Shy Type: I met my wife through a dating website. Some glitch or destiny caused my profile to come up in her screen corner several times even though she had set her search parameters at fifty miles and we were 1400 miles away. She sent me a single message – “Hi, would you like to chat?” Apparently my answer was, “Yes, I’d love to spend the rest of my life with you.” While her question was direct – it was a pretty soft approach to introductions. For blog readers that soft approach is the “LIKE” button. A way to say “hello” without a comment, a soft version of engagement. When I read other blogs I almost never hit the Like button. I prefer to comment.
Engagement: Comments are the blog version of messaging someone of interest. Although in this case the comment is about interest in the content, not the blogger. Comments are the pay-off for the blogging work, but there is of course a price to pay. I don’t comment often, but I am often surprised when my comment goes unanswered. Blogging is a quid pro quo business. I follow you, you follow me, I comment on yours and you respond to my comment. Without such engagement, your readers assume you have no interest in an exchange or their thoughts and thus they lose interest in you – no one wants to be a part of a one-sided conversation. It’s tough work for a blogger to respond to every comment – but like any interaction service it is required to keep things going.
Blogging may not be about romantic connections, but it still about connections…otherwise we’d just write a journal. As a social connection tool, it really shares all the same qualities as any chat room or dating site. Successful blogging needs to be somewhat attractive, enticing, interesting, entertaining, and of course follow the rules of etiquette. You may never get 5,000 followers, but if you can meet and engage with even a handful of new, like-minded people, that in my opinion adds a richness to your life and is worth the writing effort.