Thursday, July 11, 2013

Why do I blog?

I'm going through one of those rare moments where I'm not an ever-flowing fountain of blog topics.  So let's go meta.  What's my motivation for blogging?  I've been around for over five years, maybe it's time I answered that question.

I first started reading blogs around 2006, when I started going to college.  At first I only read the Bad Astronomy blog.  Back then, the blog was hosted on the Bad Astronomy webpage, which I had serendipitously discovered through the Internet Anagram Server.  I remember discussions of astronomy, alternative medicine, pareidolia, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster (which was new at the time).  I remember periodically browsing the blogroll, which included Pharyngula, Skeptico, and Memoirs of a Skepchick (back then it was just Rebecca Watson).

At some point I discovered rss, and started reading lots of blogs regularly.  I tried most of the ScienceBlogs, the major atheist blogs, and skeptical blogs.  This set my expectations for what a blog should be like.  I read blogs written by ordinary people, as opposed to journalists.  But they were not about personal lives, they were about science, politics, religion, and opinions opinions opinions.  They were ordinary people who gained influence.

I was so much into blogs that of course I had to start my own.  It was a way for me to take a more participatory role.  I also harbored ambitions of being one of those ordinary people with influence.  But after a few years I decided being a powerful blogger wasn't for me.  Popular bloggers like PZ Myers and Hemant Mehta have to put a lot of work into it!  They probably get hundreds of e-mails, and post several things a day.  I'm also pretty sure I would not use my power very well.  Instead of doing things to help people I'd probably just talk about math and logical fallacies.  And then I'd upset my expert readers for saying stuff all wrong.

When I was more ambitious, I was very interested in increasing my hit rate.  But what killed it for me was when my hit rate became dominated by Google image searches for puppies and kittens.  This landed people on a page that really had nothing to do with puppies and kittens.  Man, page hits, what good do they do me?

Whether this is rational or not, the pendulum swings the other way, and now I just don't care if I have many readers.  Not that I'm trying to push you away, dear reader.  It's just... I realize I don't get very many comments these days, and that's just fine with me really.  I now see different advantages to blogging.

I know every blogger says this, and I say it too: I blog for me.

Blogging gives me a much more active and interesting intellectual life.  It gives me an excuse to read about random topics, and a reason to try to get it right.  It's a sort of precommitment strategy to think about stuff on a regular basis so I have blogging material.

If it weren't for blogs, when would I ever have stimulating discussion?  Most people seem to go to internet comments, or they go to Facebook.  But pretty much everyone agrees that Facebook discussions are not very deep.  Blogging allows for deeper discussion, even if it's one-sided.  Getting to choose the topics is also nice, especially since I like to talk about stuff that would bore most of my meatspace friends.

Generally speaking, offline discussions pale in comparison.  In the local secular group some people don't even know what Elevatorgate was.  In local ace meetups, sometimes there are people who don't know what gray-A is.  I've attended local gay groups that thought the concept of transgender was just so novel.  I think it's a general principle.  I had a friend who liked to argue with 9/11 truthers, and he told me that offline truthers would mess up arguments that all the online truthers would get right.  It's true of conspiracy theorists, it's true in general.

Another advantage of blogging is that I no longer feel the need to participate in unenjoyable arguments.  I have blogging, which is a much better outlet.  Local discussion groups are great, but I don't need them for the discussion.  As for Facebook arguments, they are not missed.

I'm so attached to blogging, that I've stuck with it for over five years.  If "inability to give up on a blog" is a skill, I have it.  When I launched The Asexual Agenda, the point was to put this skill to good use.  Most asexual blogs are too short-lived, so my talent for maintaining a blog for a very long time is useful.  If only atheist activism were as easy as this!

TL;DR I blog because it leads to a richer intellectual life for me.