Thursday, February 28, 2013

White Flannel Trousers

I watch myself with guarded interest. I've seen so many of my fellow old-time bloggers hit this stretch, and spin out – when the giddy joy of having an audience dwindles (as the audience does), when you realize that even if, for once, you can say exactly what you mean, in public – well, so what? It doesn't make much difference. And you realize that, in the blogosphere as in life, for the most part, the only people who want to listen to you are the people to whom you listen. Stop visiting them, they'll stop visiting you. There was a time, in the early, heady days of blogging, when many of us thought the rules of the social universe were about to change. Our audiences would grow and grow, more and more people would realize just how irresistibly brilliant we were, and then... well... something would happen. And when it did, we'd be happy.

Well. There is, still, a deep happiness in just having my say. And I have been extraordinarily fortunate in my “fit audience though few.” But the world looks just the same – and history ain't changed – and now, ten years down the road, maybe I feel a little foolish that I ever entertained such notions. And forget, perhaps, to treasure as deeply as I should the people who still do read thoughtfully.

Blogging, it turns out – social media generally – does not scale at all well, and there's no particular reason why we should have thought it would. A sort of membrane forms around a readership, and new people become less and less inclined to cross that membrane: and in the meantime readers fall away, for one reason or another. Blogs become ghost-towns. We post less often, less freely, less engagingly: we visit other blogs less and comment less when we're there. And meanwhile, the conversations have largely moved to Facebook and Twitter. Blog posts become more set-pieces than conversations. And as one's virtual and real social circles converge, one begins to feel the ordinary social constraints re-assert themselves. If, in the interim, we have also grown ten years older, the decay of conversability and one's ability to form new friendships is all too familiar. We've grown shy, within our membranes: we grow less and less sure of our ability to judge what's appropriate, what's funny, what's charming. These things seem to happen quicker and vivider in the virtual world, but they're happening in the meat world as well.

So. It is time to climb out of the river and shake myself, spraying water over all and sundry; time to forget my dignity and chase some sticks; time to remember how brief all of this is. I have to grow old, but I don't have to grow timid.

The words, the words are as young as ever, and the sun is as fierce. Welcome the sixte, whan that ever he shal!

37 comments:

Jarrett said...

Is this a retirement announcement, or only a vague threat of one? You're right that we are on Facebook more often now, but you could make it a practice, if you wanted to, to post only links and "teasers" to FB, not content.

NT said...

Don't you dare retire!

Let's carry on fiercely!

marja-leena said...

Love this, and agree with all of it. Glad you are still here! Congratulations on your 10 years, Mole!

Dale said...

Nah, nah, not threatening to retire! Wherever would I be without my trusty blog? xoxo

Murr Brewster said...

I had something important to say, but I forgot it at "meat world."

alembic said...

Yes, you nailed it with that notion that blogging and social media don't seem to scale well at all! We were such dreamers back in the early days when there was all that leisure in which to read blogs the way we used to read books....

And no, you don't have to grow timid - and I don't think you will :)

Happy 10th, by the way.

Jean said...

Ah,yes, all too, too true. But still, I'm glad this happened. And trust you'll stay around.

Sabine said...

All that zeitgeist is just a bubble. And numbers, oh dear. If bloggers aim mainly for the audience, well let them go to twitter (and restrict the word count accordingly) or go all mushy and friendly on fb scoring with "like" and "share".
For me, blogging is a way to be honest, open and yet totally private because who knows if I am really that person and really that honest or that open.

And of course it doesn't matter at all who I am or whether people "like" me. What we do is we send out our blog posts and watch them fly in the wind like hastily made kites. And if the wind fails to carry them, we'll try again.

And you send out very beautifully crafted kites, dear Mole.

Ryan said...

You're a good writer. I can appreciate having a "trusty" blog. I'm a blog reader because I like to learn about people.

Zhoen said...

We've been on such different paths, but I am so glad we have overlapped for so long.

rbarenblat said...

There is indeed a deep happiness in having my say. And for me there's still a deep happiness in continuing to engage with the people who have become part of my daily life this way. When my aggregator tells me you have posted, I can't help but smile and click over. I love this long slow coffeeklatsch.

am said...

"Well. There is, still, a deep happiness in just having my say."

Most of the blogs I look at regularly have photos, but your blog has kept my attention all these years with your word pictures alone.

There is a deep happiness in reading what others have to say as well. Blogs provide me with what I used to experience only in books.

And then there is word verification: oonsible (Google says, "Did you mean ansible, sensible, runcible, consible?")

jmartin said...

The best blogs are salons, not amphitheatres, and thus ideal for real reading and a cuppa. So glad that I wandered within shake-range of this particular wet dog.

elisasspot said...

Hmm...this is a thing that confounds me. I like your choice of expression, it seems more than the oh poor me, pay attention to me or i'm going to go, sort of thing that I seem unable to avoid when blog reading in the last month. I'm not saying that others ought not express it, but yuck I do not want to read it really. Who has to ask themselves permission to do exactly as he or she pleases on one's own fancy journal?--hiding it as a public announcement of inability to decide and to wrangle guilt and shoulds, sigh. I suppose my expression, doen't help those types to feel any more free to say what they need. Maybe no win-win there?

I write just because it is how I express. Sometimes I have a target audience. Sometimes I am sending a message. Offering input. I would never 'like' if I did not. I would never click nor visit because I felt like I owed someone. To me, doing so would be a lie, one I am, so far, unwilling to tell. Thanks for writing what you do. I quietly read and I think. Helps me to keep my side of the street clear. Sometimes helps me to express a trapped thing of my own. I think, that unless your income from this venture pays the way for someone beyond you, you don't owe anyone but yourself anything.

Lucy said...

Hooray and hooray. What everyone else said.

Oh, and I love you. Blogly speaking. Or bloggily speaking, Or blogularly speaking.

See you around.

Lucy said...

Oh and I wish you had a 'search this blog' widget or something, as I want to find that thing you wrote a year or two ago about the break between old and middle English, Chaucer and Beowulf, etc, for another blogger I'm reading now who's just written interesting stuff about the development of English.

Because, changes in my own and others' practice notwithstanding, blogging is where I came in, and, in terms of how I spend my on-line time, where I stay.

marly youmans said...

I think you have plenty of readers, even if they tend to comment more on facebook or twitter--as I find that mine do.

Dale said...

Lucy, try this: http://koshtra.blogspot.com/search/label/History%20of%20English%20Poetry

I think what you want is this one in particular:
http://koshtra.blogspot.com/2011/06/history-of-english-poetry-chapter-two.html

Blogger's biggest lack is that they don't have a real search capacity. I can search my posts from the dashboard, but the reader can't.

Lucy said...

No, they do! I've got one, I don't know if anyone else uses it but I use it myself as it's quicker than the dashboard search or the tags for linking back to previous posts etc.

Go to 'layout', then there should be an option for 'add a gadget' at the top of your sidebar elements. Click on that and you get a list of stuff, it's about a third of the way down as 'search box'.

Thanks for finding that post anyway!

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

Dale, every single word of this post is precisely what I want to say, would say if you hadn't said it so much better, so relevantly, thoughtfully, truthfully. Congratulations on your consistently creative inimitability.

I hereby appoint you Chief of the 10-year Bloggers Association or "10 BLAH" (don't know what the H stands for, any suggestions?). I am a member of course, my own 10 years to be celebrated on April 27th.

Leslee said...

Yes, I think you nailed it. I was nodding my head - yes, exactly - as I read this. As for the social constraints, I wonder if the harsh and sour mood of the economic climate isn't part of it - there's a lot of fear around, feelings of scarcity, winter not summer. Whatever it is, spring is a good time to shake that off and go chase sticks! Thanks for the reminder. And happy 10th year blogging!

suzanne said...

I became a blogging Irregular when some evil person hacked journalspace an all the blogs there vanished
and a blogreading Irregular when bloglines came under new management and I stopped receiving notices whenever a new entry when up on the blogs I followed.

comparing twitte and facebook to blogs is a bit like comparing junkfood (the formers) to a delicisou, nutritious meal. . .

just thoughts said...

Ten Years? Wow. Please do not ever think of stopping. I love your words. It is amazing how quickly time passes.

arboretum said...

Dale, I'm still here (and not on Facebook or Twitter), silently enjoying your blog.

Happy anniversary!

Dale said...

wow, it's so lovely to see all of you! I thought some of you were long gone! xoxo

marly youmans said...

Maybe you haven't updated your template in a long time? Because Lucy is right--I also have a blogspot search box on my page. But they're always adding stuff to the templates and to the layout page.

Phil Plasma said...

zhoen sent me here. Your blog experience is shared by many, I am sure. Who'd have expected that I would expand to become a new reader to your blog? I certainly didn't.

Julia said...

I'm not on Facebook, don't trust it, don't like it, don't use it.
I've been blogging for 7 years and I've 'met' some wonderful folk, many of whom commented above, and I'm here because I wrote about English and Lucy kindly chased that link to your post and..
So you see, there may be a thin membrane but it's permeable...

Relatively Retiring said...

Congratulations on your 10th.
Julia is right. The membrane in permeable, and I got through via Zhoen.

Rouchswalwe said...

Finally fluttering by and wondering what took me so long and glad to know your trusty blog is here. I suddenly realize that I have been reading your comments for years at Jean's, Lucy's, Marja-Leena's, and probably Sabine's place, too. And today I find a link to this wonderful post at Zhoen's place. As a friend told me once, "Let's be like wildflowers! Not timid!" Hurrah and Prost!

Jeff said...

For what it's worth: I'm a new reader who just bookmarked your blog a couple weeks ago, though I can't remember how I came to discover it. What I'm finding, six years in, is that blogging is semi-migratory. As our familiar watering holes dry up, we have to seek new ones--so it's a particular pleasure to find one that's ten years old...

Dale said...

What fun, all of these people coming out of the woodwork! Clearly I have to work this incantation more often.

Welcome, welcome newcomers and oldsters! Thank you so much.

JMartin said...

All the Whos of Whoville cry, "We are here!"

Isabelle said...

Hello. I've just found this, via Zhoen, and see with mild suprise that a few of my bloggy friends are here already. May I presume to say that I find your post very interesting? I've been blogging for only seven years but have had some of the same thoughts. It's been interesting to be in on the earlyish days of this medium of communication - I hope it doesn't wither away.

Jessamyn said...

Happy blog-birthday, Dale!

So much pleasure and rest in your beautiful writing here, for a long time now. Thank you.

Jayne said...

Oh Great One with White Flannel Trousers, what number comment is this? Dale, dear Dale, you are in my heart and my reader feed. And when I'm able (which is not often at all for this, ahem, student [a bit weird to say at my age]) to actually hit the mole link so that I might engage in the commodity of comments, I do so with great pleasure.

A blog is as good as any other place for words. Especially yours. ;)

mm said...

A tad late to the party but congratulations on your first decade, Dale! I'm glad you're still here. I can't imagine my feed without you.

I'm another who doesn't like Facebook - it's the blog for me, even though only spasmodically these days. But I'm unable to stop completely. It's a means to reclaim a bit of my life back.