Monday, June 2, 2014

Twitter trumps blogging in public discussions

As the number of posts in this blog approaches 900, I again question the rationale for writing thoughts that no one reads. The figures don't lie. Daily page views are usually in the single digits, occasionally in the double digits, never rising into hundreds or thousands.

When I took up this blog, it was solace for having been unhinged from my creative outlet as a newspaper columnist. I had written columns at least once a week for most of my 33 years in the newspaper business. Some were thoughtful, even perceptive or challenging. Other columns just filled a space on the editorial or op-ed page. A blog, which I had actually taken up as a newspaper project, gave me an outlet, a continuity with what I had done for decades.

At the time, blogs were a sort of "next new thing." Newspapers were posting blogs by editors and reporters. Websites aggregated good blogs. A few people actually made money by blogging. I had some thoughts that my blog might get noticed, might even be picked up or republished on a wider stage. But while I received some positive comments and my list of "followers" grew, the blog never went anywhere, and neither did I.

When my unemployment ended, my blogging slowed to a crawl. No more daily posts. I was doing well to write weekly.

Another thing happened to slide my blog (and most others) into oblivion: Twitter. Instead of a thoughtful, insightful 300 or 600 words, the new "micro-blogging" site condensed every thought down to 140 characters. Twitter is a challenging exercise in brevity, but it is also indicative of the shallowness of public discussion. And Twitter has taken off. You can't read a news article or watch a news show on TV without hearing about someone's tweet about some topic. A Twitter account is mandatory for everyone in political office as well as for public officials.

This is the new way of communicating: 140 characters or less. A small bite of a thought, not examined or explored but merely announced for all the world to see, which is why tweets often have to be withdrawn or apologized for.

But Twitter has crippled blogging. Why take the time to read a long blog post when you can digest 140 characters in less time than it takes to type in a password?

The demise of blogging is not a tragedy, but the demise of serious discussion about civic issues — if that is what we're coming to — is.

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