How Social Networks Killed the Personal Blog

I remember when I first began web design, personal blogs were all the rage. Yes, yes, I know, imagine me sitting in a rocker with a blanket over my knees if you wish, but I was kickin’ around the Web in the early 2000s and saw it with my own screen.

Back then, blogs had a more longform, intimate style of writing. They were how you shared your life stories and thoughts with others, mimicking the diaries so many of us likely kept–except that these “diaries” were online, and viewable by many people. Not only that, you could be an anonymous writer if you wished.

But now, the era of the “personal” blog seems to have waned. Blogs are now more for site updates, and maybe a little project tracking–they are more about topics than about lives. My own is a rare multi-topic blog, but not one of those topics is my life (and you’re much better off reading something that isn’t about my life, I assure you 😛 ). Personal blogs just aren’t as important to us anymore.

Why? I believe the answer lies in two words: “social networks.”

How Social Networks = Easier Personal Blogging

Believe it or not, early blog websites, like Diaryland, Blogger, Livejournal, and so many others, were some of the first social network sites. They allowed bloggers to talk to each other in ways that were system-constructed, with comments on blog posts and the like. So the Internet foundations of functioning social networks were already laid when networks that focused on shorter-form writing (such as FriendFeed, Myspace, Facebook, and Twitter) came along.

But these days, each of us likely writes several short textual bursts about our life in one day. We don’t all have to be gifted writers to write about our lives anymore; we don’t have to catalog what we did all day in a single, long blog entry. We can simply write about the interesting stuff that happens to us, as it happens, and not have to work it into a grand thematic short story of our day.

Why I Largely Ditched Personal Blogging for Social Media

As a creative writer who inexplicably hated keeping diaries and writing personal blogs (because my life is just that boring), I gravitated to the social network. Why? Because the social network didn’t make me JUST blog about myself to be considered “active.” I could comment on other people’s life events, like their pictures, play a few games, share a few links–all on one website. Just like big-box stores like Walmart capitalize on having “all you need at one store,” social networks like Facebook capitalize on sharing “all of your life on one site.”

But I realize that with the ease and ubiquitous nature of social networks came the inevitable waning of more “personalized” blogs. I gradually quit writing on my own Livejournal about my life after a while of being on Facebook, with this simple reasoning: “why write about my day on a personal blog, when I’ve already written a status message or two about it on Facebook and shared it with friends?”

I can imagine that many other Internet users have thought the same way, about whatever social network they prefer to visit and post on. Social networking makes it easier to post about your life, and takes less time than a blog.

There’s a Big “But” Here

Not everyone has stopped doing personal blogs, though. In fact, the number of small blogs and free blog websites has only risen in response to social networks, even though less people visit or make personal blogs these days. This trend, linked to the sheer number of topic blogs being produced, gives me hope that people aren’t completely getting away from “real” writing and longer article-driven blogs in favor of quick tweets and likes.

Though much of the Internet’s attention has been drawn away from this longform, diary-style life narrative, there still seems to be a call for it among individual users. Perhaps the demise of the personal blog is inevitable and in process, as it appears…or perhaps a new generation of Internet users will gravitate back to it.

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