Monday, February 08, 2010

A stretch of river LVII: "Something old folks do while waiting to croak"

Because you people are at least as cool as I am, I've decided to give you a little glimpse behind the scenes of that arranging, deepening, enchanting thing we do here. (Image found here.)

So. It's a snowy Monday morning here, I'm tromping about in the park with Scruffy in about five inches of new snow, there's been so little wind that even the thinnest tree branches have as much as two inches of snow on them, I'm kicking myself yet again for not having a camera to take some pictures to share here with my reader(s), I'm thinking Hmm--I haven't had a Stretch of River post in a while . . . and then I recall this from Nick Carr (via Andrew Sullivan:

I remember when it was kind of cool to be a blogger. You'd walk around with a swagger in your step, a twinkle in your eye. Now it's just humiliating. Blogging has become like mahjong or needlepoint or clipping coupons out of Walgreens circulars: something old folks do while waiting to croak.


In 2006, 28% of teens were blogging [according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project]. Now, just three years later, the percentage has tumbled to 14%. Among twentysomethings, the percentage who write blogs has fallen from 24% to 15%. Writing comments on blogs is also down sharply among the young. It's only geezers - those over 30 - who are doing more blogging than they used to.
This past Friday, the geezer whose tinkling of the QWERTY-keys you're now reading rode his bicycle out to his weekly tutoring job, a round-trip of almost 36 miles. I'm a healthy geezer, but a geezer (I'll turn 48 in April). But I'm healthy!

And good old Blog Meridian is fast approaching blogospheric geezerdom as well--it will celebrate its 6th birthday on the 27th of this month. To paraphrase the Barbara Mandrell song, I was bloggin' when bloggin' was still cool.

I visited the survey to see if I could gain any insight as to why this dramatic, sudden demographic shift might be occurring. After all: aren't teenagers at least as self-absorbed as the baby-boomers and Gen-Xers who now comprise the majority of bloggers? Well, yes. But the rapid rise of Facebook among younger folks would seem to suggest that they are just as self-absorbed as they always have been--they just want to express that self-absorption more rapidly than blogs permit. No time to wallow. Now, a blog, on the other hand . . . but for the addition of the "L," it would read "bog": a really good place to wallow.

Carr's despair is rooted in his realization that "30 is the new 60," or something like that. I don't feel despair; it's really more like a puzzlement: Blogging brings me such regular enjoyment that it's hard for me to imagine more people, and younger people, don't find it equally enjoyable. Besides, I gave up deluding myself that I'm cool, or have or ever had a chance of becoming cool, a long time ago--back in high school, in fact. Now, it is true that I do ride a bike on a more-or-less regular basis, and here in Wichita that fact has the status of being so cool it's not yet cool. I'm actually cutting edge in something. Deal. But then again, all I have to do is dredge up this little missive and . . .
It's not hard, then, to find "cooless" suspect: maybe certain bands or writers, let's say, are unknown to all but a few initiates for a reason--they SUCK! And if your tastes in music run toward such bands/writers that suck, well, then, why should I buy into your anti-hype of "Nobody's heard of 'em!!"? But then again, I'm not cool, 'cause I'm, like, old, even if I do have a blog, so what do I know?


R. Sherman said...

The problem, said the Luddite, is that all these newfangled social network options come too fast and furious to keep up. I once thought that blogging would be the thing to cause a renaissance in writing among younger people.


Obviously, there was instead an Orwellian rush to further simplify communication via FaceBook and now, Twitter, where all ideas are reduced to 140 characters in random order.

For example, Plato tweets the Cave Allegory:

OMG its drk in here. Can't see sh*t. :(

Thus, have I resigned myself to pulling my polyester pants up to my nipples and boring the crap out of people in the Blogville Rest Home.


Pam said...

A friend recently convinced me to be the last living human being to join Facebook. I've resisted - and now that I've joined my original resistance has been reinforced: while I've enjoyed silly communications with several college dorm-mates and a few high school friends, I've found it the most odd collection of 'pieces' of information and I get all critical and then I have to tell myself "that all my blog is, is a long-winded collection of 'pieces' of information" and I just have to get over myself. I'm horribly critical of Facebook and Twitter (except for during the Iranian rebellions - how fascinating were the tweets to follow then and even now?) and hate how immediate gratification trumps all else - I see it in students who resent working through a manuscript as if it could be finished in a couple of text messages-worth of time.

Anonymous said...

Of course the boom & bust of blogs has to do with the rise of social media, but let's not blame social media for deflating an imaginary renaissance of online writing - those myspace blogs & livejournal accounts & long-defunct blogspots written by 16 year olds carried essentially the same content, at the same level of sophistication, for the same audiences, as Facebook notes & twitter updates written by 16 year-olds do today.

In fact, where a 200-word blog post about a banal, everyday thing usually reads unnecesssary & flabby, a 140-character update on Facebook about the same quotidion stuff often manages to be clever & compressed, partly due to the constraints of the medium & the more defined nature of its audience.

Twitter didn't invent compressed thought - look at modernist poetry, or the telegraph - and Iran is a perfect example of its virtues, but by no means the only one.

Blogs have not just gotten older, but also more professionalized, & I think (Andrew Sullivan's "needlepoint" aside, as if he's doing this as a hobby) that this has more to do with the aging field than anything else. The media is crystallizing around established figures who have been at this game for a while & can command audiences, & around people we trust to curate this unimaginable flux of data that we swim in, & around people with steady day jobs.

And if there's anything that the twentysomethings I know don't have, it's steady jobs. Maybe we're not blogging because my friends are all too busy trying to pay off student loans for degrees that no longer have value in the marketplace & ask for more hours at our underemployed day jobs & interview for unpaid internships that are the only open slots in their field.

It's certainly the reason I'm not in the US (& maybe the reason I'm blogging).

(Incidentally, I prefer books & letter-writing, but Facebook is actually extraordinarily useful for keeping touch with people you've met internationally & blogs in my estimation just keep getting smarter - they're the only source of English-language writing I have access to, & I'd rather have them than nothing at all).

Anonymous said...

Whoops! Lost my tense in the third-to-last paragraph: that should be ask(ing), interview(ing) - & I should pick "our" or "their" and stick with it.

John B. said...

Just a quick thanks to all of you for commenting. More to come, but I will say that the demographics here are fascinating to me.

Nick said...

generally one must age to appreciate time draining away. youth gulps six-packs of the stuff, knowing QuikTrip’s open 24/7; they’ll just IM their buds to pick up more. until there’s a run on the stuff there’s actually no need know...think about anything beyond the gratifying moment…

Ched said...

Happy blog-birthday today!