There used to be this thing we called blogging.
I have blogged twice in my life: Once, from 2005-2007, on an old Typepad website called “Unpacking My Library,” taken from the Walter Benjamin essay of the same name. It may have been some of the most interesting writing I ever did; at the very least, it chronicled what the then 28-year old me thought about politics, “citizen journalism,” graduate school, and life in the first year of the second term of the George W. Bush presidency. I sounded pretty sure that I knew what the heck I thought about things, and that I generally had an idea what was going on, in my own head and in the world.
The second site, “J-School: Educating Independent Journalists,” ran from October 2007 until January 2013, with a grand total of three posts written between December 2011 and January 2013. As is evidenced by the name, the original goal of the site was to serve as a group blog that might be itself kind of an “online journalism school” for people who were interested in how to do citizen journalism. Over time, the focus shifted — it became much like the old Typepad blog, but less political, slightly more grown up, and probably a bit more dull, because by then I had a job.
In the interim, I’ve also written a few other places: occasionally at the Nieman Journalism Lab and three times for the Atlantic Online (I’m particularly proud of the review / smackdown of David Weinberger I wrote over there. He ignored it of course). But all this was unpaid work which I was happy to do for free, and so to some degree it was just like the blogging / writing I’ve always did in much less prestigious places.
One of the things that strikes me, as I got back and read all these old posts, is the sheer quantity of words that I spilled. I. Wrote. A. Lot. Not as much as some of the early bloggers did, but a lot. I clearly had a lot to say- or at least thought I did.
Whatever else all this blogging did for me, though, I can say without hesitation that it helped me become a better writer. The confidence to use my own voice, even in academic work, the thought of always writing “in public” (never hidden behind jargon or by academic journal paywalls) must have been liberating in ways I didn’t understand at the time. For better or worse, it made me someone who tried to write well.
In between then and now, of course, was social media, particularly Twitter and Facebook. I was a good tweeter (does a more damning with faint praise statement exist in the English language than “a good tweeter?”) and a mediocre user of Facebook. I never managed quite the earnestness you need to do Facebook well, and I didn’t have any babies. Babies make Facebook.
In 2018, I am taking a break from social media, for a wide variety of reasons. I still have no pictures of babies to share with my extended family or my friends, and I’m far less certain about politics than I was when I was 28. I actually don’t feel like I know much of anything anymore, to be honest. Maybe I will start blogging again.