So What Do You Do About the White Noise?

by Ginger on May 8, 2013

in Blogging & Social Media, Blogging & Social Media

Warning! Warning! Blog post about blogging ahead!

Ok, warning out of the way:

Shalini over at Reading and Chickens wrote a post today about the White Noise of blogging. Go read it. No really, I’ll wait. Because my entire post is based on her post.

*does some chair dancing jamming out to Daft Punk*

Ok, you read it? You’re back now? Good.

The world of blogging is vastly different than it was when I started reading blogs. Hell, it’s vastly different than it was when I started WRITING my blog, and that was only about 5 years ago. This is a space that has become an industry and it just does not know what to do with itself. You have people trying to make it big, people trying to eek out some money, people trying to build a platform for other projects, and people who just want to write stuff down.

Clearly, I fall in that latter category.

But it was bound to happen, as it is in all creative mediums. If you think these conversations are unique to blogging, you really haven’t taken a good hard look at the entire world of creativity. Writers, artists, musicians, dancers, they’ve all had to traverse similar paths: how do you do what you love and make money, and if you make money, how much do you “give” of what you love to do it? Creative spaces always have people who are doing it for the love, people who are trying to bring in a little money while doing what they love, and people who are navigating the love vs. money aspect. It is a balancing act that is nothing new to blogging, we just have more access to what that struggle looks like now.

Now, I have some opinions on the whole making money blogging thing (one thought in a nutshell: I’ll be shocked if we see sponsored posts in their current form 3 years from now. They don’t really pay out the way some brands think they do.), but where my real thoughts are focused is on what OUR response and responsibility is.

We’ve been conditioned to think that only those people who have big numbers, who get the big sponsorships, who are at all the conferences and doing the speaking and and and and…we’ve been conditioned that those people are the ones to emulate. AND we’ve been conditioned to think that their voices matter more than the small voices, or are better than the small voices. And you can say that you don’t believe this, but let me ask you this:

When was the last time you started reading a really really small, no traffic, blogger? When was the last time you shared one of their posts? When was the last time you went looking for a new blogger to read, and follow? When was the last time you commented on one of their posts?

and for you:

How recently have you not written something because “everyone has already said everything about it,” or “why bother if no one is going to read” or “it’s not important/well written/interesting enough.”?

(note: I am not exempt from either of these two paragraphs)

My comment on Shalini’s post is that if we miss reading journal type blogs, or smaller blogs, or blogs that we feel like we have something in common with and if we miss connecting with bloggers who do this for the writing or the connections or the support and not the money, it is up to US to make that space reemerge. We get really caught up in this idea that *everyone* is doing sponsored posts, or *everyone* is in it for the money, or *everyone* is trying to climb the blogging career ladder. And yet, we don’t do our part to find the THOUSANDS of people who are blogging just to write what they want. Because, not everyone is going the business route, I promise you.

If you miss the “old” world of blogging, what are you doing to support that? Are you writing that way, or are you caught up in trying to be like the “big dogs” in the money making space? Do you write from your heart, or from a place where you are angling for shares and likes? Do you support your blogging friends who are blogging like no one is watching or are you solely hanging out on the comment threads of the popular kids? Or no where at all, because it’s all just too much?

Look, I know I contribute to the noise. Hell, my current challenge of blogging every day this month definitely adds, because I’m not kidding myself that what I’m putting out every day is masterful writing. But honestly, it’s what blogging looked like for me back when I started.

And that’s what *I* want. Maybe it’s not what you want. But what *I* want is to write the nonsense in my head, and maybe have other people talk about the nonsense in THEIR heads. I don’t care if that conversation happens on my blog or on Twitter or on Facebook or on email or via text or, hell, smoke signal.

AND, I want to read that. I want to read things from people I feel some connection with, or who I think are funny, or who I think are smart, or who I think are amazing writers, or who are all those together. That is who *I* want to spend my time with. And honestly, that’s the thing we vote with, right? Our time? I don’t give my time or my pageviews to the shills. They’re out there, but they don’t interest me, I don’t care how big they are. (Also of note: in my mind, a sponsored post on occasion does not a shill make. But your definition may be different than mine). The same way I don’t watch The Bachelor because it makes me feel icky, I don’t read those blogs because they don’t give me what I crave in this space.

I get the jealousy thing (5 years in, and I’d still eat my shoe to be in that damn Nintendo group). I get wanting to make money or make it big. And if that’s what you want GO FOR IT. More power to you for making a business out of this bizarre online world.

But if it’s not. If you want this as a creative outlet, or a place of connection, then make THAT your priority. I personally am trying to find ways to work on that, to carve that space back out from the avalanche of stuff about the business of blogging. I’m trying to find my way back to my own voice, and to find my way back to supporting other bloggers who are using their voices for more than just business. It’s my hope that supporting them will make them write more, which just gives me what I want–more awesome stuff to read and more awesome people to connect with. I have some larger ideas percolating in that vein, but for now, my goal is to carve my space online into the space I want it to be, and that includes what I read and who I surround myself with (you guys, you’re all awesome).

There’s not much you can do when a blogger you used to love switches gears into something less personal other than stop giving that blogger your time. You can, however, control what YOU put out there, and what YOU surround yourself with, and what YOU give importance. The white noise is never going away. It’s everywhere, not just blogging. So you find the space where, FOR YOU, the noise is the quietest, and you build that space up.

And maybe, if enough of us do that, we can give rise to the second wave of personal blogging. Smaller, likely, than it was in the past, but a resurgence nonetheless.

Lisa May 8, 2013 at 2:02 pm

I LOVE those blogs. But I sometimes feel like I am alone, because I see others say they don’t want to read “the mundane details of someone else’s life.” I wonder if we’ve absorbed those messages, and the combination of that negativity and the popularity of some bloggers (because let’s face it, as much as we don’t want to be them, it’s hard not to be a little bitter sometimes) was just kind of a blogging buzzkill. It sucks! I LOVE reading about other people’s lives. Maybe I don’t show it enough, because I don’t comment like I should, but I always read and enjoy and want to read more.

Ginger May 8, 2013 at 8:33 pm

I think that feeling of being alone in liking the everyday is more prevalent than we think. But you’re right, there’s a big blogging buzzkill, between that, the negativity, the lack of readership, etc.
But I KNOW there are more of us out here, it’s just a matter of finding each other.

Tragic Sandwich May 8, 2013 at 2:16 pm

I guess, for me, I’ve always focused on bloggers who are writing about their lives so that they can write about their lives.. I follow very few people who write sponsored posts on a regular basis–and when they do, I’m not likely to read those posts.

What I do find is that periodically I need to clear out my RSS feeds, because I follow a lot of bloggers (I’m not sure whether they’re large or small, because I don’t track that, and I can only think of one that I’m SURE is new), and what I’m realizing is that in keeping up with blogs, I’m not giving myself time to read anything else.

Ginger May 8, 2013 at 8:53 pm

Oh, I fall into the trap of reading more blogs than anything else. And look, let’s be honest here, I still have something like 150 blogs in my reader. It’s not like there’s not good stuff and good people out there. It can definitely be a time suck.

April May 8, 2013 at 2:44 pm

As I said on Shalini’s post, I follow no “big bloggers”. Well, I might follow some with high readership but none that aren’t about their lives. That’s just what I enjoy. I start reading small blogs all the times, found the old fashioned way: from comments on other blogs (and twitter friends). I comment on those blogs because I know how much I enjoy getting comments and figure that they enjoy getting comments too. This will forever be my style of blogging because that’s just who I am. We are not alone.

Ginger May 8, 2013 at 8:55 pm

I tend to think there are a lot of us who are like that/this. But we get drowned out by the folks who are all biz, all networking, all numbers. And the rest of us get tired of being talked over, so we just quietly go about our reading.
I just sometimes wish we were able to talk over the noise more.

Shalini May 8, 2013 at 3:21 pm

I love this. You’re right–this isn’t about blogging, this is about the constant struggle between commerce and art. I struggle with this every single day, and the deadline looms ahead for me, too (do I go back to work full-time or do I hope and pray that my art can financially sustain me when I won’t have to pay for daycare?) (do I even WANT my art to sustain me? I don’t know!). It’s not just a discussion about blogging, but I’m not sorry that I TRIED to be financially successful as a blogger. That way I wouldn’t feel like eating my shoe and thinking that big bloggers were making oodles and NO ONE WOULD EVER DO THAT FOR MEEEEE. Now I know that it’s patently untrue, that anyone who truly wants that path can make it, and that it’s not the path for me.
Now to figure out which IS the path for me.

Ginger May 8, 2013 at 8:59 pm

That’s a huge, hard decision–the art sustaining you one. It’s not always as easy as just, do what you love for money. As we can all see, adding money in the mix has a tendency to change the thing you love, even if it’s in small subtle ways.

I had a brief fling with the idea of becoming a financially/numerically successful blogger. I had dreams of quitting my job, and blah blah blah. And I tried stuff. And I tried other stuff. (Heck, NoodleKnobs was a part of that. Sigh, I still miss that site sometimes). And it didn’t work. And that’s ok, and I’m ok. But, like you, I’m glad I tried because now I know FOR ME what blogging is and what it isn’t.

You’ll figure out for you too. I know you will.

agirlandaboy May 8, 2013 at 3:33 pm

Yes yes yes. This also brought up something else for me, which is that while the blogging world has changed for the bloggers themselves, it has also changed for the readers. I feel like back in Ye Olden Days, most of the bloggers and readers I knew (myself included) were single, childless women who had tons of time to read and write and connect and share–sometimes at work, sometimes in the evenings, sometimes on the weekends–but all without the time suck that is having a family (and I use the phrase “time suck” lovingly, of course). Ten years later, most of us are no longer those single, childless women, or if we are, we have better, more demanding jobs, or just more responsibilities in general, since that’s what tends to happen when we grow up. So yes, blogging has grown up (for better or worse), but so have we (for better or worse), and that has changed the space just as much as the monetization boom, I think.

(And of course there’s also The Twitter Factor. Being able to connect with people there has absolutely allowed me to visit blogs less, which is both great and not great for various reasons.)

Ginger May 8, 2013 at 9:09 pm

Oh yes, all major good points. I used to blog at work almost exclusively (shhh, don’t tell anyone). I now have 3 staff members and 4 contractors I manage, along with massive projects–my ability to use that part of my brain has to go to work, not my blog. Add in the three year old, and it’s a wonder there are ever any words up here.
And yes, the Twitter Factor. Is HUGE. But I love Twitter so so so much that I will never be mad at it.

I’ve had this idea in my head for a while that if this medium stays around (which I think it will, in various formats), then we will see swings in focus/style/subject matter as people grow and change. So while monetizing may be the big brass ring right now (for lots of people), maybe in a few years (or sooner?) we’ll see a swing back to content first, or who knows what else. Sort of how you see the focus in music change every few years. But we’ll see if I’m right.

agirlandaboy May 8, 2013 at 9:21 pm

Oh, for sure. Today I saw an ad for a new t.v. series that’s basically Tyler Perry’s interpretation of “Downtown Abbey” and, this discussion fresh in my mind, my reaction was “That’s what’s happening with blogging! Certain things get trendy and everyone tries to copy and cash in, and then something else becomes cool and people rush to copy that.” Lifestyle blogging is huge right now not because it’s the Way of the Future but because it’s NOW. Something else will be NOW later (that’s not confusing at all!), and maybe eventually Writing will be valued like it used to be, or maybe something else will be (holograms?).

(I also think lifestyle blogging is big now because (a) DSLRs are now affordable for a lot of people and (b) it’s easier to fill a post with pretty photos and fluffy words than it is to THINK and FEEL actual thoughts and feelings. Also Pinterest.)

And, oh, I feel the same about Twitter. LOVE Twitter. LOVE LOVE LOVE, even though it absolutely killed commenting, at least for me, both giving and receiving. 🙁

Ginger May 8, 2013 at 9:46 pm

I completely agree with everything you said (lifestyle blogging! trendy! copying! What’s NOW!), but I got too distracted by the idea of a Tyler Perry interpretation of Downton Abbey. *shudder*

San May 8, 2013 at 5:27 pm

Loved this and so 200% agree!

“When was the last time you started reading a really really small, no traffic, blogger? When was the last time you shared one of their posts? When was the last time you went looking for a new blogger to read, and follow? When was the last time you commented on one of their posts?”

Actually, that is what I do. Or try to do at least (time is limited, yo!). I enjoy the connections with so called “small bloggers” so much more than trying to get a response or even a comment back from one of the big bloggers. I mean, what’s the point of reading someone’s blog when you NEVER get a reply back because the person is too busy being “famous”? 😉

Ginger May 8, 2013 at 9:16 pm

I remember there was this one blog I followed back in the early days of my blogging life. And I sort of worked up the courage to comment on her blog a few times and…crickets. But she would reply back to others in the comments, but only the people who had big blogs themselves. Yeah, I got tired of that pretty fast.

I know I’m bad about commenting myself, and it’s something I’m trying to work on (it’s so easy to let that be the thing to slide you know?), but the reality is if I do this for the connections (which I do) and the interactions (and I do) along with the writing, then I’m being a bit of a hypocrite if I’m not working on that. I do try to give people the benefit of the doubt (for as long as I can. Eventually you want some interaction, you know?)

Erin May 8, 2013 at 6:13 pm

I would LOVE if there was a resurgence of personal blogging, but I’m sad to say I don’t think it’s going to happen. The other day one of the small bloggers I follow broke up with her boyfriend AND THEN SHE WROTE ABOUT IT. And it was one of the best things I’d read on a blog in AGES. No one does that any more! That kind of raw honesty is so rare now. And I’m partly to blame. I used to stream-of-consciousness blog, and now I feel old and tired and like no one wants to hear it and I have no way of crafting it so that it sounds remotely interesting anyway, so why bother. But I should really try. I do still support the small blogs by reading and commenting, and those are always my favorite blogs. But the population is dwindling.

Ginger May 8, 2013 at 9:22 pm

I think there’s also so much awareness of WHO ALL MIGHT READ THIS. I mean, I know I censor the crap out of myself, not because I think I’m boring (which I very often am), but because of the what will a family member/boss/Jackson’s teacher/etc. think of this thing. It’s harder to write with pure raw honesty when you feel like you’re looking over your shoulder.

But to your point at the end–if we stop trying, then we really are an endangered species. It’s easy to fall into all the reasons NOT to…but if we want the medium/genre to stick around, then we have to try and move past those reasons.

Cloud May 8, 2013 at 8:31 pm

This is a great post! I mainly blog to work out ideas and issues that are bouncing around in my head, because otherwise I bore my husband to tears talking about them over and over. But- I also get feedback from other women, usually younger, that reading about how I make my life as a career-oriented mother work helps give them confidence that they can aim for the same sort of life, and I would be lying if I said that didn’t inspire me to write more and write more of the types of posts that those women like. I also have gotten opportunities from blogging- the kid’s book I published, the productivity book that is coming out later this month- that I would never have gotten otherwise, and I would be lying if I said that don’t sometimes think about the impact of something I am about to post on opportunities like that. For the most part, I post anyway, though, because I don’t NEED the money those things bring in. I stop myself only if I think I am going to hurt people by posting- and then I see if I can rework my post to be not hurtful but still true. I do self-censor on things about my job, though- because I do NEED the money that brings in!

I also value the friends and connections I’ve made via my blog, and the way I can use my blog as an external memory bank, and go back and look up what I thought about something at the time it happened- those are both unexpected bonuses of blogging. I don’t get out and search for new blogs as much as I used to. I find them when a new commenter shows up on my blog or on one of the blogs I read. I’m not sure how else I’d find them, really!

Ginger May 8, 2013 at 9:39 pm

I personally think the evolution of making money blogging will be from things that come because of the blog, but not what’s ON the blog–like your books versus sponsored posts. But we’ll see if my predictions come true.

One of the things that I love about your blog Cloud is that I can clearly, through everything you write, see YOU and your voice. Even when it’s something that has come about through external reasons (people asking you questions or giving you feedback that leads you to write more about certain topics for example), you always sound like you. (I don’t know if that makes sense). That to me is what I miss in some parts of the internet, when bloggers stop sounding like themselves because of the business stuff.

Tragic Sandwich May 9, 2013 at 10:57 am

“things that come because of the blog, but not what’s ON the blog”

I’m much more interested in developing something like this, than I am in trying to turn my blog into a revenue stream of its own.

Kim May 9, 2013 at 1:23 pm

Love both posts – yours & Shalini’s. Thank you for linking to her post. That’s a new blog for me. My friends & I have had similar conversations lately about how different blogs are now & how all the ones we used to love are so non-personal & basically one big add for Method. Aside from you, I have very few blogs in my Reader (nay, Feedly) that actually WRITE. I write & I’d like to read more blogs like mine, & like yours. They’re hard to find. And when I do find them, they tend to be too negative. I have a handful of blog friends who use their blog as an outlet for workplace angst & who wants to read that? Do any of us love our job? An occasional venting post is obviously fine, but variety goes a long way. I feel like you do this well. You temper your posts about parenting frustration with posts about mascara. I like that!

Jody Yarborough May 9, 2013 at 8:07 pm

Hi Ginger,
I love your blog and I loved this post. So much so that I was inspired to write a post of my own. If you have time, check it out. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Bloggers Unite! 🙂 Thanks, Jody

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