Thursday, May 24, 2007

Why we blog

No-one knows exactly how many weblogs there are in the world, but the popular indexing site Technorati will let you search about 75 million of them, so that gives us a rough idea. With such a vast number available, very few of them can have more than a handful of regular readers, and it is more than likely that most have no readers at all. So why bother blogging?

The main motivation for most pointless human activity is the desire to pass time in our lives, and blogging is like cross-stitching or crossword-puzzling in that it can never really be finished. The closest analogy is with diary-writing, but the diary is a limited medium: usually it is meant to be private, and you can only show it to at most a few other people. By contrast weblogs, because they can at least potentially be read by everyone on the planet with a computer, can't help but try to attract attention to themselves. All of us want to be heard and understood, and most of us also have a secret narcissism that makes us believe that our opinions and ideas are more interesting and compelling than those of anyone else. This is not a bad thing as long as we are realistic about the overall effect our opinions are going to have on the rest of the world, which for most of us is close to zero.

In my own case there are a couple of other, more idiosyncratic reasons for blogging: I like to have the daily discipline of writing and researching, and sometimes (such as at the moment, for example, since it's 2:45 a.m. as I write this), I'm simply trying to cure my insomnia. I have no illusions that anyone, outside of a couple of friends and acquaintances, will care to read any of this, but I take a strange comfort in the thought that these words are going to sail endlessly through some kind of ether, like the messages on Voyager 1. We write because we are alive; no other reason is necessary.

(posted by Neil)

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