So my first thought after finishing Andrew Sullivan’s “Why I Blog” was “God, he is lucky he is semi-famous and people care enough about what he has to say to read it.” Because I think Sullivan would have a very different idea about blogging if he had had the experience of countless bloggers not blessed with a prior journalism career that provided the base for their eventual readership. It is all fine and good for Sullivan to talk about the bond between reader and blogger, and the way comments provide swift checks and balances to the blogger’s tyranny of thoughts, but the thing is, he has readers. He has commentors (commenters? is that a word?). Blogging might be the revolution that jazz was (nice analogy Sullivan). But for most bloggers, it is almost as private as a diary. Sullivan overestimates the power of the blog because he is one of the relative few who have made it in the world of blogging.
Let me tell you about my friend. We will call him Eric. Eric likes webcomics. A couple years ago, Eric decided to start a blog in which he reviewed webcomics for fun and profit (he signed up for Project Wonderful, and had his site advertised on other sites, and received five cents every time someone clicked an ad on his blog). His first review, a glowing tribute to an old favorite, was about Questionable Content (questionablecontent.net for those of you who would like to begin reading and do literally nothing else for the next two months). Eric is a good, witty writer. His self-effacing charm and frequent references to the wild parties he isn’t having makes for a fairly entertaining read, and a website that tells you if a webcomic is good or not is definitely a useful tool for deciding whether or not to devote two months to reading the entire archive. So this wasn’t some Xanga account making thinly veiled references to the author’s unrequited lust for the football captain. This was a genuinely useful, interesting blog, with a potential readership and even legitimate advertising.
Unfortunately, for a very long time, my friend Katie and I were basically the only readers. One time, he got a whole bunch of hits very quickly but it turned out that this was mostly because he had reviewed a very risque comic recently and some fans stumbled upon his site while looking for slash fiction. Eric’s list of comics he had already read all the way through ran out a couple months in, and trying to read new ones in a timely fashion became too time consuming to justify. So he expanded to writing about generally geeky topics like new video games, movies, and the endless gritty reboots endured by various superheroes. But even this became wearing since he still did not get many readers, and received, like a comment a month.
Eric rarely updates now. This is partially because of his school schedule, but also because blogging can be a very large commitment which feels futile when no one will make the commitment to at least read the thing. Its like shouting into an empty cave. Reading Sullivan’s article made me think of Eric because of how certain Sullivan is that there is a reader-blogger relationship, that there is someone out there bother to fact check. Sullivan should probably remember his immense privilege before making sweeping generalizations about the world of blogging in general.