I read every single comment last week. I didn’t respond because I was overwhelmed by all of the, Me too!‘s. But, I clicked through, like back in the old days, and I found a few blogs I’d like to introduce you to over the next few weeks, just as I promised. Last week I said I wasn’t sure what the guidelines would be for choosing the blogs to highlight in these weekly posts. I don’t know if I’ll highlight one each week, or more than that. But one thing I realized is that I want to highlight bloggers I’ve never met before, and for whom my visit to their place was my very first. You might already know some of these amazing bloggers I hope to introduce you to. You might like some of them, and you may not be so keen on others. I think that’s alright, because we’re talking about art, here, right?
When I started blogging, all those years ago, the thing that hooked me was the comments. The fact that people read what I wrote astounded me. But, there was the proof, right there in the comment box at the end of every (well, almost every) post. The words people left behind let me know they’d stopped by, and that they’d read what I’d written. Sometimes, they even responded specifically to some bit of information I’d shared, or a thought I’d lifted up, or a stand I may have taken (which I rarely did).
I started blogging on Blogger (which I still hold in high esteem), and the comment system connected with that platform made it easy to click through a person’s profile and then find your way to their little corner of the Internet. Reciprocity was one of the gifts of the blogging world, back in the day. I had a proclivity toward leaving a response for each person who commented on my post, and then clicking through to read their latest over on their site. As often as possible, I left a comment for them at their place, too.
My fellow blogging friends whom I knew in real life would get together from time to time and, back then, our greatest concern was, “How do you have time to keep up with the comments?” Did you ever have that conversation with your blogging comrades?
For me, community was forged in the comment box. Eventually, comment systems developed threaded comments which made it possible to respond to a commenter, right beneath their original comment, rather than a few comments below where they’d first responded. What a breakthrough! What innovation! It felt more like a real conversation around the dinner table, with people sitting around and silverware clinking in the background while candle wax pooled itself on the tabletop. When I hit “publish” on a post, it became an invitation to sit for a while and share a meal, or an appetizer, or a cool glass of water. And people took me up on it.
I want to see if I can get that back, here. At some point along the way, the idea of responding to the comments you left here must have slipped through the cracks. I’m sad about that. I got distracted by the glitter of Facebook and other places and the fact that I was distracted meant that, while I may have set the table and invited you to a meal, when you arrived here at my front door, I let you in and then walked out the back door to somewhere else. Not very hospitable.
While Facebook may be glittery, blogging has its own brand of glitter. In fact, I think blogging may have invented social media glitter. Here’s something I think is important to remember: the content here is mine. It’s the same for you. If you a write a blog that is self-hosted, your content belongs to you. (You can read more about self-hosted and free blogging platforms, here.) When I write something over on places like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, the owners of those platforms have some rights to that content. I’m not paying them anything to sit at their tables, eat their food, drink their Kool-Aid, and write stuff (nor, by the way, are they paying me), so, in the unlikely event they decide to pack up and leave, they can take the stuff I’ve written with them.
When I write content on Facebook, my content is combined with content posted by a gazillion other people. Facebook rolls my content into a basket with a quadrillion (clearly, these numbers are estimates) other people who seem to like boots and being married and who have adult children and one farm dog, and Facebook says to their advertisers, “Look how many people might be interested in buying what you’re selling! If you pay us a ton of money, we’ll put an ad for your boots for happily married women with adult children and one farm dog on Facebook, and we’ll make sure these people see it and that they can’t resist clicking through to see what else you have to offer them that they never knew they needed until they saw your ad!” I’m not saying any of this is a bad thing, I’m simply saying it is what it is. (And, I should also say, I’ve never actually been to a meeting at Facebook, so I might be a little bit off in my description of how things truly unfold there. But, I think I’m pretty close.) Facebook has a lot of good to offer people who blog or who want to run a profitable business and who don’t mind paying to make sure their content gets seen by the married-with-adult-children, farm-dog owning, moms who like to wear boots.
What I think I want to do, however, is place a higher value on building community on my little corner of the Internet, right here on this blog, I want to get back to the art of the conversation in the blog comment box. I’m not quite sure how it will look but I’m sure it will show itself as I go. Last week, when I told you I had a nostalgic longing for some old-school blogging, you are the ones who showed me what I’ve been missing. Your cascade of comments reminded me that what I’ve been missing most of all is sitting here at the table with you, my elbows on the table (despite what I was taught), my chin in the palm of my hand, as you and I share some words over a bowl of soup or a crust of bread or a slice of pizza with something cold to wash it down.
So, here’s who I’d like you to meet this week. Despite all my words here about comments, there are no comments on this blog, written by Beth + Lindsay.
Some questions for you: When you get together with your blogging friends, what kinds of things do you talk about? Which platform (Blogger, WordPress, Ghost, TypePad, Squarespace, something else) do you use for your blog? Is there something you used to do on your site that you no longer do? Do you think it’s a good thing to let go, or have you considered bringing it back? What would that look like? And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going back to respond to your comments from last week. When I’m done there, I’ll catch up with you here.