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What does it mean to be a blogger?


Space for the Butterflies - what does it mean to be a blogger

Writing my ten year anniversary post it struck me just how much has changed since I first started blogging.  I started out with just words, lots of them, and the occasional small photo, because if I tried to load more than three photos at once into Blogger the whole thing would crash and I’d have to start again.

Now technology has moved on and I can have as many pictures as I want, all the words you can read, and a pretty design that is completely and uniquely me.  But the revolution hasn’t just been in the blogging technology but in the whole social/self-publishing media.  Where once there was Blogger and comments, now we have blogs and Instagram and Twitter and YouTube and Facebook, and Periscope and Snapchat and a whole heap of other things that were a short lived craze for a couple of weeks, and probably something new that I haven’t even heard of yet.

And as most of us that blog, also have some or all over the above, it made me wonder, what exactly is it that makes up a blogger in 2016?

By quirk of timing I spent January uniquely placed to carry out a sort of statistical experiment into blogging.  Firstly, by blog stats, I had the best month ever here at Space for the Butterflies.  A couple of posts must have really resonated and for the first and probably last time ever, I had over 1,000 page views in a day.  That’s a really big deal in stats around here.

And the second thing was that I got really insanely busy at work.  So busy that I could only choose to do one thing in my tiny bit of remaining time, and I chose writing here, mostly for my sanity as much as anything else.  I didn’t have time to read many other blogs, or comment (I eventually just marked all as read when my Bloglovin unread posts went to 1200), I hadn’t taken any beautiful pictures for Instagram because all I’d seen was my desk, and I’d almost entirely absented myself from Twitter, either just in general conversation or taking part in Twitter chats.

So there was January, a blog hit and a social media miss.  The question was what would that do to my Tots100 ranking? The answer: I fell 52 places.

Which has made me a little cautious about writing this post lest it be misinterpreted as sour grapes, but it truly isn’t. I was writing this post before the latest stats came out, regardless of which way I went, and as I’ve said before, I love the Tots but I regard my ranking with benign curiosity.  My world does not turn on that little number in the sidebar.

But I digress. Back to statistics.  The obvious conclusion to my little experiment is that at least where the Tots are concerned, my social media rankings, interactions, and all the rest of it are at least as important as my blog itself.

And if that’s the case then does it mean that being a blogger is about more than just sitting down and writing? Bloggers often are influencers within the peer group, social media experts, skilled self promoters, and quite often wonderfully chatty and fun to catch up with, even when you live many many miles apart.  But is that just part of the definition of a modern blogger or an add on to the core essence of blogging?

The short answer is that of course there’s room for everyone; you are no less a blogger if you write one post a month without pictures and write entirely for yourself, only acquiring a reader by bizarre Google search results, than if you have hundreds of thousands of readers every day/month, are the friendliest chatty person on Twitter and take the Instagram pictures that make the rest of us wonder whether you have a little personal sun that you keep in your pocket and pull out to light your photos.

But what I’m curious about is the median, and I suppose the expectation of a peer group.  The circles that I mix in are parenting blogs, knitting blogs and quilting blogs, and quite often an overlap between all three.  Most of the people whose blogs I real regularly are also on Twitter and Instagram, and probably Facebook too (I’m not big on Facebook), and more than a handful have a pretty impressive YouTube channel too.

And I don’t think it’s born of external pressure to “keep up with the [insert pro blogger of your choice]”, I think it’s been a very organic expansion.  Instagram is first and foremost a lot of fun, as is Twitter. And the reason that it’s fun is because it dials into the very heart of blogging; the people.  Think about it: if you write a tweet, throw it out into the ether and no one answers you or every mentions it again, it’s not half so much fun as if you end up having a chat with someone about the best topping for pancakes.

The reason we all write and publish in a public space and don’t just scrawl things into a battered notebook stuffed into the end of the bookcase is because of the community and the interaction. We write to know we are not alone.

And maybe in another 10 years time all these platforms will seem terribly antiquated and we’ll all be onto something new and exciting that no one has even dreamed of yet all viewed on portable projection screens or something.  But being a blogger will I think mean just the same; sharing our stories, with whoever wants to read them and by whatever means we think is the most fun.

I’d love to know your thoughts – do you think social media is an intrinsic part of being a blogger now, and do you think it could ever take over entirely?

PS – because I know someone will be thinking it because I would be – yes, my inner maths geek is now terribly tempted to repeat the experiment in reverse and spend a month blogging less but being terribly chatty on social media just to see what impact that would have,  but I promise that if I’m writing less here it’s because I’ve been writing a lot at work and I want to knit instead and if I’m taking more Instagram pictures, it’s because the sun came back and I’ve missed it!