Team, I have a bit of an internal struggle going on. The result of which is a quiet as quiet blog for the last few weeks. I thought I would share my thought process and crowd source some ideas from y’all because, well, a problem shared is a problem halved or something like that. Partly the blog has been quiet because I have declared 2018 as the ‘Year of Happy’, it’s the year of me doing dumb stupid stuff that makes me happy. So far this has included comedy shows, Disney World (!), dating, the Postal Museum, Netflix binges and of course endless coffee. Essentially I am being a selfish ratbag this year, and if I’m not in the mood to write, I don’t write (this is a distinct difference to last year when I couldn’t write because I was stressed to the gills and working all the hours under the sun, this is a good not writing). But the Year of Happy is not the biggest reason for not posting, the big reason is that I’m worried about the noise.
I have read a few articles recently (like this long read one CLICK HERE) all about our use of social media, and I extend that to how we write and promote blog posts as well. In all my reading about the current state of the internet the thing that most worries me is what algorithms are doing to our brains, aka the noise.
Algorithms are by face value quite nice things, the more you engage with a post the more you will be shown posts like it. The algorithms learn what you like and show you what they think you want to see, by this point all I should have on my walls is dogs wearing sunglasses. With all the content available on the internet a bit of curation is needed to stop us feeling overwhelmed, algorithms should be our friend. The problem is that content makers have cottoned on to this, in order to get content seen on Facebook or any algorithm based network the blog posts, captions and photos they create are black and white. Essentially this means instead of seeing content about Brexit that quietly weighs the pros and cons and lets you find your own opinion, all you get is ITS THE BEST or ITS THE WORST because that is what you will like, share and read.
What this does to your brain (or my brain at the very least) is that it constantly feels like the end of the world. Every time I log online it is us or them. Best or worst. Yes or no. For me (before I cottoned on) it was like living on a knife edge, the algorithms had turned me into a quibbling mess feeling like a punch was coming at any moment.
Side note: I’m not saying we should have centralist/moderate views on everything i.e. for me race and women’s rights are all or nothing topics. It’s more that the relentless stream of information is artificially creating a ‘pick a side’ argument on ALL issues – the truth when it comes to humans is usually grey and somewhere in the middle.
Anyway, back to blogging, it’s not just politics and equality issues that are playing the algorithm game, us bloggers do it to. How many blog posts do you see about ‘the best things to see in Paris’, ‘the cafes in London you can’t miss’, ‘the four things you have to do on a long haul flight’. I am guilty of all of these, because best or worst is what performs well in terms of clicks and views – I am feeding the machine. But what about the audience, you dear readers? When I look at those titles in the cold light of day (I’m actually writing this in a Disney ride queue and it’s warm and dark, but whatever) I think they cause the exact same problem as I talked about before.
The posts may be informative or funny (hopefully both) but they just add to the noise of what you ‘have to do/buy/think’. And if you don’t or can’t or haven’t then what? In an effort to get more readers I have essentially made you feel like a failure for not doing the thing.
No shade on other bloggers here, I know that to appear on google you have to write your posts and titles in a SEO friendly way. And if you are a full time blogger, getting those views can be the difference between paying rent or not. But for me, sitting in the luxury spot where this is a hobby not a job? I need to change the way I approach it. It’s all subtle changes, but I don’t want to trick anyone else’s brain into a ‘have to’, ‘need to’, ‘best or worst’ spiral.
I’m still me, and I will still write whatever takes my fancy, but you may notice I stop with the click bait and that my posts are less aggressively bloggy. Read it or not, it’s up to you. I just want to get back to enjoying writing for writings sake, and not feeling like I’m contributing to the noise.