Back from a long, long period of radio silence! I haven’t written in so long in part due to my schedule, but in greater part because I’ve been wondering if blogging is a worthwhile activity. It’s a question that tugs me every time I realize (sadly) how precious time is, especially in Singapore. So I was delighted when I came across Dan Ariely’s thoughts in his latest book, The Upside of Irrationality. (But I wasn’t surprised because he has this remarkable ability to address at length issues that lurk beneath the surface.*)
Now think about blogging. The number of blogs out there is astounding, and it seems that almost everyone has a blog or is thinking about starting one. Why are blogs so popular? Not only is it because so many people have the desire to write; after all, people wrote before blogs were invented. It is also because blogs have two features that distinguish them from other forms or writing. First, they provide the hope or the illusion that someone else will read one’s writing. After all, the moment a blogger presses the “publish” button, the blog can be consumed by anybody in the world, and with so many people connected, somebody, or at least a few people, should stumble upon the blog. Indeed, the “number of views” statistic is a highly motivating feature in the blogosphere because it lets the blogger know exactly how many people have at least seen the posting. Blogs also provide readers with the ability to leave their reactions and comments – gratifying for both the blogger, who now has a verifiable audience, and the reader-cum-writer. Most blogs have very low readership – perhaps only the blogger’s mother or best friend reads them – but even writing for one person, compared to writing for nobody, seems to be enough to compel millions of people to blog.
Why do I blog? I blog mainly as a form of keeping my already bad writing skills from degenerating; I also blog to share interesting findings/research/ideas with others, and archive some of these for future reference. But Dan is spot on: I have very, very low readership, but even a few readers spur me to write because of the feeling that my work is at least of value to someone out there – in other words, meaningful. If nobody at all were to read it, it’d probably feel like talking to myself, and I’d probably stop blogging.