Blogging seems like such an established part of the web experience that it’s easy to forget it’s only been in our lives for eleven years. If fact, if you’re on the hunt for the beginnings of the web log, you will eventually find yourself in April of 1997 at Dave Winer’s blog, Scripting News. By our eyes, jaded with eleven years worth of blog improvement, this first post looks unimpressive.
Impressive or not, however, it would prove the catalyst that sparked an online revolution. And, somehow, that first post (nothing more than a small string of words and links) became the precursor to the more established, higher tech blogs of today.
But there is still a fundamental question at the bottom of the phenomenon—what made this odd viral form of information exchange take off so quickly and so pervasively? In light of our busy schedules and the time commitment it requires, why do we sit down at the end of the day to blog?
Part of the answer seems to be embedded in the fundamental anonymity of the blog. People are afforded the opportunity to share their thoughts and feelings on a topic without having to worry that those opinions will reflect on their public identity. If you’ve ever read some of the downright unfriendly comments posted on blogs, you can bet money that the username is either “anonymous” or something along the lines of “mr.lohan4eva.”
And even if the posters aren’t entirely anonymous, they are at least embodying certain online personas. So the idea of escape begins to enter the picture as well. Blogging allows people not only to state their opinions in a (relatively) consequence-free environment, but it also allows them to be someone else for a brief amount of time. Perhaps their blogging identity is more brazen, more crass, or more sarcastic than their “real” selves. Whatever the difference, there is an undeniable draw to freely sharing opinions divorced from your everyday self.
There are also more practical reasons for the spread of blogging in that it is open and available to anybody. There isn’t usually a fee associated with the practice, and there are very few restrictions regarding quality control. If you’re writing in a personal blog, there isn’t going to be somebody chiding you about spelling or wrapping your wrist for a missed comma. No one will even blink an eye if you write something that’s just outright factually wrong. This is also a good reason to be wary of what you read in blogs (fully aware of the irony inherent in saying that within a blog post).
So, given the unique set of circumstances that surround blogs—ready availability, opportunity for escape, anonymity—this brand of online exchange looks to be around for years to come.