Is Blogging Dead?

“I’m nostalgic for conversations I had yesterday. I’ve begun reminiscing events before they even occur. I’m reminiscing this right now.” —Max

Kicking and Screaming (1995)

When I started this blog back in 2001, Toby and I were living in a 3,000 square foot loft in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Our bedroom overlooked the East River and all of Northern Manhattan. I was head-over-heels in love. I had a sweet job in SoHo. I had great friends and family living nearby. I was 27-years-old and living the New York City dream.

I wrote a lot back then. I kept a diary on my laptop. Sometimes I printed out the pages and put them in a notebook. I used to read those pages to Toby Joe. He’s always been a great listener and super supportive of everything I’ve ever loved or felt passionate about.

In typical Toby Joe fashion, he took his supportiveness to an extreme and programmed a personalized blog publishing platform for me. At the time, I didn’t even really know what a blog was. But he was willing to show me. And I took great pride in the fact that the publishing platform was the only one of its kind.

My first post was about snot invading my head. It was meant to be a test post, but once we hit publish and it went live, I kind of freaked out.

“You mean anyone can read this, like, right now? Anyone? Anywhere?”

“Yes.”

Holy shit.”

For better or for worse, anyone was able to read about my snot. Weird.

So I wrote. And I took a LOT of pictures. I used my graphic design skills and created silly posters in Photoshop. I didn’t care if anyone was following along, knowing someone could was enough for me.

But then people started actually leaving comments, real people. People I didn’t know. This was huge. Where were they coming from? Why were they sticking around? How had they found me and why did they care about what I—a complete stranger—had to say?

The whole experience was life-changing, frankly. I know that sounds completely ridiculous now, but it was life-changing.

When Toby realized how fascinated I’d become with my visitors, he built a stats package as well. I was able to see just how many people stopped by, whether they were repeat readers, how they had gotten there and how long they stuck around.

This was totally kick ass. And over the course of a year, I watched my numbers increase from the single digits, into the double digits, all the way up into the thousands.

People were actually reading.

So I kept writing.

BAM!

A blog was born.

I wrote every single day. I took loads of “from the hip” pictures of my commute throughout my beloved city. I enjoyed blogging more than I can possibly say. I enjoyed interacting with people all over the world. It was truly life-changing.

And it continued this way for many years. Toby managed the backend. I continued to pour my heart and soul into it. My site became an unpaid, part time job, and I loved it.

Right around 2009, things began to change. And while I could easily blame it on everything else—the popularity of Twitter, Facebook and all the monetizing that started taking place—it probably had more to do with me. I changed.

In 2009, I had a miscarriage and immediately entered an 18-month long battle with infertility. I clammed up. While my blogging peers continued to share and write (and monetize), I hid. Something inside of me changed. I was no longer the personal blogger I’d always been. I wasn’t even all that open with friends and family anymore. I became introverted and fearful. I felt broken, sad and alone.

I simply stopped sharing.

It’s a bit of a cliché, but my innocence and passion for embracing life head-on, with wild abandonment, well, all of that came crumbling down.

I know I pushed people away. Just last night I was reminded of this when one of those people made an appearance in a dream. I treated this person poorly. I was so afraid of telling this person the truth—of being honest about my infertility, depression and vulnerability—that I built a wall instead. And last night, when she appeared in my dream, and I was given a chance to explain myself, it was too late. She refused my friendship. She had moved on. I woke up in a cold sweat, agitated and crushed.

Even my dreams remind me of how many people I pushed away.

And this blog suffered as well. I second guess everything I write. Nothing seems important or everything seems too important, or I think, “Why would anyone even care about this?”

And I don’t even have access to my stats anymore. I have no idea if I even have a stats package. I honestly have no clue how many people stop by anymore. And that ignorance is probably a good thing. Because I’m pretty sure that if I knew that number, I’d just have Toby take it all down. Why not just go back to keeping a journal?

I know. I know. Bloggers who talk about quitting never actually seem to. Whereas those who actually do pull the plug—they just do it. They don’t discuss it. They don’t write about it. They just let it go.

So, why not just let it go? Why do I keep this thing on life-support when I make no money on it whatsoever and instead pay 80 bucks a month to host it?

Well, for starters, there is no backup. If we stop paying the host, the site and all its data will be gone forever. And I can’t let that happen. There is just too much information here. I use it ALL the time as a reference—from Mom It Down recipes, to trying to figure out when something in our life took place. I use it to remember how sad I once was and how far I’ve come. It’s a massive archive holding THIRTEEN YEARS of my life. I can’t just pull the plug.

And Toby and I are way too busy (or dead tired) these days to back it all up. And when we do find time, the list of things we have ahead of it is way too long. I have no clue when we’ll actually get around to it. A site that spans 13 years has one hell of an archive especially since I want the comments and all the images as well. In many cases, the comments are what made this site so awesome. All of this takes time and space and energy—all of which we don’t currently have.

So, what does one do? Does one continue to write sometimes to justify the expense? Does one continue to write knowing all her peers recognized where things were headed years ago, and made the necessary changes? Does one become more and more discouraged and write posts like this one and, well, this one? Or does one finally just shut the hell up?

Is the personal blog dead? And am I the last guy to realize this?

More and more people are in search of sponsors and advertisers. More and more people want to make money off their blogs. Meanwhile, reader cynicism seems to be on the rise. Readers are less trusting of bloggers, they question intentions. (I know I do.) They are just waiting for the day a blogger tries to sell. Readers are a lot less invested. And I can’t fault anyone for that, just like I can’t fault anyone for trying to make a living. I know things change. Change is good! I get it. I don’t love it, but I do get it.

Sometimes I genuinely miss the way things used to be. I miss being invested. I miss the passion involved on both ends. Or maybe I just miss myself. Maybe I’m mourning the excitement I once had for sharing and writing and publishing my unfiltered thoughts. Maybe I miss the newness of it all. Maybe I’m being too cynical and crotchety and “old school” about this. Maybe this is where things were headed all along.

Maybe the problem is me.

_______________________

Edited to add: Incidentally, I swear I did not write this for attention. I’m sincerely just thinking out loud today. I have these thoughts about blogging often enough and today I figured why not share them like I used to? Certainly I’m not alone in my thoughts. Please don’t think I’m begging for ass kisses. I will kick my own ass and film it if I come off that way.

Disney World!

We went to Disney World last week. Toby took two weeks off rather suddenly. At first we were going to just sit back and relax, but then I got this hankering to go somewhere. We talked about renting an expensive hotel room in Manhattan overlooking the Hudson for the 4th of July fireworks, one with a pool and great views. But many were all booked up. Others would not guarantee us a room with a view.

I then suggested DC. We looked into renting a hotel room and taking the train down. You would not believe the cost of that. Or maybe you would. I was surprised. The cost was nearing Disney prices, a realization Toby Joe muttered out loud.

“Hey! Why don’t we go to Disney World?” I asked, only I think I spelled it out or said it in Pig Latin.

This was out of character for me. I have had a fear of flying for over a decade. Toby is well aware of this fear. I am often hopped up on Xanax when we fly, except for the one time I was pregnant and took a (DOCTOR APPROVED) sleeping pill instead. I am a terrible, no good, nervous flyer. (This fear started before 9/11 and then after 9/11 it just became 10 times worse. I became one of those folks who literally threw tickets away right before the trip. I flaked on an amazing vacation in Thailand two months after 9/11. I’m that guy.)

Anyway, it’s been getting better lately. The last time I flew I did OK. My palms didn’t soak a napkin or Toby’s leg. When we got off the plane I said, “Is this how it usually is?” Toby looked at me like I was crazy and said, “Yes. It’s usually dreadfully uneventful.”

Now I want to go everywhere. My fear of flying has kept me from going so many places, seeing so much. It pains me realizing this now. So I have a lot of catching up to do. Japan for my 40th? Yes! Hawaii with the kids? Definitely. We’re going to go everywhere.

But I digress. After a few clicks and one large credit card transaction, we were taking the kids to Disney World and we were leaving in less than a week.

And it was awesome. The whole trip was awesome. We booked a room at The Wilderness Lodge (shown above) which is where my extended family stays every year for our reunion of sorts. It has a great pool; a nice running/walking trail; bike and boat rentals; a gym; and lots of awesome scenery. It’s just nice being there. And we’re lucky we can afford to. I’m very grateful.

The flights went off without a hitch, both ways. Elliot was shockingly well-behaved; I was worried about that. When we flew last year, he was still a wee one and was still nursing. I nursed him for almost the entire flight. And Emory is possibly the best kid traveler ever, he is amazing.

(He got his hair done in The Magic Kingdom. I love this kid.)

Here are a few things that made this trip awesome:

  • We decided ahead of time we’d only visit two parks the entire week: The Magic Kingdom and Epcot.
  • We got to each park before it opened.
  • We got Quick Passes for the really popular rides (Big Thunder Mountain, Splashdown Mountain, Buzz Lightyear, Soarin’) and visited the less popular ones using the nonexistent morning lines (Teacups, Peter Pan, It’s A Small World).
  • I got the Quick Passes by running to each one ahead of the family, which was awesome for me. (UTILITARIAN EXERCISE!) Also: Quick Passes aren’t printed for the opening hour, always an hour or so later giving us plenty of time to hit other rides.
  • We left each park between 1 and 2 PM and headed back to the hotel (pool) to relax, eat and nap.
  • We took one day off entirely and just sat around at the hotel, playing games and relaxing by the pool.

I know this schedule isn’t for everyone, but the lines went from 0 to 15 minutes long during the morning hours to over 75 minutes in the afternoon! No way I’m waiting in line for 75 minutes in the blazing hot sun, not with a toddler.

One thing we will definitely do in the future is buy a Disney Dining Plan. It’s worth it, we’ve discovered. But beware! You have to do it at least three days before you arrive. We tried adding it on there, to no avail.

Lastly: HOLY HUGE NUMBER OF BRAZILIAN TOURISTS! I guess July is “Brazilian Tours” month because there were literally thousands them. They all wore the same shirt and each group held anywhere from 25 to 75 people. There were orange shirts, red ones, blue, green, white. Seriously, there were thousands.

Damn, I originally set out just to post a few pictures, and here I am rambling on and on. I’ll shut up.

Emory on the carousel.

A woman gave Elliot a few stickers while we on line for Peter Pan, so he tried to eat them. Of course.

Elliot and Emory outside Italy in Epcot. We had lunch there during a torrential downpour.

God, I love The Wilderness Lodge. Check out this scenery!

Up before the sun on most days. I’m such a morning person, more so while on vacation.

Along the running trail.

This was my running buddy. Scared the SHIT out of me at first. At least it wasn’t a gator!

Lastly, isn’t this the cutest picture ever? I love my boys.

Have you ever been to Disney? Where did you stay? Did you enjoy yourself? Let me know! I’m always curious to hear where others stay. If you haven’t been, why not? Would you like to? Or do you hate all things Disney. (I know many families in Brooklyn who agree with you!)

The Penn State Thing: Take Two.

(This is an slightly updated version of what I put up yesterday. The first four comments were left on the initial post. And while I didn’t change much, please take that into consideration. This version sits a little better with me. Also: I wrote this rather hastily still. This is precisely why I don’t blog much anymore, no time to refine and edit. But hey, I wrote something!)

By now everyone has read about Penn State. I won’t reiterate what’s taking place because it’s a waste of time, which I have very little of these (summer) days. This post is about my thoughts on the matter. It’s probably pretty selfish of me to write about my feelings (again) but this is a blog and I do that sometimes.

I mentioned before that while I went to Penn State I was no fan of football. In fact, I held a great deal of disdain toward the sport. I was an art student, one who saw firsthand just how much attention and money the football program got. What annoyed me most is there was, and continues to be, so much more to Penn State than its football program. Penn State is a great school, filled with intelligent, creative people. It was difficult watching all of that get overlooked because of football. So my hatred for the sport intensified.

I graduated, moved to DC when I was 23, and started to watch the occasional game with friends, friends who’d gone to other Big Ten schools. We’d get together at a local dive bar or someone’s apartment, make some food, drink some beer and heckle one another. Football became kind of fun.

I started to pay attention. My football-following friends made Joe Paterno seem charming, admirable; I started to really like the guy. The more I liked him, the more I liked the team. I became a fan of football. Weird.

So there I was, age 37, when the news broke last November. I truly and honestly believed he was a good and honest man, one who never would have looked the other way had he known a child was being abused. I still, to some degree, believe he was a decent human being. I don’t think he is the epitome of all evil. I believe he suffered from a powerful dose of denial, coupled with a massive ego, one Penn State University helped build.

After I read the Freeh Report a friend said to me, “I hope you’ll finally stop defending Paterno.”

Ouch.

I won’t sit here and defend Paterno. He is guilty of idleness, of not doing the right thing. I admit that. So, no, I will not defend him. But I must defend myself.

I’m conflicted, you see; I reckon many of us are. This man did great things for hundreds of people, many of whom were kids.

YET. This.

This ugly truth that he didn’t do more for abused boys and should have. This ugly truth that he could have stopped a pedophile and did not.

That.

Does that undo everything he’s ever done? For many, yes. I suppose it does. But the world isn’t always black and white, especially when it comes to one’s emotions and so I remain confused, conflicted and surprised.

I was wrong. I truly believed Paterno was 100% innocent and did everything he should have done based one what he knew. He wasn’t. He didn’t. He could have stopped Sandusky, just like Spanier, Curley, Schultz, McQueary, and the janitors who were too afraid to say something because they might lose their jobs. (Incidentally, stop making these guys out to be victims. I don’t care how hard up I am for cash or how many children I’m supporting, if I saw a child being sexually abused, like actually saw it happening, I’d lose that fucking job straight up. But I digress.)

I was wrong. Joe Paterno could and should have done a lot more. He had the power to stop years and years worth of abuse.

I was wrong. I hope it helps people to read that.

And I hate that I was wrong, but not because I’m embarrassed for “being so blind” or “defending Joe Paterno”. I don’t need to hear another “I told you so!” I hate that I was wrong because I liked liking Joe Paterno; who doesn’t need more people to admire? We all need heroes. I have hundreds of heroes. Some folks I know personally; some are athletes, teachers, parents, doctors; many work with animals; some I’ve only ever shared a minute with on the subway. I like admiring people. I liked admiring Joe Paterno.

So, yeah. I very much believed he was a good man who did many good things. And I wanted to believe he did everything right this time, did everything the way he should have.

I was wrong. But I wasn’t wrong for believing in him. Please don’t make me feel badly about that.