As of 2012, there are about 31 million bloggers in the US alone. That’s about one in ten people!
I’m all for people writing blogs. I think most people have something worthwhile to say, and are knowledgeable about something that other folks will find interesting. I think it’s pretty great that lovers of small pewter dragons can probably find several blogs dedicated to discussing only small pewter dragons. It’s a great way to connect to like-minded folks.
I also think it’s perfectly fine for bloggers not to specialize in just one area. A blogger should be able to set up a blog and write to her heart’s content about any topic that pops into her head. Most people have wide and varied interests, and their blogs can reflect that.
Here’s the problem: many, many bloggers seem to live in fear of the notion of an invisible, judgmental reader.
It’s naive to expect a writer not to consider an audience when she writes. Anyone who submits a piece for publication is aware that other people, including people that the author does not personally know, may come across the piece and read it. It’s hard not to imagine, honestly, a person critically peering over your shoulder while you type, furrowing an eyebrow and tut-tutting you as you type. Hey, we all like to be liked.
Lots of writers stick to safe topics that will create no controversy, because they fear losing their readership. And that’s completely reasonable. If you typically blog about slow cooker recipes, you might feel uncomfortable launching a post about a politicized issue, and it may be the wrong forum for such a piece.
Many bloggers do choose to editorialize, about all sorts of things. God knows I have opinions. But if you’re going to venture into the world of public opining (and please do not think that I’m saying you must) you need to have, you know, opinions.
And I get it: it’s scary! But blogging like this requires a sliver of bravery. It is not brave to bring up a topic, tepidly introduce your position, and then retreat by over explaining, apologizing for your point of view, and rushing to reassure readers that you mean no offense. It’s not brave – hell, it’s not even an actual opinion, it’s not fun to read, and it accomplishes nothing.
Why even hit the Publish button on a post like that? Why set out your soap box and then hide behind it? What is the point? What do you or your readers get out of it?
It might even be worse than not productive. It might be counterproductive. My (unusually cynical) view is this: posts where you sort of give one side, then sort of give the other side, and conclude nothing remind me of a lot of bogus product review websites. You know what I’m referring to. You’re trying to choose between two products, and you come across a site that’s supposed to give a head-to-head comparison and review, but instead concludes with bullshit like “in the end, it’s up to consumers to decide what’s best for their needs.” Thanks for nothing, jerk. These sites aren’t really intended to give a real review, of course; they’re intended to generate page views and ad revenue.
Similarly, I think people who write posts that ultimately pretend to have an opinion, but don’t, run the risk of irritating the readers, who may feel they’re being used to pad pageview numbers. Or that the writer doesn’t give the reader the benefit of the doubt. These posts don’t feel honest. As a reader, I’d much rather read an opinion I disagree with but that feels real than a wishy-washy watered down bunch of words that add up to nothing.
It’s possible to give an opinion without being offensive, in almost every topic area. It’s great to back up your opinion with facts and anecdotal experience. It’s even ok to acknowledge the other side of the argument. But if you have an opinion that you feel the need to express, make sure you actually get around to expressing it. Trust your reader to go along for the ride, and to see the YOU that they already know underneath your position. Yes, know that you have readers. But don’t be so scared of them that you tear down what you’re building while you’re building it!
If you don’t want to use your blog to share your opinions, that’s fantastic.
Just remember that if you do, the soapbox is for standing on, not for hiding behind.
*this blog post is brought to you by the annoyance I’ve felt in the last two days reading blog posts about marriage equality, something that I think deserves a real discussion.