The Three Ages of Blogging

I was going to do a studious review of Jane Austen’s Emma today and then it struck me that Friday is an unpropitious day for that sort of thing on the pre-weekend quiet of the blogworld. And it also occurred to me that I wouldn’t have felt like that a couple of years ago – that blogging then was, for me, like a trip to the gym for a fitness freak, not to be missed on any account and part of a stringent regime that brooked no opposition. Blogging can be understood in many ways, and one of those is a kind of virtual half-life, subject to the same mortality as real life but in a fast-forward, pixilated form.

The First Age: The Age of Passion

When blogs are fresh and new every day is full of excitement and discovery. The blogger can’t wait until the moment for posting comes, and spends far too much time dreaming about what might be written and composing perfect posts. Topics abound, the blog world is full of fascinating and engaging events that demand participation and the only frustration is lack of time. Publicity is all and the new blogger signs up for everything, every blog directory, every challenge, every meme. Visiting other sites, particularly new ones, is a little anxiety-inducing as long-standing friendships clearly announce themselves in every comments section. But this is all about making new acquaintances and getting settled in, and every new returning visitor is a matter of triumph and delight. Comments start to increase, traffic begins to flow, and the blogger has that wonderful sense of progress as their writing gains in fluency and style. Blogging is a revelation, a passion, a delight.

The Second Age: The Age of Reason

By now the blogger has secured a place in his or her community. Blogging has fallen into a distinct and mostly reliable routine to which the blogger adheres with dedication. A group of blogging friends will be established by now, and it’s quite possible the blogger will have joined or initiated a bunch of group blogs, little spin-offs in a big blogging family. The incoming links section of the dashboard registers new mentions on a (pleasingly) daily basis, traffic is steady and reassuring, blogging awards are bestowed and invitations to blogworld events are regularly forthcoming. The blogger has an idea now of how things ought to be, an opinion on what blogs do and how the virtual world could be improved; blogging has a political edge. The blog itself has settled down into a distinct character, and it’s hard to imagine it being any other way. The routine is comforting, the community is loving, but occasionally, just occasionally, the necessity of blogging begins to drag. The blogger still signs up for challenges and read-alongs but begins to feel guilt as some fall by the wayside. There’s just so much to do, so many virtual plates to keep spinning. Sometimes the posts are a bit messy, written in a tearing hurry in the midst of trying to catch up with real life, sometimes it’s difficult to come up with a subject. But blogging is still an essential part of the blogger’s life and brings with it rewards that cannot be lightly dismissed.

The Third Age: The Age of Experience

So, after all kinds of struggles with ambition, responsibility, duty, creativity and falling stats, the blogger has come to an uneasy but tenacious relationship with blogging. The lasting benefit remains the virtual friends who have stuck to the blog through thick and thin, through the blogging breaks, the disruptive life events, the loss of direction and energy. It’s not that new friendships aren’t possible – and hope springs eternal – more that anyone who might have discovered the blog seems to have visited it already, and then moved on to someone else who does something similar only with the panache or passion of an earlier stage. The blogger has realized their limitations, as far as challenges and changes go, and maybe there’s one more reinvention left in the old blog yet, but innovation is really a thing of the past. A little passing envy may be felt for all those youthful, vigorous blogs that spring up every day, and the enthusiasm and doggedness with which blogging fun is pursued. But there’s nothing to be done; that kind of energy can’t be resurrected. The blogger often wonders whether he or she should give up, but values those friendships too highly, and the residual weight of blogging history ties them in place. Blogging is a habit and only cynical mischief-making, like putting an outrageous sentence in the middle of a post to see whether anyone really does read more than just the beginning and end keep the blogger engaged.

You see, blogging really is like life! And this old blog is distinctly close to getting its bus pass, even though I hope for a miracle of reinvention. I think that there are bloggers who can manage to prolong that middle-age stretch and find a comfortable pattern they can stick with, but this is quite an art. And others start up new blogs, which may well give the sensation of beginning afresh. But I will stick with the Reading Room, geriatric as it may be, and stagger with my Zimmer frame towards a review of Emma next week, and Orwell’s 1984, too. Have a great weekend, all!

24 thoughts on “The Three Ages of Blogging

  1. You have definitely nailed it (as usual!). I’m in the second phase, and I’m always afraid I am starting to approach the third phase, so I try to take breaks when I need them, and not be afraid to mark all as read in my Google Reader. :p

  2. Is the outrageous sentence here the one about outrageous sentences? I put outrageous sentences at the beginning, middle, and end of my posts, unfortunately whether I mean to or not.

    Or is it this one: “But there’s nothing to be done; that kind of energy can’t be resurrected.” Ya trying to give me nightmares? This post is like a Beckett play, like Krapp’s Last Tape:

    “Perhaps my best years are gone. When there was a chance of happiness. But I wouldn’t want them back. Not with the fire in me now. No, I wouldn’t want them back.”

  3. aw, I’m in the third phase for sure but I actually still LOVE blogging – my life is just at a different place right now and I don’t have as much time for it as I once did. I decided to keep my blog going and not quit because (a.) I still post once a week or so and (b.) I know there will be a time when I am able to blog more and fully engage in the community. It’s sort of like a gym membership or club membership of some sort…I know I’ll return to using it vigorously at some point in the future, but now I am all about maintenance. I guess I believe in reincarnation for my blog, but not for my actual life.

  4. I had a twinge of anxiety as I got to stage 3 because I really don’t want you to stop blogging! But I’m definitely in stage 3 and I would say that it’s the blogging friendships and the exercise and routine of expressing myself in blogging posts that keeps me going. But reinvention (and blogging breaks) are inevitable.

    I also wonder whether Twitter hasn’t stolen much of the mystique of blogging. But I also think that readers and authors will still be attracted to it and that I will still get many of my TBR books from book bloggers such as you. Incidentally, I was sad to see that Bloglines is closing. A sign of the times perhaps.

  5. Please do stick with Reading Room. Have been for years a reader of many blogs which I thoroughly enjoy, yours being at the top of my list. And only now understand the value of commenting once in a while. To heck with the upstarts, please continue your “geriatric” blog. It’s understandable that one loses the momentum for something they’ve been at for a while, but it’s always good to see a new post from you highlighted in my Google Reader, so your work is not going for naught. Your posts are good stuff, well written and thought out. Keep up the good work — we’re reading and waiting for you.

  6. Well said! This is so insightful and I can relate to all of it. Unfortunately I think I skipped from the Age of Passion to the Age of Experience. I’m still hoping to find that Age of Reason someday!

  7. Blogging had a mystique? I don’t understand how one can possibly make an argument using Twitter. Have an argument, sure.

    By the way, I forgot to say – whatever stage you’re in, litlove, you’re on a roll. That post about communing with nature in the park was outstanding.

  8. Jenny – ah the art of marking all as read – what a courageous and necessary move that is! Your blog looks bang in the middle of the second stage to me – full of zip and vim.🙂

    Bluestocking – I nearly added a bit in the Third Age about all one’s friends dying off but worried it wouldn’t be in the best possible taste…! But seriously, there are lots of bloggers I used to follow who have long since disappeared.

    Amateur Reader – LOL! You know, I rather like Krapp’s Last Tapes – that MUST have been the unconscious influence. And good for you for those outrageous sentences. I find it altogether better not to realise I have written them – makes the arrival of comments such fun.

    Courtney – reincarnation? Now there’s an idea. I actually think you are in the middle stage, but you’re on a life break – the final stage comes when the breaks have all happened. And you are going to have so many new and exciting events to tell us about. I’m looking forward to that immensely!

    Pete – oh don’t, I’m in denial about bloglines. All my feeds are there and at some point I will have to stir myself and my insufficient computer skills to deal with the changeover. Gah! Don’t worry, I am very tenacious in my old age, and will stick around. I could easily have given up over the summer, but I missed the community so much I knew then I couldn’t do it. I AM hoping for a reinvention, though, something new and thrilling to write about. That would be nice.

    Charlotte – lol!! I will get out my bedraggled feather boa, or maybe the fake fox fur tippet that smells of mothballs. I simply can’t decide.🙂

    pbd – aww hugs to you! How kind is that? I do so appreciate your support and encouragement. Don’t worry, I will still be blogging until I finally reach senility, which I hope is a long way off. I don’t quite have the zip I used to, but I do still love the company I keep, and long may that last!

    Kathleen – then you will have a treat in store when you reach it. And I’m convinced you will – you have a delightful blog and it will have its day. You know, I may well have conceived of this too narrowly, and that bloggers, such inventive folk, will know how to keep skipping through the stages over and over to their heart’s content. I’m all for flexibility.🙂

    Amateur Reader – I don’t take compliments from you lightly – thank you. That’s definitely made my day.

  9. Oh Litlove, thanks for the chuckle this afternoon as I watch the hands on the clock move ever so slowly towards the time I get to go home and start my weekend (shh! don’t tell anyone I’m looking at blogs at work!). I was just thinking, gosh, I should do that Les Liaisons Dangereuses post but then it’s Friday and no one seriously reads blogs on Friday nights or the weekend even. And now I’ve decided that I probably won’t post anything at all tonight, just check in with school and have a nice evening reading what I want after the first week of the school quarter trying-to-figure-everything-out stress. I do look forward to your thoughts on Emma. Have a good weekend!

  10. Stefanie – oh too funny! We clearly had exactly the same thought processes and I hovered over writing this and then thought, oh well, why not? and am glad now that I did – but I would not have had the heart for it if I’d had to write it in the evening! And to add to that, most amusingly, I was actually dropping you a line while you were writing this comment. We are clearly synchronised today! I think a relaxing time with a book sounds just perfect for tonight, particularly after a busy week. And I’m very much looking forward to your thoughts of LLD when you are rested and ready to deliver them.🙂

  11. Ooo I just began reading EMMA. So looking forward to discussion on it.

    I am definitely in Stage 3 of your stages above. This is so accurate as it is defintiely how my blogging has gone, and I’ve only been blogging two and a half years.

    Blogging really reminds me of the humorous quote from Virginia Woolf about writing (I think that’s who it was): “Writing is like sex. First you do it for love, then you do it for your friends, and then you do it for money.”

  12. LOL! I recently decided that blog age must be 20 years to 1, the way dog age is 7 years to 1. We get old and tired quite fast, don’t we? Still, I am enjoying slowing down these days, not obsessed about whether or not I’ve posted anything worth reading or am completely up-to-date with all my blogging friends. I don’t tend to make many new friends much anymore, but I so value those like you and Charlotte and Court and Dorr, whom I met (was it 80?) years ago solely through blogs and now cherish as dear old friends. And all those young whippersnappers? Well, they can have their FB and Twitter. I’m sticking to my blog.

  13. I daresay I’m in the geriatric phase right along with you, but still enjoying it all enough to keep plodding along, hoping for new inspiration every so often.

    The best part is indeed the connection with others, and the opportunity to share our love of reading🙂

  14. The Reading Room geriatric?!! Hardly! As always, you have defined the blogging “life” precisely. Adrift somewhere in stage 2, I envy those who are assured, focused, taking this experience on their own terms. You, for instance. Cynical, mischief-making sentences tucked in the middle nothwithstanding😉

  15. This post is perfect! I’m in stage 3, definitely, although perhaps a bit more upbeat. But I do look at the young people out there with their energy and ideas, and I just shake my head. But the nice thing about being old is not caring so much what people think. I care, but less than I used to🙂

  16. As very much a blogger in their first age (perhaps not even first age – maybe still in the last trimester of pregnancy), I found myself both inspired by and incredulous at what you wrote. Steady traffic, blogging friendship groups, even awards (!?)- is that all really ahead of me in the second age? But will I even get there without all this meme, challenge, signing up for blog directory-stuff you refer to? What are these seemingly-crucial things I have yet to discover? It’s all so bewildering! Must ask the cat for advice…

  17. ‘only cynical mischief-making, like putting an outrageous sentence in the middle of a post to see whether anyone really does read more than just the beginning and end keep the blogger engaged.’ After reading this bit I then went back and searched for the sentence you’d surely inserted but couldn’t find it – now I wonder if I just can’t see it, or if it is missing and now I will look hard for these sentences in other posts.

    This is not a good thing you have done to me😛

  18. A – too funny! I do think there are more stages than I have accounted for, but I think myself that you are quite comfortably in the third, just picking up blogging when it appeals to you.

    Rebecca – I feel sure there must be all kinds of complicated possibilities in the third stage for self-renewal, it’s just I haven’t figured them out yet. The Woolf quote is hilarious – I’m still doing it for love, as no one shows any signs of paying me whatsoever!🙂 And hope you enjoyed Emma – I certainly did.

    Emily – you are in very good company with lots of the commenters here who are enjoying peaceful and contented third ages on their blogs! It’s certainly a relief not to be obsessed with stats – I never thought I’d see that day, but there it is.🙂

    Becca – I always think of you as quite a regular and reliable poster, and certainly someone with plenty of significance still to say. And I couldn’t agree more – it’s the community that’s so valuable.

    Harriet – you are modest – didn’t you just get into the top ten on that wikio thing? I’m sure there was something like that. But I do agree that doing it for oneself is undoubtedly the healthiest of motivations.

    Lilian – aww hugs to you – you are always such a wonderful support.

    ds – I just need to stand in the right light and then my wrinkles show less, perhaps?😉 Your blog goes from strength to strength and generates a lot of loving interest – that’s lovely to see.

    Dorothy – lol! I know exactly what you mean. We began our blogs literally weeks apart from one another, so I’m not surprised if you feel a little, well, older and wiser. It’s so healthy not to care, though!🙂

    Baker’s daughter – oh the awards are a piece of cake, you wait, they run in little spasms through the community. I am completely sure you will get them but without having to do anything different than what you are doing right now.🙂

    Jodie – lol! But I don’t really want to mess with your mind. There are no such sentences in the reading room and I can’t imagine myself ever spoiling the aesthetic pleasure of a post to stick one in, even in mischief! So you are quite safe really.🙂

  19. A fascinating post. I think I’m on the Age of Experience phase now. I am sustained by one thing and one thing only – I love writing about books and doubt this will change any time soon. I would blog even if I had no readers!

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