Why We Should Stop Comparing Blogs to Social Media

Recently I talked about publishing every 36 hours and the pros and cons of doing so.

Some of the conversations sparked off other ideas along this topic I thought were worth exploring more.

Specifically, how blogs are still compared to social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and considered perhaps outdated or past their usefulness. Some might even feel blogging is “dead”.

The trouble is, as I see it, blogs are a quite different publishing platform. And the ones I’m involved with as a writer and a reader are very much alive.

Social media is increasingly about a constant stream of posts and updates, small bite size chunks.

An analogy might be going about the day with a packet of crisps in one pocket and a bar of chocolate in the other, alternately throwing a handful of one or the other onto your mouth every few minutes.

In my experience, the response and interaction level on social media is similar too – rapid but somewhat at the surface. It feels like stepping into a body of water expecting it to be immersed in a lake, and realising with a jarring thud, it’s just a puddle.

Furthermore, social media is so entangled in advertising, something I generally avoid and can’t bear.

It’s infiltrated into older forms of media and advertising too.

You can’t watch many TV shows it seems without a hashtag appearing repeatedly at the foot of the screen, encouraging you to, rather than actually sit and watch and enjoy the programme, hit social media to talk about it instead.

The TV shows generate more conversation around them on social media, which builds up their perceived value and importance, and more people watch.

More people watching the shows means more people watching the ads in between, and more products that we don’t need get sold, the consumer cycle ever amplified.

Blogs – at least the ones I follow and the one I write here – are very different.

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To me, a blog is the personal online residence of an individual, where they share their thoughts, ideas, experiences and creative output with the world.

It’s similar perhaps to having a public, but still low key, community cafe where liked minded people can hang out and discuss their passions and adventures with you.

The blogger provides the relaxing venue and the warm welcome, and you come along with your own valuable ideas and experiences to add to the tribe.

The pace with blogs is generally slow and contemplative. Even my publishing rate of a new post every 36 hours is massively slower than how some social media updates every 36 minutes, even every 36 seconds.

No fast food thrown into hungry mouths here, it’s far more like sitting down and savouring a delicious meal, cooked with love and fine ingredients, with people who’s company you enjoy, and you feel you’re getting to know.

There are no ads invading the experience (at least not here on 35hunter or on the majority of my favourite blogs), interrupting that timeless experience of immersing yourself in another’s words and images.

Another, frankly quite disturbing, point about social media is the way its pace and fleeting nature is damaging our ability to focus on and enjoy anything for longer than a few seconds.

Perhaps 25 years ago one might buy a photography book, or borrow one from the library, and unhurriedly spend a few hours or more browsing the photographs within, taking in every last detail.

The modern equivalent of browsing photos on social media is quite the reverse.

Instead of taking even five or 10 minutes to peruse just one photo, we’re swiping through 10 or 15 photos in one minute – sometimes perhaps even 10 times this, each image barely settling on our retinas before we dismissively swipe on to the next one.

Which means, with such shortening attention spans, when it comes to reading blog post of only a few hundred words, it feels like approaching some epic classic novel.

Where will it end? In five years time will we not even read a full Twitter post because it’s too long?

Actually, in some ways, I’m pleased about all the social media there is now.

It helps me appreciate the contrasting gentler pace and deeper conversation of blogs all the more.

And it’s strongly influenced how I’ve tried to shape 35hunter as a calm quiet space for us to get together and converse about lives and experiences as photographers, amidst the chaotic hyper-connected rush of the 21st century.

Social media is adding to this clutter and clamour. Blogs provide a much needed respite and retreat from it.

So how about you? What do you like about the blogs you read?

Please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).

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27 thoughts on “Why We Should Stop Comparing Blogs to Social Media”

      1. Hi, Dan. I have been pondering over the same issue for a while and reviewing my ideas with regards to blogs versus social media and which is the better. I find social media rather fleeting and ephemeral by nature and tend to use only minimally. Whereas, I find with blogging a greater sense of community and empathy. Maybe it’s because I feel more comfortable within blogging that i use it to the almost exclusion of social media apart from automatically posting to the various sites. Have a great day, dear friend. Happy Blogging. Goff

      2. Hi Goff, yes the auto posting is a good factor to raise I think. I used to do this with some sites (eg Twitter and Google +), but I very rarely interacted on the sites otherwise, or read anyone else streams, so it felt like I was just using but not contributing. If that makes sense.

        I don’t want to be part of that social media machine where everyone is talking (in some cases just shouting “me me me”), but no-one is listening.

        So I stopped doing it some time back and concentrate mostly on WordPress, where I try to make a worthwhile contribution via my own blog and in the comments of the blogs I follow and enjoy.

    1. I think if you look at the evolution of social media, yes the kinds i’m referring to now (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) all evolved really from blogs and forums.

      I agree, you could class blogging as a slower, deeper, more thoughtful and intelligent incarnation of social media.

  1. Very insightful, Dan. I agree with the idea of blogging being an “online residence”. I don’t do Facebook or Twitter. Can only tolerate Instagram. And I don’t watch TV so I didn’t realize that they now put hashtags at the bottom of the screen. Creepy. All of this is leading us to not be in the present, savoring the experience. Instead, it encourages us to think about our public reaction to it.

    1. Thanks for joining in Julie.

      I think that fact you only use the word “tolerate” when speaking about Instagram speaks volumes!

      I think you’re spot on, our public reaction (which can be carefully crafted to be as (in)authentic however we wish on social media) has become what people are focusing on, rather than the thing they’re reacting to. And then people talk more about other people’s reactions than the original subject!

      Even something like watching TV, which I don’t do much of anyway, I get annoyed with the interruption of ads. I far prefer watching the occasional film on DVD or on demand. How can you even watch a programme properly if you’re on your phone tweeting about it constantly?? I don’t get it…

  2. Hey Dan. Thoughtful blog post. I have a few links to share here, short of writing a comment like a blog post. First is this profound thought about social media by Caterina Fake, co-founder of Flickr https://wp.me/ph9O-19 and if you’ve not listed to her podcast on a more human internet this is important that you do https://mastersofscale.com/caterina-fake-build-a-more-human-internet/

    Finally, about blogs, here is a profound lesson from Seth Godin https://seths.blog/2018/10/the-first-1000-are-the-most-difficult/ and while you’re on his blog enter into the search box ‘blogging’ or ‘social media’ and hit the button. Happy reading! Enjoy your day.

    1. Thanks Frank, I’ll check out Caterina Fake.

      I’m very familiar with Seth, I’ve been following his blog and reading his books for years. “Tribes” is probably the most important and influential book I’ve read about being online.

    2. Frank, I re-read Seth’s “First 1000” post anyway, how apt…

      I think even the first hundred posts is a major milestone and I guess there’s no way of ever gather the stats, but I bet only 5% of all blogs started get beyond 100 posts, perhaps only 1%.

      At my current 36 hours publishing rate I should hit 1000 around mid 2022!

      1. Great Dan! You need to read his blog post about the first 7000 to put it in new context then https://seths.blog/2017/11/this-is-post-7000/

        To put it into perspective for me, I just read that WordPress now takes up 1/3rd of the internet. So read your last comment with this in mind and let that sink in.

        My point being, your article mentions some people think Blogs are dead. Well the people I shared links from are quite alive on blogging, I’m sure you would agree.

      2. Thanks Frank, that is exactly why Seth Godin is such a legend and an ongoing inspiration. Anyone who blogs or reads blogs, should read the “7000” post, and indeed follow Seth’s blog daily like we do.

        That’s an amazing stat about WordPress, where did you read that? I wonder if Facebook might be another third!

        I absolutely agree, I think a benefit of people moving to (other) social media is is those still into blogging (the readers and the writers) are more devoted, more serious about it, so the quality of content and interaction is much higher. A win win for us bloggers!

  3. Another very interesting and relevant post. I too, much prefer a good blog post to the inane memes and shared news stories that clutter up a Facebook feed.
    Coincidentally, another blogger I follow posted today. If I’m lucky he posts about once a month, but when he does it’s always savoured like a delicious meal.
    A link to his blog, ultrasomething.com

    All the Best

  4. An obvious hat thrown in through the door.

    This topic brings me all the way back to secondary school, where part of the curriculum was to habituate young people into critical thinking, to equip them with the discernment they would need to separate the bogus from the real, and intellectually inoculate them against life-long victimhood.

    In that, an essay assignment to “Compare and Contrast: … ” was a common tactic, and “Blogs vs Social Media entries” should be a good application.

    What are these two things? Mere communication?

    On its face, an Internet/Worldwide Web-log is a series of essays-cum-diary entries of longer form than the quip-length, conversational chat, gossip, or sloganeering of social media posts, and are first and foremost *writing*.

    Why do we write? There is the usual laundry-list of immediate motives, but behind them, Joe Bunting summarizes Sir Ken Robinson (https://thewritepractice.com/why-we-write/ ): we do it for the aesthetic experience, to enrichen, live life more fully. To go more deeply into the wonder of existence.

    On their face, social media posts are shorter and meant to provoke response in a currency of kind. In more casual chat, we update our acquaintances on our lives, and they reply in blurb. More darkly, we posit, publicize, make blunt claim, advance gossip and rumor; we may grind an ax edge for which we have strong motive.

    There is an adjunct mechanism built-in, sometimes in the one, but always with the other: the ‘click’ or the ‘like’.

    The click and like are bait – each gives the author an emotional reward (through validation, recognition, approval), and gives the clicker/liker the reward of establishing interactive presence in a vast arena. It confirms the identity, the reality of both in an anonymous virtual universe. The baited reward exchange is the basis of the rise and success of social media.

    The purpose of the bait is to measure traffic. Traffic is the end-all and be-all of marketing, of money. Higher value is associated with greater traffic and gains its owner more revenue through advertising on the venue. Building-in a means of measure with a small reward to both parties for participating is a perfect cheap and effective means.

    Across the board, even in trivial, political, prejudiced, ranting blogs, we still have some component of aesthetics, art.

    In social media, we have a casual milieu of naked weaponized commerce.

    There is an element of urgency and anxiety in the knee-jerk, high-speed, drive-by exchange of social media that does not appear in the more considered, edited, curated realm of blog posts. As a matter of survival, the human personality is subject to addiction to the dire, and that fact is used: even weather broadcast nowadays will announce the approach of summer thunderstorms as “the worst storm in the history of the world is heading towards your house, and right now!” That has encouraged wide use of the inflammatory, the outrageous, the lurid in social media. More attraction, more views, more traffic.

    Do we see this? Richard Melville Hall wrote about the burgeoning blur of the world; “growing in numbers, growing in speed.” The virtual arena is so fast and so crowded that we, deeply involved in processing/rejoining/combating the micro content of entries which take our fancy or provoke our outrage, can fail to see the crude and obvious facts of the sand pit. We swing our social swords or ride the free buses and notice neither the theater we are in or the routes we are on. And the lack of notice makes it easy for our pockets to be picked.

    1. William, very interesting and well-argued thoughts as always.

      Yes I tend to forget that a major purpose of a blog, for the blogger, is an outlet for their writing. Not just instantaneous knee-jerk spurts, but slower, more thoughtful postings, that are crafted with considerable time and effort. I was a writer before I was a photographer, and will likely be after too.

      Having photography as the main subject for 35hunter is a very useful “excuse” to write words around those pictures too, which sometimes digress away from the core hobby and pursuit of photography. Like this post!

      I would argue that with clicks/likes there is no guarantee of a genuine “interactive presence in a vast arena”.

      Can we always trust that it “confirms the identity, the reality of both in an anonymous virtual universe”? I don’t think so, as aside from any of the kind of robot or automated clicking which occurs on a significant scale online, there are also people employed for this very purpose, to click/like to influence or sabotage the popularity of some update or other, in order to gain a heightened appeal to others who might not question the authenticity of all those clicks and likes.

      This is a significant reason why I’ve publicly made clear my dislike of the “like” on a number of occasions. If you genuinely like something, then say so, let the author know, add something of value to the conversation, for both the author and the others reading and joining in. I don’t have the time or inclination to track down everyone who might “like” a post and try to establish whether they’re even real, let alone whether I want to interact with them. But I try to respond to every comment left on a blog post here.

      A word that kept coming to mind in reading your words was “hype”. Actually, two words, “spin” being the other. Without wanting to get into specific politics, there was a period in the UK in the mid 90s I believe where terms like “spin” were first used. In other words, a politician would publish or speak certain words and views based on a certain angle, which may give a more positive spin on the facts to further their own agenda. Perhaps not lying, but certainly manipulating the full truth.

      Today this is everywhere (not just in politics) and it’s almost impossible to find the people, services and products that genuinely would enhance our lives, amidst all of the hype and spin.

      Like you say, how many adverts have phrases like “our best ever”, constantly trying to hoodwink people into thinking they must have this latest iteration or be completely left behind.

      Anyway, thankfully enough of us are still happy to blog and support blogs despite all of this other nonsense all around us!

      1. “Can we always trust that it ‘confirms the identity, the reality of both in an anonymous virtual universe’?”

        Sure, automated bots and automation/paid clickers and likers loom large, despite the sundry countermeasures meant to reduce their weight, but I was getting at this: a click or like is a shot at participation, faint though it may be, in a world where the single voice counts for nothing.

        Else why bother to click at all?

        Anyhow, I think we agree: the blog form makes Every Writer His Own Publisher; social media is a many-times overwritten graffiti wall.

      2. I think I’m more cynical about clicks and likes!

        Speaking from experience on 35hunter, there are a core group who might like posts, and these are the same people that comment too. So a like from them I take as an acknowledgment of the post, when they want to say something, but don’t know what to say. It’s like a friendly nod to an acquaintance in the street.

        But there are many other likes that are purely an attempt at the kind of pointless “you like my blog and I’ll like yours, then we’ll both look far more popular and interesting than we actually are” variety… Which I find utterly pointless for all concerned.

        That’s a great analogy about the graffiti wall by the way!

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