Friday, November 5, 2010

The blogger's lament

The Internet is a humbling place. On the one hand, one can reach gazillions of readers at the speed of light. On the other hand, one doesn't, since all of those readers are occupied looking at dirty pictures, posting comments in all capital letters for greater emphasis, or viewing the YouTube video consisting, in its entirety, of an overweight guy in a white T-shirt sitting on his tractor and digging a post hole with a tractor-mounted post-hole digger (40,000 views to date).

The other thing those readers are probably doing is writing their own blogs (I recently read that approximately 40% of all Koreans have their own blog, a great many of them devoted largely to pictures of things they've eaten at restaurants), or staring at the array of statistical displays, graphs, and maps with flashing dots that bear no small resemblance to NORAD's command center deep under a mountain in the Colorado Rockies, except that they're available for free, showing how many readers at that exact instant are reading their blogs, along with which words and phrases they have copied, and where in the world they are located. (Who is that person in Torre Di Mosto, Italy, who's reading this now? And, more important, why?)

I've actually enjoyed my experimental plunge into the blogosphere to date, largely because, as H. L. Mencken said of this kind of essay-writing (even if he may have been lying through his teeth when he said it, as Russell Baker suggests in a recent piece in the New York Review of Books), "My one purpose in writing I have explained over and over again: it is simply to provide a kind of katharsis for my own thoughts. They worry me until they are set forth in words."

On the other hand, I can see all too clearly where this is all heading; here is an informative graph tracing one writer's career trajectory, past and future (note the logarithmic scale):