It’s hard to believe it, but I’ve been doing this “blogging thing” for five years now. Yup. Five years ago this week I published my very first post. It was a little (ok, very!) rough. I had a lot to learn.
One of the best things that I learned along the way is this: blogging is about connections.
It’s not all about me: How great I am (because I’m not!), how many followers or likes I have (what does that really matter anyway?), or how much money I make from it (while I appreciate the chance to help support my family through my writing, is that my main goal?).
No, the best part of blogging is making connections. I’ve met many AMAZING Orthodox writers. I’ve talked with many INCREDIBLE Orthodox women. I’ve learned from others much wiser than me and been able to share things that I’ve learned as well.
Melinda Johnson, one of those amazing women I’ve had the privilege of meeting, has a similar story. So, today she is going to share her story of a recent blogging experience.
Who knows, maybe it will inspire you to start your own writing and blogging adventure. And five years from now, you’ll look back in wonder at all that God has done through you and your little corner of the writing world.
#Blogtown and Beyond: The Case for Social Blogging
Not long ago, I led a group of friends on a 3-day adventure we called #bloginstead. We were driven by our exhaustion with the social media vortex.
I don’t need to cite studies for you. We are all aware that social media offers multiple harmful side effects for every supposed benefit. I run a social media platform for work, and in 4+ years of days online, I’ve seen just about every dysfunctional human behavior, magnified and distributed by platforms that claim to enable unity and self-expression.
Perhaps those platforms should think more deeply about what exactly is being united and expressed.
It’s Not That Simple
Setting aside that I’m not professionally able to eliminate social media from my life, I am also fully aware of the positive collaborations that are possible only through some form of virtual meeting space.
There were benefits to the world in which we were limited to our physical, geographical setting, but there can be benefits to a social structure that transcends geography and is built around shared interests or beliefs. I began pondering how I could retain the benefits of online community while setting myself free, as much as possible, from what I dislike in social media. Out of this pondering, #bloginstead was born.
#bloginstead: A First Taste of Freedom
So I rounded up friends with blogs (some active, some with a layer of virtual dust on them) [https://melindajohnsonwriting.com/2020/01/07/the-list-of-blogs-to-follow-for-bloginstead/]. We plunged off social media for 3 days and communicated with each other only through our blogs.
Before the 3 days were up, we were already sure we didn’t want to stop. The primary emotion expressed by the #bloginstead group was RELIEF. It reminded me of the feeling you get when you’ve been somewhere extremely loud and you return to a quiet space. Your heart rate slows. You breathe deeply. Your mind clears. Your shoulders relax.
It was wonderful.
Moving to #Blogtown
Most of us weren’t able to abandon social media completely. We each had our reasons – as I mentioned, I use social media for work. But most of us didn’t abandon our blogs again either. In fact, we plunged deeper. I published a statement of community and renamed our effort #Blogtown [https://melindajohnsonwriting.com/2020/01/11/how-to-join-bloginstead-move-to-blogtown/]. Then I started actively seeking “neighbors” for that virtual community.
I began running searches on WordPress, using key words that reflected things I like – writing, books, miniatures, gardens, small fuzzy herbivores – whatever came to mind. I followed a few bloggers here and there, and whenever I could, I left a comment. A real comment. Several sentences even, a note on what I thought about as I read their post. It reminded me of something I couldn’t put my finger on at first, something that had been familiar once in a quieter reality.
It felt like conversation.
3 Reasons I Love Social Blogging
The #Blogtown experience is ongoing, and you are warmly welcome to join us. You can read about that here[https://melindajohnsonwriting.com/2020/01/11/how-to-join-bloginstead-move-to-blogtown/]. Whether you join or not, here are three strengths of this form of “social media,” at least in the way I practice it.
1 – Blogging happens on a human scale.
Social media news feeds remind me of machine gun fire. They are a rapid, endless barrage of content. No matter how much you respond and scroll and click and process, you will never come to the end, and because you are finite, you will never respond fully to most of what you see.
In #Blogtown, our communication is finite like we are. A post is usually a whole idea. It takes a while to write and several whole minutes (whole minutes!) to read. The medium itself forces us to slow down. The change in speed is peaceful, I find.
2 – We are people, not brands.
You can be just as commercial and numbers-driven on a blog as you might be on Facebook, Instagram, etc. We chose not to be. We chose to be non-commercial, to communicate with each other for the purpose of communication itself, NOT to acquire marketable influence over each other.
This requires constant thought for some of us. For example, my blog is hosted on my author website. I write books. They get published. I want people to read them, and I want to talk about the experience of writing and publication.
As I work on my blog, I strive to hold both purposes in mind – my responsibilities as an author and my responsibilities as a human being in search of genuine relationship.
3 – The quality of interaction is higher.
It struck me during #bloginstead that social media is to blogging what conversation in a food court at the mall is to conversation with a friend in your living room. Human interaction can occur in both settings, but the odds are that it will be more fruitful and, frankly, more pleasant in your living room.
There’s a comfort about building and existing in a virtual space of your own. I chose the colors and the fonts. I wrote the content, or invited others to write it. I can invite people to my blog, and I can visit them on their blog.
It doesn’t feel like other social platforms in which we all plug ourselves into a matrix we did not design, in which our space is identical to that of every other participant.
What happens next?
There are advantages to bringing a group of friends with you when you return to blogging. Going alone can be frustrating. The world is busy hollering at each other over on social media.
After years of instant “likes” in response to the slightest statement, talking to the silence will feel odd at first.
Bring a friend! Who do you know who keeps taking Facebook breaks? Who do you know who sometimes writes a whole paragraph with a picture on Instagram? Those could be symptoms of unconscious blog longing! You’ll never know until you ask.
It’s fun to bring friends with you to #Blogtown as you get started. But if you’re thoughtful about your efforts, if you write regularly and spend time discovering other like-minded bloggers, your community will grow. It will grow slowly, the way community grows in real life. With practice, I believe we can adjust to that more natural scale and scope. I welcome the chance to find out.
Melinda Johnson is an Orthodox Christian, wife, mama, writer, and the author of Letters to Saint Lydia (AFP, 2010), The Other Side of the Bonfire (LSP, 2012), Shepherding Sam (AFP, 2016), and The Barn and the Book (AFP, 2018). Melinda has a Master’s in English Literature because she loved taking literature classes so much she couldn’t stop doing it. During business hours, she thoroughly enjoys serving as the Marketing Director at Ancient Faith Ministries, where she encourages creative people, organizes events, and revels in the constant opportunities to share good news. You can read more of her writing on her website, https://melindajohnsonwriting.com/ .