Five drawbacks of blogging

In an earlier post, On learning writing through blogging, I wrote about the benefits that blogging has brought me. I still stick by my idea that blogging is beneficial overall. But having said that, once the exuberance of maintaining a blog has subsided, I do think there are a few caveats related to the blog form that regular bloggers need to be aware of. This might be even more true of new writers who might be getting into a mould through repeated writing that will set their habit for life.

So one needs to keep in mind the following bloggers’ maladies:

1. Losing rigorousness in writing
By their very nature, blog posts are supposed to be short. They have to make a point, make it catchy and live thoroughly in their instant in the limelight. Then they are supposed to disappear.

Therefore, this form does not have much space for presenting thorough research about a point made. Getting used to making quick, catchy points might become a habit for the less discerning writer and carry forward into other genres where this could be a problem.

Making an argument through following nuanced logic is a virtue in writing. An extended logical exploration requires a word-length that the blog form does not allow except in the case of the rare, long blog that looks rather out of place in the blogosphere. The art of being emphatic, loud, or clever is used in the blog post to replace logic. This is useful in blogging but may not be acceptable in other genres where people expect logical expositions.

2. Succumbing to instant gratification
The desire for instant visibility, especially in our weak moments, in times of stress or in the dead of night leads to embarrassing grammatical or punctuation errors on our posts that we can be ashamed of in broad daylight. We may make statements that are only passing and momentary in our minds when we write them on a public forum that may come back to haunt us later on. Or, we might simply think of better versions of what we already said in our posts hastily and regret not having waited to compose our thoughts better.

3. Losing appreciation for a variety of audiences
At first glance, the world wide web  seems just that. World wide. Until you realize that it’s just a tiny fraction of the world stretched out in front of you as an illusion of the whole world. Even within that, you create networks that are like-minded, niches, fans, followers, people who exchange publicity arrangements with you.

This is true of any genre but if we produce free content and let it loose on the web, we might feel like our audience can potentially be anybody in the world whereas in truth we might be slowly moulding ourselves towards a specific audience.  This phenomenon is not necessarily bad (or good) in itself but we need to be aware of this shift. When we trace trends or when people agree or disagree with us on the blog we ought to remember that we are functioning within a certain coterie. Assuming universal truths based on a consensus within the blog forum  may not be as universally applicable as we might think.

4. Getting used to journal-style recordings and freewriting
Being able to express the everyday self is a strength of the blog form. But this can become a weakness if this is the only form we write most commonly in. This can become a problem in two aspects. (a) We might get used to stopping only at description, recording the daily, failing to take these details to the level of analysis. When we get accolades from our readers because our descriptions turn out attractive or our thoughts resonate with them, we stop trying harder. (b) We might lose the ability to build our experiences towards a vision of a larger goal in writing such as an insightful essay or a coherent memoir or what have you by writing these disconnected bits everyday that we don’t think of stringing together in some way because we already have an outlet.

5. Becoming too “cool”
This is a problem rather hard to express but everyone familiar with online communication knows videos that go viral because of some “cool” factor, of cute pictures that are viewed a million times or other modes of expression that strike a chord for some reason. Similarly, juxtaposition of text, visual material, new words or random “stuff” can go viral. It makes the creator feel talented. This is surely an enduring talent in some cases but in most cases, the creators turn out to be one-trick ponies. That’s a rather risky path to take if one wants to take the gift somewhere.

This does not mean that we should stop blogging or slow down on posting. This only means that we should be aware of the limitations of the blog form even as we blog.

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44 thoughts on “Five drawbacks of blogging”

  1. I see a lot of No. 2 out there. The best bloggers, for me, are writers who realize it takes skill, not just rushing to hit “publish” so they can say they’re a writer. A fellow journalist made the same point — it’s irritating to have decades of developed skill conflated with this level of work.

    The one suggestion I make to anyone who wants to blog better is to do one thing every professional published writer faces — edit! Some of my blog posts go through 6 to 9 revisions before I post them. The notion of slowing down and revising seems tedious, but it usually produces better material.

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  2. Hello, Bottledworder! Thank you for liking my recent post. I must say, after reading a bit of your material, I see you have challenged me to think.
    I write flash fiction, so paired with blogging, I’m a natural at the above downfalls. I want instant gratification – although I work on a single page for hours. Fewer words makes for a challenging task. How to get my point across without much narrative?! I like the idea. I’m a lover of dialogue, so brevity is not usually a problem. I also love quick, catchy, and attention-grabbing prose. In addition, I suppose my writing draws a certain type of reader – perhaps one who likes getting to the point and that point being in-your-face. The coolness factor? I’m guilty in liking that when it occurs, too. Sooo . . . am I a fast food cheeseburger instead of a slow-cooked steak? Perhaps, but I like burgers (with a steak thrown in now and then).
    Thank you again for posing scenarios that cause me re-evaluate my techniques. 😉

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  3. I do try to avoid point #2, but posting different things like short stories and even poetry from time to time. But I do agree with you that blogs are a way to attract like-minded folks. I’m hoping that by offering different writings, the pool and the comments will vary.

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  4. This particular post of yours has been on my mind for a few days. This morning I have been thinking that #5 above (becoming too cool) – which may be a possible drawback of blogging to some, could not really be a negative for me. I don’t think I could ever be too cool :)… 🙂 If anything, blogging helped me become more “cool” or relaxed in my tone. 🙂 Before I blogged, I have been told by editors that I’m too formal in my writing. That I need to be more conversational and chatty, “shmoozy” – as we sometimes say :). I think blogging helped me open up my voice to a free-er sound or tone. I am not saying that I will ever have a “cool” voice, and I don’t even want that. That’s not me. But I think if there was a continuum of styles where stiff is on the left, and very very cool — full of colloquialisms (ad nauseum) was on the right, then because of my blogging, I have moved more toward the right ened — ever so gradually – to the more relaxed form of writing. As a result, I have achieved also for even regular (non-blogging) articles- I believe — a better ability to play with my tone and decide as I’m writing if I will be more chatty and snappy or more formal.

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  5. There was a time when many of the points you raised were true for me, and maybe subconsciously still are. I live alone and have a disorder which prevents me from some activities and with winter in Spain at the doorstep I find blogging both fun and serious. I like to fish with my posts, to have fun, the joy of banter, and comments that give me a hard time. For me the comments are the fun. It’s exactly the same as sea fishing, throw in the post and see what that little orange light catches, usually an unexpected strike. I have regular commenters who I am happy to see and I say hello so-n-so verbally to myself. Then there are the new visitors who I return visit and find sometimes wonderful blogs. I enjoy blogging. I try not to analyse, Just be a friend. Ralph

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  6. I enjoyed this post very much. My wordpress blog is still pretty new, so I’m going through the motions of trying to figure out “who” I am with regard to my own blog and how blogging fits in with the rest of my writing. So I appreciate your timely and insightful advice.

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  7. Thank you so much for writing this post. I must admit that this is probably the best post I have read in awhile and very timely. I have been feeling a bit overwhelmed with blogging lately, with too much time spent sitting in front of the computer, taking some of the joy out of this process for me. I don’t want to lose sight of those things in life that take my breath away; i.e. hiking in nature, helping others, etc. I have felt lately that I am adding more stress to my life. You have given me much to think about. 🙂

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  8. I have definitely fallen prey to #2. I’ve only been blogging for a little while, so even seeing that one or two people liked my posts makes me excited. So for the most part, I have fallen into the pattern of daily posting things that really don’t mean a whole lot.

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  9. #2 is the one (to my knowledge) most apt to get me in trouble. I can’t sleep, so what should I do? Write a post, naturally! I’ll read it and reread it until I’m sure it’s perfect only to awaken and discover a dozen glaring errors. I should know this by now, though; even revisiting posts I spent a great deal of time on during the day, I find errors and misstatements. Sometimes this happens even after I’ve read and reread them a dozen times since.

    On the other hand, I’m learning to appreciate that an occasional error or non-rigorous post (per your #1) makes me feel more human and enjoy blogging more. At the beginning, I was convinced there was some magical formula I needed to discover. Now, I want to do this . . . because I want to do it. I like it this way, although I do still occasionally find myself fretting about the wrong aspects of blogging.

    Thank you again for the fabulous food for thought.

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  10. Over the summer, I did so much blogging and barely any creative writing, and when I did start working on my creative writing projects again, I could tell how much blogging had messed up my writing style. I mean, I still have the same style and I still write the same way, but I found the creation process more difficult, because the type of writing I did had been too one-sided. Remedying that mistake these days.

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  11. 5 great points, but I think you forgot one more–some writers spend so much time blogging that they forget to write and submit to online or print publications! I think that writers need to make sure they balance blogging with other writing activities.

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  12. Wonderfully put. And, at the risk of sounding snobbish, I think this is what the difference is between blogging and, say, journalism: the latter takes a lot of research and effort, whereas blogging is….well, blogging. Thinking out loud.

    I’ve been working as a journalist for some years now and, secretly, nothing pains me more than when a blogger claims to be a “freelance journalist” or “freelance writer”, simply because they have a domain and a few followers or have interviewed a few people over email. Irks me. But hey, being a writer has a mystique for some, I guess. If they only knew the truth.
    Insightful post you have here, as always.
    ~sandy.

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    1. Hi Sandy, I feel your pain. And your anger. 🙂 I understand where it comes from. But having said that, I will also say that the word snobbery implies a hierarchy where blogging is seen as inferior and I don’t agree with that. I’d say that blogging is blogging, not journalism. Just a new and different genre with its own strengths and pitfalls. Just as poetry is poetry and political commentary is political commentary. You can comment on political situations through poetry and you can write political commentary with poetic vigour but you should not mistake one for the other.
      Thanks for a great thought-provoking comment.

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  13. Great thoughts. I definitely crave instant gratification…I know I should wait to post something, edit it again first, but sometimes I can’t stop myself from posting it right away.

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  14. Hi – All sooo true. For me, #1 is the most dangerous. So to counteract that pitfall, I have begun to copy and paste each of my more powerful (already posted) blog posts into its own Word document folder. And then every day or every few days, I go back and develop these posts (or combination of parts of two or more related posts) into real articles. It’s a weird process but I hope that will help writing skills from deteriorating to one dimensional writing. I enjoy blogging too much to give it up. 😉

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  15. A very nice summary of the most common pitfalls bloggers might fall into. The only point I don’t completely agree with is that blog posts must be short. There is nothing to prevent a blogger from writing a long, analytical post; I’ve got a few of those on my blog. It all depends on your audience and what your readers expect.

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  16. While I suspect that #5 will not befall me anytime soon, I have to give you merit for your points. In my earlier blogging days, I scrambled through a post only to wait for the glowing comments to come pouring in.

    And then it was on to the next post.

    I blog for several companies and appreciate the effort that it takes to create content, but I think that we lose value in that content when it is just churned out.

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  17. I try to only blog from what I’ve written in whole form. That way I’m satisfied that I have explored the topic to my satisfaction. It also allows me to respond intelligently to any questions. My only problem is to not write too much. I’m still adjusting to this form of media.

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  18. Great advice as I begin this blogging journey. I especially appreciate the piece about instant gratification. I can feel where that would come from…

    Thanks too, as always, for stopping by and reading bussokuseki.

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  19. This is a really valuable post, and you’ve expressed many of my misgivings about blogging…including communicating with a small group of like-minded people – preaching to the converted; and the fact that the time blogging takes interferes with creativity in other forms.
    My break from blogging has also shown me how my life had become slightly skewed by all this frantic virtual social life, with less time for reflection and reading, which are both essential to me.
    And yes, what you say about the pitfalls of blogging means that they do become less satisfying to the reader, too…thank you for your perceptive analysis and insights…

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  20. I will definitely direct my grade 12 students to your advice, but #4 resonates most for me. Students who feel they are naturally talented writers often resist structure, editing, and basic revision because they believe the first draft is always the best. But, like insight, precise communication takes time, and critical reflection.

    I will definitely follow with a long slow gulp of Bottleworder 🙂

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    1. Melanie, I agree with the fact that so many newbie (yet talented) writers think their initial creations are perfect as-is. I used to be one of those newbies. What a wake-up call I had coming! HA! Thanks for reminding me.

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