social networking

For almost 18 months now, I’ve been meaning to blog about my “current situation” (admittedly a moving target over that period). But my blogging has gone stale: I only wrote 8 posts in 2008 – in the distant past there have been single days when I’ve almost managed this many (the period leading up to September 11 2001 seems to have been particularly fertile). But what’s even more obvious to me is that I didn’t write anything of substance in 2008, just quick status updates and links to photos I’d taken.

All of which led me to think… do I really need this blog? Work and commuting have eaten into my time for blogging, but social networking sites seem, in many ways, to have removed any reason. The energies which I used to devote to this blog have instead gone into my Facebook and Twitter accounts and, previously, my MySpace. These tools, along with others like Flickr and LinkedIn, have radically changed my life. Their brevity means that, unlike rambling blog posts, they slot into whatever downtime I have available. Their reach means that they connect me to many, many others, in ways in which my blog never did, and their fitness-for-purpose means that I can use each one like a craftsman uses his tools: uploading certain photos for Flickr, others for Facebook; posting updates to my immediate friends via Facebook, my wider circle of peers on Twitter, and potential business partners on LinkedIn; each site is subtly different and, when used correctly, each can be immensely powerful.

It’s in no way an exaggeration to say that MySpace changed my life, linking me up to hundreds of like-minded people in Sheffield who soon became real-world as well as virtual friends. From being a rather lonely displaced Londoner, I became (again, no hyperbole) a local celebrity (admittedly Myspace alone didn’t do this: my camera helped), and I fell deeply, passionately in love with Sheffield in the process. The relationships which Myspace started, Facebook has deepened, keeping me and my friends informed of one anothers’ trials and triumphs, and short-circuiting the small talk whenever we meet after long absences. And Twitter has expanded these relationships into a wider world, making me feel intimate with like-minded people around the globe and letting me “follow” complete strangers and celebrities (like him and him) without feeling like some kind of creepy stalker.

So where does that leave my blog? Well, in a funny kind of way, it leaves me back where I started. When I began this blog, in 2001, I had already put off blogging for a year or so: firstly because I didn’t feel I had anything relevant to say to the world, and secondly because I felt awkward with the unpolishedness of my words. My breakthrough came when I realised that what I most wanted, and all I really needed, was a journal which I could look back on in the distant future as a reminder of my journey through the years (hence the “life” of my blog’s title). And that to get it “out there”, I could give myself license to write quickly and sloppily (hence “less literary”). Of course, it’s wonderful when other people do take the time to read these posts (even more wonderful when they leave comments), and I’ll always have one eye on the vast public who could wash up here, and the friends and relatives who might stop by for an update (in particular I have the notion that my kids may read these words in years to come and see new dimensions to their old dad). But primarily this blog is about what all good blogs ought to be about: self-indulgence.

Over Christmas, I’ve come to realise that this is as true now as it ever was. My busy social-networking life keeps me living in the moment, but every once in a while I crave some self-indulgence, and it’s nice to be able to luxuriate in a bath that’s bigger than 140 characters long. Blogging: long may it continue.

As for the last 18 months, well, I’ll post about them soon, think of it as a sort of “round-robin to self”…

Me