The other day I came across this article by Rian Van Der Merwe thanks to the regular Friday link roundup at Natalie Luhrs’s site Pretty Terrible. It’s a short, thoughtful piece about the importance of maintaining your web presence in a place that isn’t walled off in the way that social media platforms like Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter typically are. Those places are designed in a way that they want to keep you within their network rather than branching out and exploring other interesting places on the web. The general motivation behind this design is, naturally, profit. Big social media platforms get revenue from native advertising and their ability to mine user data for information that’s valuable to marketers, and the more users stay within a given ecosystem for their web browsing, the easier these companies can get that data.
For the content creator, this model means that it’s highly lucrative to base yourself on one of these platforms. On Facebook you have the built in audience of your entire friends list, and the number one thing that creators want is eyes on their work. Going to a platform where you’re starting at more than zero is really tempting, especially when it’s so hard to build an audience (I’ve been blogging for two and a half years now, and though my site metrics say that I’ve gradually increased average traffic, it often feels like I’ve yet to build a consistent audience; I can’t shake the feeling that increased pageviews for me is tied to a growing library of content, though timeless posts are a lot harder to come by than timely stuff). Nonetheless, the point that Van Der Merwe makes about how valuable personal blogs are for getting to know other people in a way that the curated, algorithm derived feeds of social media don’t really allow is a good one. If I stuck to just Facebook and Twitter (and in this case Twitter is a still a superior platform, though we’ll see what happens when the extended character limit rolls out), then my exposure to interesting things and thoughts from other people would be relatively limited (my Facebook feed especially feels like it’s mostly just people sharing things they’ve read without offering their own particular thoughts, and it comes across as pretty isolating sometimes).
So I’m on board with Van Der Merwe’s idea. The joy of personal blogs is that they help you get to know people in strange, quirky, sometimes roundabout ways. The topics they cover helps you learn about what they think is important; the arguments they make help you see how they think about things. And, of course, their sites help you get away from the curated platforms and dig around the more open web.
In the vein of that last, point, I was thinking I’d just share some links to blogs that I enjoy following on a regular basis. Many of these I’ve mentioned at one point or another in the past, but not everyone’s seen everything I’ve put out, so here’s a collected set.
- Slacktivist – I discovered Fred Clark’s blog a few years ago by way of his ongoing review of the Left Behind series, which he started about a decade ago (he’s recently been able to pick it back up with the help of his Patreon supporters). I don’t think I can overstate how instrumental Clark’s blog has been in helping reshape my faith away from the conservative evangelicalism I was steeped in for most of the last decade.
- Samantha Field – Samantha’s primary focus is on exploring the ways growing up in Christian fundamentalism has affected her life as an adult and working through the damage in order to find healing. If Slacktivist helped me see the problems inherent in conservative evangelicalism and grapple with them, Samantha’s blog helped me recognize just how abusive the subculture can be.
- Love, Joy, Feminism – Libby Anne’s blog is similar in subject to Samantha’s but Libby Anne writes from the perspective of an atheist who left the Christian faith altogether after her experiences with the fundamentalist subculture. Libby Anne’s experiences as a parent trying to navigate child rearing while dealing with her past exposure to abuses by the home school subculture are interesting and help provide focus on an aspect of American Christianity that I’ve not seen elsewhere.
- Pretty Terrible – Though I’m not hugely engaged with the literary community at large, I do hear about a lot of major things that go on by way of my wife, Rachael. She turned me on to Natalie Luhrs’s blog back when it was still called Radish Reviews because her Friday link roundups are always full of interesting articles related to social justice and issues in the fiction world, and now it’s a regular part of my weekly perusal.
- Whatever – Though John Scalzi’s best known for his sci-fi writing, I’ve actually never read any of his novels (I do have copies of Lock In and Redshirts sitting in my bookcase waiting to be read, whenever I get around to them). Instead, I started following his blog a few years ago when I heard that he’d announced that he wouldn’t be attending any conventions that didn’t have an explicit and thorough anti-harassment policy. Like the name of his blog implies, Scalzi writes about whatever strikes his fancy, from issues in publishing to politics to Twitter absurdity. I follow him because he consistently offers his thoughts in a cogent way that’s entertaining and easy to follow.
- Rachel and Miles X-Plain the X-Men – I’m primarily a fan of Jay Edidin and Miles Stokes’s weekly podcast, but their companion blog feels like essential reading for the visual companion that they put out to go with each episode. Since comics are such a visual medium, being able to see precisely what it is they’re talking about is always interesting and informative. Besides that, pretty much everything supplemental that Jay posts on the site, like guest essays and reviews of X-Men: Evolution episodes, is well worth a read.
And that’s it for the major stops in my blog rotation. If there are any blogs you particularly like yourself, feel free to drop them in the comments with an explanation of why you like them.