20190115_083724-1I spent some time yesterday researching marketing data on women reading blogs.  Personal blogs have changed–less personal diary, more personal brand, for example–but blogs are still a thing:

  • In 2018, 46.74% of US internet users aged 18-29 years read blogs.  In the 30-49 year age group, the percentage is 42.43, though it drops to 27.87% among 50 – 64 year olds (Source: Statista Global Consumer Survey).
  • 32% of US millennial mothers said mom blogs were a source of parenting-related information (the same percentage as “other parents on parenting social media”; Source: BabyCenter Survey).
  • 54.6% of US women said blogs are “very influential” or “somewhat influential” for information on fashion, wellness/health/fitness, food, or parenting (Source: PopSugar Survey).

Facebook is still far and away the most popular social network for mothers (e.g., an Edison Research Survey found 79% reported using it).  I have anecdotal evidence that many former mom bloggers have taken the energy they used to bring to their blogs and taken it to FB and/or Instagram instead.  They give several reasons. It takes much less time to compose a brief FB post than it does to create a blog post.  It’s easier to post to FB from a phone; typing a blog post on that tiny little screen is laughable and why wait to sit down at the computer when you can post immediately?  FB posts circulate to a network of “friends” and although the same audience control could be achieved with a blog, that would take more effort as well as cooperation from readers.

These same reasons that make FB an appealing alternative also fundamentally change some of the better features of the journal style blog.  Quick posts on the go differ from compositions for an audience that can include strangers as well as “friends,” not only in the content of the post but also in the mental and social processes that produce that content.

The quality of blog posts is highly variable, both within and across blogs, but I’d bet that the average degree of thought and revision that goes into a blog post exceeds that of a FB post.  There is a pay-off in self-reflection and the potential for thoughtful interaction from this process of considered composition.  Admittedly, most blog comments are not dissimilar in style or length from FB comments and quite a few amount to the verbal equivalent of “like” or “sad face,” but FB lacks the capacity to take up someone else’s blog post in one’s own extended post.  FB is the medium for “catching up,” “small talk,” and “joking around” and while this happened in blogging communities, too, FB rarely produces the more “serious talk” that occurred through the reciprocal reading and writing that characterized active journal-style mom blogs.

Do support and validation happen in FB?  Yes, though here, too, more thoughtful and engaged responses yield greater benefits.  In their 2016 study, Burke and Kraut found that:

Receiving targeted, composed communication from strong ties was associated with improvements in well-being while viewing friends’ wide-audience broadcasts and receiving one-click feedback were not (p. 265).

I’ve never been wild about FB, and even less so in light of recent scandals regarding privacy and the circulation of fake news.  Add to the list of charges the demise of blogs.  I’d like to hope that disillusionment with FB might provoke a resurgence of interest in journal-style blogging, but that’s idealistic (I’m also rooting for the return of old-fashioned journalism).  The blogging challenges of uncompensated labor, concerns for family privacy, and commodification of the genre remain. All the more reason, I say, to document that “Golden Age” (its benefits and its limitations) and contemplate what features of technology and user practice made it possible–once and maybe again.