Friends and followers who become interested in my blog ask me this question. Since I am read mostly these days by expats in Japan, and by Japanese who know me through English circles, it takes a bit of explaining.
When I started blogging in 2003, it was as a result of the hustle and bustle of community bulletin boards, or BBS-es. If you all remember, the BBS was an early social network, although it was generally anonymous and very much unregulated.
People who wanted to communicate over the internet mostly had to rely on the BBS format or e-mail. In the early 2000’s, blogging was still really strange, and not quite on the public radar. That didn’t happen for a year or two afterward.
On the BBS’s that I frequented, which mostly had to do with local politics and goings-on in the central New Jersey community that was my home, and my family’s home for generations, I adopted the screen name “Hoofin” (referring to someone who walks. Hoof comes from the foot of a horse, of course.) At the time, and even today, I was keen on taking five or six mile walks through the suburbs I had lived in, and of late years the city. This started around the age of 29, and probably delayed me from having heart disease in the coming years.
You have to understand that in a far suburb of America, where everyone drives places, seeing someone actually walking places is not that common. It really ought to be encouraged a lot more in American society, but it isn’t.
I calculated once, that the amount of walking I did between my home and the nearby town where I was born, if it were just one continuous trip, would have taken me from the East Coast of America to China. (Of course, I’d have to walk across the Pacific Ocean, and Moses himself only parted the Red Sea, so you know that that won’t happen.)
But it was quite a number in miles.
I was blogging about local politics, and I had a few people who disagreed with me trying to shut me down. That’s where I learned about the bad side of internet communication. The bullies first try to push you off BBSes, then they try to shut your blogging down. Now clearly, in the 2010’s, people just go to it anyway. The bullies lost that one. The technology is too strong to shut down; and people who push against it are clearly seen as being on the wrong side of history.
The toughest thing about blogging is coming up with worthwhile things to say and to share. These days, like in 2003 and 2004, I try to put up one item a day. Unlike the Facebook crowd and the the Twitterers, however, I can’t just limit it to 140 characters. Once I get going, I really want to get my complete thoughts out.
When someone puts up a Facebook or a Twitter post, and they say, “In the train station. Gum on my shoe”, it’s all very nice, but it isn’t really telling me very much except they should have been more careful about where they walked. Or someone should be more careful about where they dispose of their gum. Both, maybe. I just can’t get into that, and it’s not like I don’t try.
To boot, I don’t even consider myself to be the most literate person, and I have my set of stock phrases. I just feel, though, that the microblogging leaves a reader at a stage where you say, ‘that’s it? I mean, it sounds like there was more to the story about the gum, the train station.” It’s like a Powerpoint of your situation. John Doe says: “Redecorating.” Oh. OK.
Am I supposed to fill in the blanks?
So that is why I have stuck to blogging. In the times when I’ve stopped being regular, it’s because I frankly didn’t have the time. One year, it’s because my blogging was brought under the English teaching company I worked for. I’ve always thought about posting those through this site, but then I’ve thought that something about the style requires a certain contemporaneous element. If you are posting blog entries from the year 2006, and they have nothing to do with anything today, well, they are sort of stale.
Then, when I’ve had jobs where the hours and tension seemed to be designed to kill a person, then, there just wasn’t time.
It’s hard to get a following and keep it. If you aren’t blogging for any particular purpose, it’s even more to figure out why you are really doing it. Both back then and now, I just kind of do it to do it. I like talking about the different topics, and maybe I spark your interest and you come back to me about them.
A daily blog is really more like a daily teleconference than actuall, formal writing. OK, here is what I am thinking today, let me share it with you. Then, if you want, you share with me. This is why the blog world never petered out, and kept going. As a derivative, this is how social networking grew to be something as well. Your stand on a political or community issue could be shared with dozens of people in your extended community. Then, later, the fact that you have gum on your shoe could be shared as well.
My one regret is that I wish they had a lot of this neat stuff, like posting pictures, audio, and YouTube, back when I first blogged in ’03. That would have really been something, then, because I used to have to describe things that I would have rather had a visual for.
Of course, as I now go back stateside, I will keep trying to be out there with stuff. Who knows? If I end up back here, then it becomes more of a Japan blog. If I am stateside, it remains a Japan blog for a while with a mix of Pennsylvania. Then maybe becomes a Pennsy one?
I don’t really know. That is because I am Hoofin.