From observing the blog-o-sphere over many years, since that fateful day when Jorn Barger coined the term “blog,” I finally understand blogs:
They are descendants of the teen films of the 1980s.
In these films — Real Genius, Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day off, 16 Candles and so on — there’s a clear division between the popular kids and the geeks, and people within these two parallel groups struggle for power both within and between those groups.
The popular kids get shiny red convertibles when they turn 16, are blonde and have money, get good grades and generally are pompous jerks. The geeks — nerds, grinds, stoners, grebos, misfits, drop-outs, homosexuals, skaters, rockers and freaks — are more accepting and generally more interesting.
Each group has its hierarchy. For popular kids, it’s about success. For geeks, it’s not about having good grades, money and the right possessions, but about being a nice person. The geek with the wildest big ambitions gets to lead the group and have a personal army which rivals 4chan.
In the 1990s, hipster-cult classic Napoleon Dynamite codified this in its plainest form. The popular kids rule the school; an enigmatic, christ-like nerd unites the geeks and they form a personal army to carry out his plan, which is to tear down the hierarchy of the popular.
These movies show you what both the geeks and the popular kids have in common: they know how to work a crowd. Specifically, they teach you how to be popular, which is like the art of salesmanship for socialization.
Blogs are the same way. You have a grievance with life, so you unite all the other people who didn’t make it in the mainstream, and together you form a personal army to destroy the source of your grievance.
Here’s how to be popular:
- Tell your audience they are your equals and just as faultless as yourself.
- .: Whatever bad has happened is not the fault of your audience; someone did it to them.
- .: Whatever good has happened is the result of your audience being good.
- Everything is good except for this one bad thing, which is the someone who did it to them.
- The only solution is for us all to unite and depose that someone.
Whatever you do, do not suggest your audience change at all. Their lives are perfect; their status as victims rests on this assumption, so it is sacred. You need to find a target outside the group. Pick someone who could never be part of the group, or you’re losing potential sales er I mean recruits er I mean friends.
(There are mainstream blogs. They get popular through an even more direct route, which is talking about new products. They avoid conflict and make you think about pleasant, positive possibilities this way. Recipes, lifestyle, sex, drugs, rock-n-roll, even politics… all products. But at least they’re consistent and inoffensive.)
Your worst enemy may be within. Among your audience you will find many other bloggers. The purpose of blogging is not to get anything done, but to be a big cheese. Everyone wants to be important through their blog. If you live in a dingy apartment piled with bills and cat feces, having 4,000 people visit your blog makes you feel like Jesus, Stalin or Bono.
Having all of these bloggers means there is never a focal point from which achievement could occur, but that’s convenient too. The goal is not out there, but inside: they want excuses for their own lack of achievement, and reasons to feel good about themselves anyway. Blogs are not salvation through knowledge; they are like greeting cards, movies or fruit baskets, little treats that lift you up and make you feel better about the bad things in life you cannot change.
In fact, the blog audience are the anti-action. They want justifications for where they are, not reasons to reach up and improve their situation. And if they’re visiting edgy blogs during the day, they’re more likely not at a job, or at a job where anyone cares what they do.
For this reason, they’re not a great audience if you want to get something done. What they are however is a ready audience, and there for the taking. All you have to do is tap into their bitterness.