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Broadcasting Your Life

Catherine Newman was the first blogger I ever read.  She wrote Ben and Birdy as a diary on Yahoo. (I think… forgive me… it was in 2003 or so, and my memory is fuzzy.)  I couldn’t wait for each post, especially because we were ensconced in fertility treatments and she was parenting.  I had no clue that there were other blogs out there.  There was just Ben and Birdy, the only blog (to me) in the universe.

It took a few years for the Internet to roll out its petals, opening up like a yawning flower (oooh, the vagina imagery!) as I found and then started my own infertility blog.  In the early days, it felt very bare bones, like we were visiting each other’s porches and listening to stories while we stood on the steps.  There were no pretty designs, few pictures, and hyperlinks felt high-tech.

I am nearing my 9th blogoversary.

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10 years before I started my blog, there was a woman named Jennifer Ringley who lifecasted from her dorm room.  She broadcasted a snapshot of her room every 15 minutes, and you could see whatever she was doing at the time.  She stopped the experiment around the time that I started reading Ben and Birdy, so I only learned about her in retrospect.

Gizmodo writes of her lifecasting:

When Jennicam went mainstream, it was an almost radically new idea, an experiment in living life out in the open. There were a few different webcams that preceded her, including the Coffee Pot Cam, but Jennicam was the first to feature a real person, and so she was the first to experience the highs and lows of living in a camera-rigged fishbowl.

It’s interesting to think how recently we started sharing all these bits of our lives online.  That even just 9 years ago, it was unusual to post about yourself online.  Most people didn’t personally know someone who had a blog, nor did they own a blog themselves.  Back then, a lifecaster could be newsworthy enough to end up on Letterman, whereas broadcasting your life today — either by posting video or images or stories — is more likely to be overlooked than draw attention, a single drop in the rolling, wide online sea.

I often wonder if we’re heading towards a no-barriers, transparency in everything, and everyone online version of the world a la The Circle by Dave Eggers, or if we’ll soon turn and start sharing less and less of ourselves online.  That it will no longer be de rigueur to post pictures or podcast your thoughts.  That, like Jennifer, we’ll pull back and not want to live out our lives online.

Everything is always in flux.  We won’t remain posting in the same fashion forever, just as Ben and Birdy eventually spread wings and flew from Yahoo into its own site, and Jennicam went dark.

Where do you think we’re heading with the online world: more or less?

Side note: Tomorrow is #MicroblogMonday.  Get working on your post.

10 comments

1 Kate { 05.17.15 at 11:34 am }

I feel like blogging is due for an evolution, though I’m not sure what that is (or I’d live in SV and be a gazillionaire). My college roommate started her med school blog in 2000, but now a book and three kids and a career as a physician later, she has now basically given it up. I didn’t start mine until nearly a decade later (prompted by my ugly journey through IF) and now after five years, I struggle with how much I want to share (or how to evolve it) as a mom of preschooler twins. I write mine for me (though I still have some followers) but I’ve had many blogger friends give theirs up as the demands of life (and often times their blogs) forced them to stop writing.

2 Northern Star { 05.17.15 at 12:25 pm }

I first started reading you in 2008. I felt so isolated…. Then, there you and your community were! Happy almost blogoversary Mel! Thank you for all you have done and continue to do!

3 Middle Girl { 05.17.15 at 2:57 pm }

I think more, but as is always the case, constantly changing. The doors have been flung open and they will stay that way. Individuals will go, others will appears. The beat shall continue.

4 torthuil { 05.17.15 at 4:13 pm }

I really like blogs, and I think they will always be there in some version or other. There are other forms of social media: Facebook, which I use to some degree, and Twitter and Instrgram, which I don’t pretend to understand at all. I think what’s different about blogs is that they allow for more depth of thought. That might not appeal to everyone, or everyone all the time, but I think it will always appeal to some people all of the time. Witty one liners are interesting but there’s something therapeutic and intellectually stimulating about a full blog entry, or even better following a person’s story over months or years. I definitely feel more invested in the bloggers I read than the people I follow on Facebook. I can’t be the only one who feels this way so I think there will always be bloggers. I have actually been reading Jane Austen and thinking about the role of letters in that society, and I think there are parallels to blogging. (But I won’t say more as I think that will be my Monday post lol). As for the future, well I can only speak for myself, but also assume my feelings are not unique. Right now I feel a need for my blog. It offers continuity to my life and story. Although I started off blogging about infertility it would feel weird to just end it with the birth of my daughter. I feel like the story of what happens after her birth is just as important as the story of what happened before. But when she becomes, say, school aged, or probably long before, I will have to reassess it as she may not want a bunch of information online about how she was conceived and what she did as a baby lol. Perhaps at that point many of the entries will be taken offline and replaced with a short summary. The focus may change. I will certainly never delete it. Right now it feels important to have it public and visible (if anonymous). It’s one of the few ways I can openly (in a manner of speaking) acknowledge that piece of my life, and that feels important.

5 illustr8d { 05.17.15 at 6:22 pm }

I think we’ll always be sharing online. It will just be how we do so. Blogs allow a great deal of freedom to the blogger, so I doubt they’re going anywhere any time soon.

6 Jess { 05.17.15 at 6:30 pm }

Such an interesting thought… I discovered you 4 years ago but was a lurker until this past year or so. When I started writing my blog in 2010, it was mostly for myself and a way to process what was happening in our disaster-laden quest for pregnancy. The experience became so much richer when I reached out and realized that this was so much better as a community of online lives, intersecting, rather than a single online diary that I put out to the ether and didn’t really make…reciprocal. It didn’t occur to me until I started reading your blog and your constant commenters that blogging is really a communal experience. I love that my blog has frozen these moments in time, although I have found that I don’t paper journal as often now that I have this, which is scary in case of an alien EMP or something. I like the putting out of private life that’s optional, unlike the reality TV revolution of the last 10 years (or probably more), and the purpose of connecting with others while still having a personal moment. I also love the idea of helping others through these little snippets of my mission to be a parent. Thanks for reflecting on this, and spurring me to, too!

7 createdfamily { 05.17.15 at 10:37 pm }

I started blogging on LiveJournal 15 years ago. So wild to think about how much blogging has changed and how different my life is now than it was then.

8 Mali { 05.17.15 at 11:45 pm }

Like you I’m coming up on nine years – though later this year, and not all on one blog. Congratulations!

I hope blogging, in some way, will be around. Blogging is different of course in each community. I think the infertility community really bares its soul when blogging. Whereas the cupcake-baking community really doesn’t. The political bloggers do so in a different way. So we’re all a little different. Just like we all change jobs in real life, I suspect people will change the way they blog too. I’ve seen bloggers post avidly until they published their book and got on TV, then they virtually abandoned all those who supported them. Yet others continue blogging simply because they need to write.

I don’t know how long I’ll blog. But I find it hard to imagine stopping, even 8 1/2 years on.

9 Monica { 05.18.15 at 10:30 am }

Funny you bring up Jennicam. The podcast, Reply All, recently did a podcast about it as well – and interviewed “Jenni”. Interesting stuff about back in the day before blogs and social media. Here’s the link to the podcast:

http://gimletmedia.com/episode/5-the-jennicam/

10 Lori Lavender Luz { 05.19.15 at 10:29 am }

Hmmm….I think both more and less. Now that we know more what an online presence is, some will gravitate to more and some will deliberately head toward less.

Yes on this: “it felt very bare bones, like we were visiting each other’s porches and listening to stories while we stood on the steps. There were no pretty designs, few pictures, and hyperlinks felt high-tech.”

I tried for HOURS to find an image of my first header, a pinkish thingy with a lighthouse (?) from a blogspot template. I wanted to feature it on my recent blogoversary post. But I could not find it, even with the wayback machine.

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