Bloggers on the Reasons Behind Their Daily Words

By Frank Ahrens
Sunday, March 5, 2006

Last week, I asked: "Why do you blog?"

Blogs, short for "Web logs," have boomed in popularity over the past decade as folks have become more comfortable living online. They are created by individuals, companies, advocacy groups and so forth, and take the form of personal journals, journalism, jokes, jeremiads and just plain crazy talk.

As this column focuses on the intersection of Web content and culture, and what that says about us, I am less interested in how many people blog or who they are, demographically. Instead, I want to know why they blog. What drives them to live out loud on the Web? I had heard the standard blah-de-blah about "community" and "self-expression," but I was hoping that bloggers, who spend a lot of time and bytes thinking and writing about themselves, could lay some real introspection on me.

They did. I got more than 70 e-mail replies from such far-flung locations as Japan, Australia, Finland and Spain.

Some bloggers do it as part of their business "Internet strategy"; some blog to flack books and other products. Others flout niche issues, such as the "fiber arts," "calorie restriction" and the apparently alarming demise of fire-fighting aircraft. (Who knew?) Other enthusiasts blog to report on activities, such as opera and local politics, they think are undercovered by the mainstream media. Some chronicle their disabilities; others blog to stay in touch with friends and family.

In a bit of meta-blogging, some responded to my question in their blogs and referred me to them. Other kids were too cool for school and would not deign to answer such a ridiculous question that was so far behind the times. Instead, they flamed me on their blogs. Whatev.

Some outsiders believe bloggers are friendless shut-ins with hobbies so bizarre as to be shared only by a handful of people on the planet. Or, at best, they are the superstar narcissists of the look-at-me generation. Both are true, for some. But as with evaluating most groups, generalization is tough, dangerous and often damning.

Here are some of the more thoughtful, funny and pathos-laden responses I received, and thanks to all. (Some included names and addresses, others only e-mail handles. For consistency's sake, I've omitted all attribution -- it's the thoughts that count -- and cleaned up spelling and punctuation. Beginning tomorrow, the full list will be available for viewing at .)

For some, blogging is not a hobby -- it's crucial:

· "Blogging is engaged democracy. It creates an end-run around power publication, in that the people with the most power control what is heard."

· "In a sense, blogging allows more than simple social feedback; it provides a digital foundation on which individuals, who frequently feel increasingly divorced from society, can build their relationship to the rest of the world. It is the new PlayStation, in many million more homes, and with a terribly far social reach."

· "I blog for the same reason lots of 20-somethings blog -- if I didn't blog, I wouldn't have any friends. Blogs may be the most complex pen-pal system ever created. . . . As sad or self-indulgent as it may seem to an older generation (of mostly Luddites), the Web log is just one facet of a new kind of community and a changing world. My Web log is the family newsletter, the virtual refrigerator door, the rotary club meeting, the office water cooler, the love letter and the town newspaper."

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