A Hopeful Return to My Roots

I made a promise to myself to return to my roots about once a week this year. No, I'm not going to start making Mennonite delicacies like pluma moos or pluma vareniki, because I never could get behind my people and their obsession with stewed plums. I mean that I want to return to my blogging roots. (Seriously, what is it with those stewed plums?)

I got to sit down with Suzy Krause at a recent social media event, and we talked about how we missed our old blogging days. It's something I've been thinking about lately, but more especially since I read "The Best Time to Start Blogging Is Now". I've been blogging since 2003, and Suzy's been at it for years, too, and it was such a nice thing back then to drop in on people's blogs and read about the little things like kids and pets and what they were reading and some funny thing that had happened to them. I made some of my best friends through those blogs. In the absence of Facebook and Twitter, blogs were the meat of our social internet.

Blogging has been around long enough that saying any of this probably makes me sound internet prehistoric. Whatever. Bring me some stool softener and my good teeth.

So much writing these days is aimed at being inspirational or motivational or confrontational, which I'm for — I'm fully given to it myself — but the regular muck and joys of life are less out there in recent years aside from 140-character tweets and short Facebook statuses. It's still happening, but there's less of it. We've been lured by the emotional clickbait race and its promise of eyeballs.

It's a gift to be able to drop into a blog, pick through its archives, and get lost in a deep relationship with a pit bull or cry with someone's words as their mother slowly succumbs to Alzheimer's. It opens up the world. And it's even nicer to be able to do that on your own blog. I have a history on my site from years back that I could never recall on my own, but I have less of it written down over the last few years since I dedicated more of my time to social media. I will cling to Twitter until it finally does itself in horribly, which the people running it seem determined to make happen, but there's something about longer form writing in one's own space that can build a beautiful intimacy and ownership of one's story.

I'm not some fossil shaking their cane at the kids on their lawn. There's something valuable here that I want to get back to, even if fewer people see it than any of my worst tweets.

We don't own our words on Facebook and Twitter. Not really. It's right in the Terms of Service. A acquaintance's identity was stolen on Facebook recently, and when she alerted Facebook about it, they suspended her account instead of the thief's. Poof. Her control over her content, images, and online relationships was gone, because none of it was truly hers to begin with. Facebook eventually gave her the account back, but the reality of it sticks with me.

Social media platforms aren't spaces we control. There are no tidy categories or easily dug-through archives you can build around what you create. Your account and its content can be scrubbed on a whim. Your ability to add your own visual flavour is limited to an avatar and a header. On Facebook, every update promotes us and the platform to its advertisers to maximize corporate profit. Social media may keep us connected to broad networks of people, but those spaces are not ours — our performance is on someone else's stage and guided and curated for their benefit — no matter how much of ourselves we pour into our accounts.

All of this has me feeling more and more moved to invest myself in spaces that matter to me, and more and more it seems important to invest my heart and words in a space that is more mine than theirs. Ten years from now, I believe some of the words we write today will still matter to us, and, if they do, we'll want to know that those words are still there. If I control my own space, what I create might live on, even if I choose to keep it squirrelled away as unpublished drafts or inside some dark network.

I'm sorely out of practice when it comes to personal blogging these days, but I'm looking forward to figuring it out again. I'm in the middle of my 14th year here, and, if my time online has taught me anything, it's that anything can happen.