Blogging in the Age of Narcissism

Hylas and the Nymphs, by John William Waterhouse, painted in 1896.

 US blogging expert Ryan Robinson says new figures show predict that there will be 37.1 million bloggers in the US alone by the end of 2020. Robinson also says that the average reader spends 37 seconds reading a blog, which proves that this particular post is a triumph of optimism over reality.

I, I, I,  me, me, me, I, I, I,, me, me, me…

Get the picture?

Yes, it’s all about me.

At least this seems to be the message from most blogs.

It is difficult not to sound self-absorbed and egocentric when writing about your own experiences, and I plead guilty to this in my own blog and throughout my journalism career, where I have shamelessly exploited my family in various columns for financial gain.

My only excuse is that as a freelance journalist it was easier to interview myself rather than go to the trouble of interviewing others, raising their hopes for publicity that depended on the whim of a commissioning editor.

And as a freelancer, blogging is a cheap albeit embarrassing way of flogging your wares.

Writing in the first person is also a good way to reveal your common humanity and hook your reader. But there has to be a limit.

You and a million others

It is humbling to consider that there are more than 200 million blogs worldwide. Technorati indexes 133 million of these and its stats say that 900,000 blog posts are created every 24 hours. There are 450, 507 bloggers on WordPress alone. (http://technorati.com/social-media/article/state-of-the-blogosphere-2011-introduction/)

Not surprisingly, there are far fewer readers. We bloggers are all just too busy documenting our own every-waking-thought to worry about everyone else’s.

Many blogs don’t attract any comments – except from illiterate spammers. Here’s one that I’ve had framed: Thank you, I’ve just been searching for info approximately this subject for a long time and yours is the greatest I have came upon till now. But, what about the conclusion? Are you sure about the source?|What i don’t understood is if truth be told how you’re no longer actually much more well-appreciated than you might be now. You are very intelligent.

If you’re lucky, friends will say something encouraging. But it seems the most consistent encouragement is likely to come from one whose loyalty is guaranteed – even if her judgement may be a little off, as typified by one blogger’s recent entry, titled,“My mom is the only one reading my blog”.

This particular blog attracted 63 similar laments, except for one notable correspondent who said, “I wouldn’t want my mum to read my blog, the stupid trout.”

If your Mum isn’t reading your blog, maybe it’s because she knows what a lot of research has confirmed: that we bloggers are narcissistic exhibitionists.

Arts Hub, the website about arts news and jobs, reports new research from the Western Illinois University that suggests that there is a direct link between Facebook and socially disruptive narcissism.

A fascination with one’s self

But this merely confirms earlier research.

In his study, Predictors of Social Media Use: The Role of Gratifications-sought, Narcissism, and Passion for Social Media, Louis W Leung defines narcissism as “the fascination with oneself”.

Narcissists, he says, “generally think they are better than others, inflate praise unusually of themselves, and believe that they are unique and special”. Ouch.

For those who were not born into the age of narcissism, blogging remains a mystery. “It’s like getting up on stage, but no one’s there,” my friend Jan says.

Unlike me and 200 million others, Jan says she has always had an inhibition about writing about herself. “Maybe I should patent that as some sort of antibody and spread it around?” she asks. Maybe.

Jan is obviously not convinced enough of her own importance. The fact that she is 60 something and not 20 something may have something to do with it.

Inflict yourself on others every day

In order to convince others of your own importance, you have to blog every day – at least that’s what a friend whose husband is a popular blogger advised me.

Really? Every day?

Surely the time to write is when you feel passionate about something, not just for the sake of it?

And what are the consequences of this incessant writing about ourselves, apart from creating online literary landfill?

There are occasional gems to be found on this rubbish dump of ideas, but only occasional. There are just too many of us writing too much, much of it of questionable value.

Confound researchers of the future

I feel sorry for the historians of the future.

Instead of the joy of scholarly discovery, unearthing rare documents that reveal the secrets of the past, they will have to sift through thousands of online pages of banal detail in order to find anything of value.

On the other hand, the FBI and ASIO may soon become redundant as we all voluntarily and joyfully vomit up our life’s secrets .

But maybe this is not the sort of intelligence they’re looking for?

As a blogger, I read blogs to find out why they are getting traffic and I’m not.

From my research, I’ve concluded that the best blogs are those that answer a question, such as ‘How do I find the best truffles in Melbourne?’ or ‘What are the symptoms of the plague?’, or those which feed a passion.

My friend Carolyn subscribes to several blogs which feature news and photos of artists who work with polymer clay. These are short, sweet, informative and include fantastic photos and links to other useful sources.

Photograph your consumption – then write about it

Other blogs appear to be more a reflection of our consumer society: me consuming travel, me consuming handbags, me consuming food.

In fact, food looms large in many Singapore blogs. If they are not eating it, they are photographing it and writing about it.

Diary blogs like this one are only of interest when you do something universally interesting, or shocking, or if you’re famous – or dead.

But there’s one blog that pretty much sums it all up for me: www.dullestblog.com by Dave Walker.

Here’s a typical entry: I noticed that the doormat was at a slightly crooked angle. I reached down and moved the mat back to its correct place. The edge of the mat was then perpendicular to the door.” http://www.dullestblog.com/?page_id=2

This particular entry attracted 61 comments.