I started my first weblog in 1998, and so in the decades (ugh) since, I’ve seen the world of blogs go through multiple iterations of relevance, monetary value, and overall interest. While none of it really pertained to my world, what I wrote certainly was reflective of what the social utility of blogs were at the time.
I’ve written before about how those within the millennial generation are likely divided by what social media they grew up with, and it begins with those of us who grew up with the original iterations of posting, from listservs to blogs. There was a time when the blog as a medium provided the right format for a full-on media Spectacle, where pundits would be referencing Gawker or Wonkette on the news. In the end, their relevance tended to be reflective of how they were being portrayed within the institutions of traditional media, and were forgotten as the newer, more user-friendly social network of Facebook shaped itself into the ever-changing mold that is the needs of that Spectacle.
It’s strange to me because, writing openly about life was just what everyone did for a few years there; and if you happened to be in your late teens at that moment, the shifts that world took over the past 20 years have been jarring in terms of the social expectations of the digital world. To ‘have a blog’ has been associated with drastically different social values at different points. (There has, at least, been a complete cycle of relevance to where the blog is now making something of a comeback as a standardized format.)
I’ve been thinking about this while watching the general elation regarding Donald Trump being banned from Twitter; there’s an entire contingent of the Online Left that felt an empowerment during the Bernie Sanders campaign in February that the liberal democrats feel now: a relevance garnered by a moment being crafted for The Spectacle of it all. These flexes of power—from Gawker to Twitter—haven’t been able to stand the test of time as a force in media yet, making these celebrations feel ridiculous.
If anything should be realized from the Capitol raid, it’s that something like a Twitter ban is nothing but a contribution to the static, a petty line in the charade of our social discourse. The real damage that has been done or remains ongoing is so far removed from the world of Twitter that it feels with Trump gone, might as well shut the whole thing down.
See, there’s always a moment with these networks where things begin to fall apart: with MySpace it was the sale, with Tumblr it was the porn ban, with Twitter it could be the Trump ban. The ban of an idiot authoritarian two weeks before his last day in office after four years of profiting from allowing a steady stream of dogshit into the universe is the ultimate display of Twitter as a useless entity: it has nowhere to go from here, Trump has dropped its mic. Nothing on it will match Donald Trump; he was its Picasso.
It will be interesting to see where social media goes now: much the way Trump exposed a lot of the bullshit that populates the world of media in what they don’t take seriously enough, this feels like the media taking itself too seriously as an attempt to make up for fucking up so badly for so long, but making money hand over foot the entire way.