Julian Baggini:

When blogs first appeared, they were compared unfavorably with newspaper and magazine articles. They tended to be shorter, were written more quickly, were light on research and heavy on opinion. But to those growing up on Facebook and Twitter, they must seem ponderously slow and long. For those who value thoughtful, crafted writing, this is a worrying development. However, paradoxically, microblogging might actually help longer, more thoughtful writing. The ever-shortening nature of social networking communications could help revive ‘proper writing’ by re-opening the gap between off-the-cuff jottings and thoughtful prose which blogging temporarily blurred.
This could easily occur as a result of a kind of Darwinian struggle. Those teletrailers who manage to be interesting and pithy in short tweets and messages could attract followers away from those who take 400-word blogs to make their point. Natural selection could result in the survival of the briefest. But, as we’ve seen, the distinctive feature of teletrailing is that it provides a constant streams of hyperlinks to more substantive material. Since people are going to receive many such links a day, there will be another evolutionary struggle, from which a few victors will emerge.
I’m not sure what point he’s making here. Is he claiming that blogs are neither fish nor fowl but rather a farrago (I’m feeling alliterative today) of writing styles destined for the rubbish bin of history, a textual Frankenstein’s monster doomed to be chased off into the cyber-wilderness by hordes of fearful peasants with Twitter-torches and Facebook-pitchforks? I mean, as he himself says, the whole point of social networking sites, other than to let everyone know about the sandwich you just had or what you dug out of your ear canal, is to point the way toward more substantive material. You mean, like, um, people who write 400-word blog posts?
(By way of reference, the post immediately below this one is a little over 800 words, quotations included. I myself may not be the most interesting writer, but I think it’s fair to suggest that if your attention span is so hyper-frenetic that you lose concentration halfway through, you need to kick the caffeine/cocaine/meth habit ASAP.)
I read plenty of “proper” writing online every day, but even so, much of that takes the form of more-or-less colloquial essays. And blogging, to me, serves as a vital means of bridging the silent divide between author and reader. It’s true that bloggers are more like pundits than journalists, elucidating issues that other people first bring to everyone’s attention, but it was only ever right-wing political bloggers who believed their own nympholeptic rhetoric about being revolutionaries who were going to overthrow the old guard of the hated “liberal media”. Those of us who weren’t intoxicated and deranged by the pungent fumes of our own effluvia and hubris have only ever seen it as a way for like-minded people to come together and talk about what they see, sort of like sitting down to watch the news with a group of smart friends. Read any article in the New York Times or Washington Post, and then look to see how many blogs are linking to it and commenting on it. How is this a bad thing? And how would it be improved by people simply tweeting the link to the original article?
Anyway, like I said, it’s not clear to me what exactly he’s getting at. This, though, made me smirk:
The possibility of cashing in on social networks is potentially making many more people commodify themselves. Authors for example, are encouraged by publishers and agents to think about themselves as “brands”, and to blog, twitter, make friends on Facebook and so on. They are not alone: bands, artists, even therapists are turning into their own mini-PR departments, increasingly concerned not just with what they do, but how they can sell it to as many people as possible. High profile but actually quite rare tales of great success encourage creative to go along with this.
I would be a liar if I said I was not caught up in this trend. I would say I have more instrumental reasons for using Facebook than I do other ones, and while I see my twittering is a fun, creative challenge, I’m not sure I would have even started doing it I hadn’t thought that it might be good for my profile. Anecdotal evidence suggests that if I am unusual, it is only in my candour. The problem is that being high-minded and opting out looks like a luxury few can afford. Being active on social networking sites may be far from sufficient for success, but it looks increasingly as though it is necessary.
A luxury? Choosing to dig in your heels and refuse to do whatever you’re told is necessary for career success (or simply necessary to please your boss and keep your job) is a luxury? I’ve said many times that I pride myself on doing all I can to find a way to do an end-run around traditional notions of success and achievement, but, to quote Butchie from The Wire, “Conscience do cost.” It costs financially, and it costs in terms of social standing. I’m not complaining, but it’s not an easy path to choose.