The Internet, as I’ve shown in this series, is not a workers’ paradise. Paying writers has become a dirty word in media moguls’ vocabulary. The way the game is going, as I will be pointing out later in these jeremiads, even book authors soon will be expected to do it just for the love of the game. It’s not fair. But who said life is supposed to be fair?
So why do I continue writing about a social issue that has to be one of the world’s most boring subjects? Even worse, one that is an inside-baseball problem. Raise your hand, if you don’t agree.
It is true we have more important things to worry about if you are a concerned citizen who agrees with Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes: “It is required of a man that he should share the passion and action of his time, at the peril of being not to have lived.”
For instance, a concerned citizen named Denny Ainsworth the other day was reading the UK papers —the only place you can get hard foreign news, in his opinion—that British scientists are saying we are not going to have to worry about global warming any more. The real problem is global cooling. In the Daily Mail they had charts showing the Thames will be freezing like it did in the 1600’s. What’s worse, one might wonder, hot or cold? What’s your opinion, as they now ask on CNN? Either, is my opinion. Wrong. Cold, they are saying in the UK press.
Blogging creates no ecological disaster. It does something worse.
The story so far…
Previously, our hero was paying his debt of gratitude to Arianna Huffington and others of her ilk, members of the Benevolent Protective Order of the Ilk (B.P.O.I.) for allowing him to write for nothing. (See “Throw Another Blog On the Fire”–Parts II, III). While explaining where he got the hare –brained scheme of being paid, the last episode also examined the Great Opinion Bubble (circa 1990-2013) that encouraged blogs to burn so brightly in the minds of the Blogging Nation. Will bloggers change the world, it asked, or are they just mouthing off? (See “Throw Another Blog on the Fire”—Part IV). Blogs fooled writers, Part IV argued, into thinking they are breaking the stranglehold on media access by the gatekeepers, MSM corporate oligarchs who straddle The Internet like the Colossus of Rhodes. You have the freedom to speak up about whatever is on your mind. And, as a bonus, you will not get paid.
As I was saying before I so rudely interrupted myself last time, aside from the Utopian dream of writers getting paid for writing in the blogosphere, it has been brought to my attention that I still have not given Reason #2 for possibly being ambivalent about writing a blog. Forgetful me. Forgive me.
Reason #2: With all due respect, blogs suck.
Every computer should be required to carry the following advisory:
WARNING: BLOGGING CAN BE HARMFUL TO A WRITER’S CRAFT. IT MAY GIVE YOU THE FREEDOM TO WRITE BADLY, YET FEEL GOOD ABOUT IT.
My biggest fear is that I will start writing junk as a blogger, as differentiated from what I had been doing all these years as a non-blogger.
I worry that somewhere between drinking my OJ and waiting for my three-minute egg at breakfast, I will sit down at my computer and write an essay about a dream I had just before waking up. Or about something my wife said or the kids did or any other kind of drivel I think the world will be wanting to hear about from me.
And when it’s finished 15 minutes or so later, if the thoughts were slow in coming, I’d be able to go to my Facebook page to see what my friends thought of what I had just posted.
Not that there is anything wrong with that, as the behavioral scientist Jerry Seinfeld would say.
In 2012, Facebook reached the one billion-member mark. About 500,000 are my friends.
No, I’m exaggerating. Only 1,346 are my good friends.
And I have nothing against belonging to this distinguished club. It fulfills the need of some people to tell the world what they like or dislike, and otherwise let it all hang out. One billion members can’t be wrong, even though it makes them sitting ducks for advertisers who bombard you with ads for products that might be of interest. Say you were mentioning “the dog days of summer” are here, and you are soon inundated with dog food ads. The power of “Like” is awesome. And awful. Larry Josephson, the radio icon chronic complainer once suggested it would simplify decision-making if opinion-maker young Mark Zuckerberg added an additional icon: “Hate.”
Then I worry that I will spend an hour or so checking out my Twitter account to see how many devoted followers I have accumulated since last I checked an hour ago. Do they agree or disagree that this latest of mine was the greatest since Aristophanes?
Sorting through the barrage of incoming Facebook comments, tweets, and status updates, trying to figure out if my latest blog actually moved anyone, plus feeling obligated to be in the know non-stop about celebrity and politico doings so I might gain traction with the age group that takes advantage of these social media tools, thus improving my number of hits, which will improve my chances of getting even more opportunities to write for free— well, it’s all so exhausting. I worry that I will not have any time or energy left for what will laughingly be called my “writing.”
Before I know, it will be time to close down shop at my writing station— except for checking Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Reddit, the first and last word in supplying whatever I need to know to go off half-cocked or three quarters-cocked in my next blog.
I worry that by the end of the day I will believe, to paraphrase Descartes, “I blog. Therefore I am.”
I fear that I will no longer need editors to tell me it doesn’t work, doing this or that could improve what I had wrought, make me look better than I might be.
I will no longer need a copy editor to correct my syntax, spelling, dangling participles, or subject-verb disagreement.
I will no longer need the services of a fact-checker, asking me where did I get this or that quote? He can’t find any record of its being said in Nexus, Lexus, Bubkus? Of course, you can’t, meat head. He said it to me standing at the next urinal. Believe me, the facts are accurate, I made them up myself.
I worry that I will no longer be one of the nitpickers complaining that the Internet in this Age of Information might be more accurately called the Misinformation Age, being filled with stretched truths and little white lies. Fact checkers, blessed be their name, stop you from making a fool of yourself around the world. Or even do real damage, as Reddit did during the Boston Marathon bombing.
I worry that I will stop writing complete sentences with paragraphs, one of my flaws as a potential blogger. I must be some pompous and pretentious snob writing this way.
I worry that I will abandon long-form journalism, like this one, and start to write short, punchy copy with only “take-away” lines. The younger demographic is said to have the attention span of gnats that have stopped taking their attention deficit drugs.
I worry that my copy will start to be littered with abbreviations: Words like “C” (for “see”) or “U” (for “you”) or “R” (for “ are”). I could write a sentence like “C U” and people would know that I would see them again soon. WTF?
That is text or twitter talk, I am told. But I worry about it anyway. Blogs are not nearly as destructive in committing languacide, but they are all part of the same evil stew, bleeding into one another.
As you know, Twitter — the most trendy advance in communications since the Phoenicians finished inventing the alphabet in the 11th Century B.C. – is currently limited to 140 characters, and it would be only a matter of time until I began fitting my thoughts to size. What I worry about is that soon Twittees will be complaining about the verbosity of 140 characters: “Stop hassling me.” The next contribution to western civilization from the speed-writing class will be less prolix.
I worry that I will begin to forget what I’m doing by writing a blog is just feeding my ego. And mine, my wife has informed me, is already big enough to be a float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.
Despite all the flattery that might accrue from one billion or so followers, I worry that my writing will evoke the emotion common to blogs of who gives a shit?
In short, I‘m afraid I’ll wind up a certified blogger.
“A blog is typographical masturbation,” according to Prof. Richard B. Bernstein of CCNY.
Writing a blog gives you literary cachet. It makes you think you are a writer.
The problem with that, if I can interject a personal note here, there are already too many professional writers out there. It’s hard enough to make a living, given the decline of newspapers, magazines and the growth of web sites that don’t pay.
It’s easy to see how this misconception takes place. With the invention of the computer, anyone can jot down anything, spell check it, press the print button. Shazam! Amazingly, there is a printed manuscript. Who says I’m not a writer?
And it’s all perceived as a lot of fun.
There is nobody around to say, “Are you kidding?” No rejection letters in the morning mail. Now that can focus a real writer.
Bloggers don’t get the experience of what real writing is about, the agony of long hours, the joy of rewriting, polishing, rethinking, getting it right. As Edward Gibbon said of his six-volume work, “The Decline and fall of the Roman Empire,” it is one-tenth inspiration, nine-tenths perspiration.
Sitting alone at the typewriter or computer can be lonely work. That’s why in TV sitcom writing, I discovered while being the co-creator with Jim Bouton of “ Ball Four: the TV series”, in the Land of Silk and Money, L.A., nobody writes alone. Usually it’s a team of three guys banging it out. So they can laugh at one another’s jokes. Sometimes they even do their writing in the swimming pool. And the producer joins them, so he can push their heads under water until they come up with the jokes. The results of method-writing are painfully evident on the screen.
Writing is hard and painful work. That’s why it’s always been compensated, until the radical Free Will Make Us Free movement is turning Samuel Johnson’s law on its blockhead.
“I don’t blog,” said Prof. Bernstein. “We all have a limited amount of energy for writing. I’ll save my energy for writing for my writing.”
“And there’s still a lot of truth in the maxim about writing for free. You get what you pay for.”
I better stop here before I talk myself into having a midlife crisis and change careers.
I also worry that I might talk myself into writing a blog about the dream I had last night. I dreamt I was thinking of ways to win back my post as a TV critic at Huffington Post. As I was explaining to Arianna, my hunger strike and this series exposing conditions in the Blogosphere, are big mistakes. Nobody is perfect. I now have evolved to the point where I think it’s a positive not to be paid.
My therapist said it was just a sex dream. Forget about it.
To be continued