I may be biased, but I think bloggers are a very brave lot. Knowing that anyone in the world with an Internet connection could potentially be watching as they share everything imaginable. Their political leanings, their life philosophies, their deepest depressions, and their intimate moments from sex to childbirth to facing mortality.
If you don't know what a blog ("web log") is, here is an example of one written by Darren Rowse, founder of ProBlogger, that thoroughly explains. Is a blog simply an electronic chronology of thoughts or is there more to it? ProBlogger is a highly successful blog, but you might have wondered which is the top blog site. As of this writing, Technorati currently calculates Huffington Post as #1. While China's Han Han is often considered the most read individual blogger in the world1, and certainly one of the most controversial.
Here at PsychologyToday.com, you are reading a blog at this very moment. Psychology Today's panel experts are bloggers who are organized by their area of expertise and given freedom to express their opinion on a vast array of topics related to mental health and human behavior.
So why do we publish our thoughts for all to see? Why not just keep a diary under the mattress? Certainly most of us don't start a blog thinking we can compete with the likes of Huffington Post, TMZ, or Perez Hilton.
I posed that question to prolific blogger and 13 time best-selling author Seth Godin. He has been dubbed "America's Greatest Marketer" so he certainly knows what makes a blog tick. His response, short and perhaps surprising: "I blog because I don't really have a choice. The ideas in me insist on being shared, and this is the least painful way I can find to do it!"
He taps into a simple truth behind the very origins of blogging. Most people blog simply because they have something to say. And they make it public because there's some part of them that wants to be heard. On some level we all want to be heard- it's a basic human need. Whether or not a blog eventually returns financial gain, its primary function is to provide fulfillment for the blogger. And as readers, if we're not seeing some honesty or passion in the writing, we're not going to stick around.
A blog, by its very nature, ought to contain one or more of the following: a 1st person perspective, a bold assertion or opinion, a fresh take on an old idea, a personal connction with the reader, a colloqial tone, and a take away for its readership. By definition, a "blog" that only contains the cold dissertation of information or possesses no opinion or 1st person connection, is not a blog, it's an article. At least that's my opinion!
To get another perspective, I interviewed blogger and best-selling author Neil Pasricha. He writes the award-winning blog 1000 Awesome Things that has been around since 2008 and is still going strong. Pasricha's impetus for starting his blog stemmed from overwhelming stresses swirling around him. He explained to me:
"Every time I opened a newspaper it was about melting ice caps, pirates in the ocean, and an economy about to blow up.
And on top of that, I was in a marriage
heading the wrong direction and my best friend was in a major depression
. Before long, my wife came home from work and told me she didn't love me anymore...and my best friend very sadly took his own life.
With a black cloud over my head I just felt like I needed something positive in my life. Some way to remind myself of the good things, which seemed like they were hidden behind some heavy velvet curtain.2
Pasricha never imagined his blog would garner 30 million hits—a result many bloggers dream about but very rarely attain. In 2010, BlogPulse estimated the blogosphere to contain 152 million blogs3. While most of those bloggers do not become rich and famous, millions of blogs do provide profit for their owners. Advertising and affiliate marketing are sources of income for blogs with even modest amounts of traffic, and it's another top reason that bloggers blog. There is still a lot of money to be made for writers providing quality content.
Having been a blogger for several years, I can relate to both Pasricha and Godin. Fame and financial gain were not my motivation to start blogging. I blog as a means of exploring personal development topics and cultural change, providing thoughtful information to my clients and readers, and to connect with people I would never otherwise have met. I blog to compliment my professional work and to have a creative outlet.
I try not to rant in my blogs because I believe that rants are one-sided agitatations that do little to further quality dialogue. I find that too many blogs attempt to use the force of shock/anger/frustration/fear rather than the power of emotional intelligence and the carefully crafted word. Yet my blogs certainly do challenge popular opinion. My recent piece on mindfulness caught people's attention and stirred some controversy. And my recent blog on America's obsession with gift cards is certainly a timely challenge to our culture's mindset. It can be very anxiety-provoking at first (and also exhilerating) but when we do dare to express our honest opinion in a blog, I think we can be quite surprised at just how many like-minded or open-minded readers are glad that we did. I like to think we'll change the world.
In the end, like Seth Godin, I mainly blog so that my thoughts will leave me alone.
Here are some other reasons why people blog, can you think of more?
- To maintain a routine- motivation and accountability
- To hone the craft of writing
- To air new and provocative ideas
- To spread cutting-edge information or timely opinion
- To connect with a like-minded community
- To forward the tradition of storytelling
- To build resume or clout
- To express creativity
- To find catharsis after a traumatic event
- To attract web traffic to another endevour
- To tap into the potential for money and/or fame
- To rant or vent
- To see our names in print - ego motivation
- To change the world
What are your reasons for blogging? Start the conversation below.
Brad Waters is a career & life strategy coach/consultant and writer based out of Chicago. He is the author of the Your Life Story. project.