Sunday, April 22, 2012

Can a blog have an identity crisis?

Dr. Crazy's recent posts about the changing nature of her blog and whether it has jumped the shark inspired a whole lot of people, bloggers and anons, to come out of the woodwork and say "No, it hasn't, and we're glad you're here."

In the comments, though, a lot of bloggers who've been doing it for a while, including Flavia, profgrrrl, Historiann, New Kid, Notorious PhD, and itsprobablyphdme added  that they'd had the same feeling (and so did I). Our lives have changed, and the reasons we started blogging have probably changed, too, so why are we still doing this, and for whom? Historiann noted that everyone hits a wall from time to time.

I wonder if blogs that have been around for a few years, including this one, are thinking about these issues even if the bloggers didn't mention it over at Dr. Crazy's. In addition to the ones mentioned above, what about you,  Roxie?  Dame EleanorHeu MihiDr. ViragoBardiacADMnicoleandmaggie? Dr. Kosharyprofacero? Sisyphus?

Horace and Inktopia have already closed up shop recently, citing similar reasons.

For me, this is partly due to irritation: I'm sick of being lectured by those for whom the issues of tech in education are shiny new ideas. They want to Instruct me in new things like Twitter or how to use computers in the classroom, when I wrote about what they were saying years ago.

I've thought about this a lot recently and have considered going the "lightly pseudonymous" route of Roxie or Historiann or possibly moving and blogging under my real name.

But then I'd have to find evidence for all the claims I make on here instead of relying on personal stories (like vacuuming the cat). I'd have to pretend that idiotic ideas are good ones until I can find data to the contrary.

I would miss reporting on the details of my little writing triumphs and frustrations. I would miss the voice that I have here, which is not my professional voice. And I would have to be responsible and stop snarking about things like "let's kill all the libraries."

So is there such a thing as a blog identity crisis? Your thoughts?


Jess said...

Since you asked....

Clearly, I haven't been blogging much in the last year (or more?). I don't have any intention of shutting down the blog--I don't feel like I need to make a decision one way or the other, really--but, while I love reading blogs, it feels like more of an effort to contribute to my own. A big part of this, I think, has to do with the fact that I (like Dr. Crazy) started blogging mostly because I felt isolated and alarmed at the start of my professional career (the job market, first year as a VAP, starting the tt), and I needed a place to vent, connect with others, and seek advice. Blogging gave me a safe, constructive, fun way to do that.

Now--probably in large part because I married a colleague--I have plenty of local support and a lot of opportunities to do that venting and advice-seeking live (usually over a tasty dinner), so blogging itself doesn't have as much urgency. Plus, despite the (pretty standard) problems with my institution, I feel more loyalty to Field College now, so I don't want to risk airing dirty laundry in public, as it were.

I wish that I wrote more because I like being a part of the blogging community, but at the end of the day, it takes work, and at the end of the day, I'm usually tired. But who knows? Things change, habits change, etc. Perhaps it'll occur to me to start writing about something else.

Roxie Smith Lindemann said...

Thanks for the link, Undine. I've been meaning to get over to Crazy's place and leave a comment, but it's been an exhausting week around here.

Speaking of exhaustion and to follow up on Heu Mihi's point, I think blogs (and bloggers) go through energy crises as well as identity crises. My blog has wrestled some with identity issues ever since I complicated our narrative set up by dying. (Hey, I say to my typist, you think it sucks for YOU? Being dead is no fun for me, ya know!) Recently, the energy crisis has been more relevant. My typist has had an insanely busy academic year. Her commitment to Lifestyle Adjustment also means that she's less willing to sit in a chair trolling the interwebs for pretty pictures or stuff to get pissed off about. If forced to choose -- and she often is these days -- she'll sometimes choose to go for a run rather than work on a post. As a result, posts at my place have gotten shorter and less frequent in recent months.

Like Crazy, we're not thinking of shutting down, though the thought has crossed our minds. Still, our small but devoted band of readers sticks with us and we enjoy their company. We'll keep keeping on, one way or another.

And we still like the cover of a light pseudonym. There's no way my typist would have put up all our recent vagina posts under her real name. That's even trickier than vacuuming the cat, don't you think?

nicoleandmaggie said...

We haven't been around that long, but our "cutting down" post is scheduled for next week.
We're just more turning into an academic blog, update-wise. Also keeping the personal finance stuff.

It has been a busy year. And hopefully soon we'll be Grumpy Rumblings of the Half Tenured and then Grumpy Rumblings of the Tenured. Or possibly one of us will be rumbling happily outside of academia (it is hard to be grumpy in paradise city...)

The one of us who is a mother is going to try to drop the mommy-blog aspect because she's sick of being told by miserable mommy bloggers that she's an arrogant deluded liar when she says she's self-confident and happy (and, oddly, doesn't hate or resent her husband and/or kid). [Not that most people who are mothers say such things. Just an irritating and vocal subset.]

Dr. Koshary said...

Hard for me to comment on your end of things, Undine. For my part, I'm essentially in the same position I was in when I began my blog: a young academic in a fundamentally insecure economic and professional position, intent upon pulling himself up in the world of academia. I have my PhD now, and some of the details have shifted over time, but the basic facts haven't really altered for me. I started my blog partly to find a community of sympathetic (and maybe empathetic) ears, and partly to let grad-curious readers know what the experience felt like from the inside.

If I'm ever fortunate enough to score a tenure-track job that might hook me into a denser collegial setting and foster some sense of institutional loyalty, perhaps I'd have a similar identity crisis as Dr. Crazy and others have mentioned. For the moment, it's just another day in the salt mines for me.

Historiann said...

Thanks for the link, Undine, and to your other commenters for the thoughtful discussion.

Me? I'm out of ideas.

Z said...

Well, I´ve changed the blog´s name a couple of times. It fulfilled its original purposes, and now it´s just my art project. I don´t think I´ll ever shut it down.

I don´t want a professional type blog under my name - too much work. I´ve got a twitter stream under my IRL name and it´s enough.

Dame Eleanor Hull said...

I'm still chugging along happily, though I've been at it almost as long as New Kid and Dr Crazy (I had a different name/blog once). I never published as frequently as some, which may be why I'm still around, and I never felt that I had Things To Say (let alone Important Things to Say). I just wanted to give back, as it were, to people whose blogs I enjoyed reading: if I was going to comment, I thought I should be visible. I'm happy to give advice to younger academics, when I can think of any, but my blog is mostly a personal one about the life of an academic with cats. And that's fine by me, though occasionally I wish I could do something more like Jon Jarrett's accounts of papers he's been to. But I don't have his opportunities!

Dr. Crazy said...

Just wanted to pop over to say "yes" and also, while I think energy/time has something to do with frequency of posts going down at certain times and going up at others, I think that what I've been feeling at least isn't *just* that - because in eight years I've felt that before. At least for me, there really is something with bloggy identity going on. It certainly helps to know that people still get something out of the blog, but I do feel like I have to figure out where I go with it next conceptually....

clio's disciple said...

I think I've had something of a blog crisis since I took my tenure-track job. Originally I was blogging about the job market and my various contingent teaching, and I've felt much more constrained, and less certain of what I wanted to say, in the last couple of years

Z said...

It may also be that having an academic blog is passe. Mine never was one or intended as one, so that may be why I´m not tired, and blogs like this one (Undine´s) that aren´t about someone´s personal journey on the job market, etc., but opinion and commentary about what goes on generally, may get tired less easily.

Belle said...

Like Z, I never intended mine to be a 'type' (academic or otherwise) blog. Scattered (Thoughts) and Random (Ideas) were all I wanted. So I'm certainly not tired, or in crisis. My problem has always been keeping the posts down to one or two a week. Daily was a chore I simply didn't need.

I have noticed that most of my RSS feeds are far less prolific than before, and I mourn the loss of so many favorites. Once I found a community that would have me, the dwindling of that community feels very personal and impersonal at the same time. The blog voices I invited into my world have voluntarily withdrawn or silenced themselves (for very good reasons, I know) but it has diminished my world. And that I regret.

Because as we all know, it's all about me:-D

rented life said...

I'm struggling with the blogging identity part myself. I've moved a couple times, have been blogging for a total of 8 years now, but am unsure that my current blog serves much of a purpose--to myself or to readers. I don't want to become a formal blog that only writes about a few topics, but I've become a great deal more guarded in what I write as the climate in blogging has changed a great deal. (At least in my opinion.) People I've read for years have closed doors, changed blogs, changes focus; I feel like it's become more segregated than ever. That said, I have no idea what I'll do with mine yet.

Ink said...

ALWAYS have struggled with this. I wasn't really a mommy blogger OR an academic blogger, but a little of both, so I never felt like I offered much other than Stuff Ink Decided To Say. ;)

And when my professional interests shifted into an area that required using a real name, I didn't feel that I could continue with the Ink blog anymore. Had already tried to blend pseudo/nymous (several times!) but it never seemed to work.

Closing was an incredibly difficult decision because our community has meant so much to me. I hoped to keep in touch with blog friends in other ways and that's happened with many of them, so I guess the good news is that the other online connection systems can to some extent counter a closure, though I miss the people who aren't on Twitter or Facebook, etc.

I still have my blogroll in Reader for keeping up, and I will always appreciate all of the smart and savvy things the academic bloggers say, even if I don't participate much in the conversation anymore.

So I vote yes. It exists. Probably part of the life shifts that we all undergo, as you noted. And perhaps we would do well to just, as the wise REO once advised, "roll with the changes"?

undine said...

heu mihi, that's great about having a better in-person support system. I think that however much you post, you're still a member of a blogging community.

Roxie, I love the idea that your typist can get out for a run instead of working on a post and you are inspiring me to do the same. I cannot wait to see your recent featured V-designs on a dollar bill.

nicoleandmaggie--the world of mommy blogs sounds like a shark tank compared to academia.

nicoleandmaggie said...

@undine-- not much different than the Chronicle of Higher Ed forum back in the day! But I left from there too...

Personally I think there's a lot of bored people out there. And bored people like drama.

Ink said...

Btw, that last line on my post? I was actually listening to REO at that very moment and it seemed appropriate. But I don't really think they are wise. Was just kidding.

undine said...

Got cut off before I could finish replying.
Dr. Koshary--my blog doesn't have a narrative as yours does (getting a job), so maybe that makes a difference.

Historiann--thanks for stopping by!

Z--I like the blog as art project idea.

Dame Eleanor--that's kind of why I started this blog--as a way to talk to those whose blogs I read.

Dr. Crazy--I'll be interested to see how this all works for you, since you've been blogging longer than most any of us.

undine said...

clio's disciple, belle--that issue of discretion is one that heu mini mentioned, too; I wonder if that is a major factor for a lot of blogs closing down. I regret the diminishing numbers, too, although as Z says, academic blogs may be passé (as if we care about that!).

rented life, I didn't realize you had been blogging that long. I've noticed that blogs have become more guarded than before, too.

Ink, I know that you went back and forth about this before closing for good. I wish I could get as interested in Facebook and Twitter, but the 24/7 self-promotion that Twitter encourages is just exhausting for me to read. I feel as though I am locked in a room with an extremely needy and attention-deprived dog when I read a Twitter feed, although that's not fashionable to say.

Ink said...

Completely agree about Twitter, though the more I'm on there, the less I mind the promo (bc I've figured out how to use lists and ignore the constant yelling).

But am losing my fondness for Facebook as they continue to make it more difficult to keep up with one's friends (with every update).

Btw, hope it's ok to pop back and comment every once in awhile.

eemusings said...

Yes. I think I've been in one for a couple of years. I would like to go self hosted but I'm not ready to do that till I kind of settle on what my schtick is.

Comrade Physioprof said...

Twitter suckes complete fucken asse. I'd rather hammer a thousand nails through my dicke, pour gasoline on itte, and light itte on fire than engage with motherfucken twitter and the gibbering assholes yammering endlessly there in illiterate ejaculations and rushing around like fucken lemmings with their goddamn stupid "hashtagges" and other absurd thought-destroying nonsense.

feMOMhist said...

hmm well although I never "announced" it I've cut back on daily blogging, as I too seem to be suffering from what I think of as the "mid life crisis of the academic blogger." Writing about sabbatical this year has allowed me to continue "on academia" so to speak, and I can't imagine the absurdities of TTLAC won't require my blog as an outlet, but it is true, post tenure, there isn't much left to say. Still I'm talking ...

Funny about Money said...

Funny about Money started as a personal finance blog; morphed perforce into a kind of academic blog because I was working at the Great Desert University until they laid off me and my entire staff; and more recently has become something like a lifestyle blog. To trail a hand off the rowboat in academic waters, I started a site called Adjunctorium, but find I have less and less time or inclination to write for either site.

The real truth is, I don't wanna work.

Writing is work, no matter how much you enjoy it. If one is going to spend this much time at working, one needs to be paid for it...and the $100 to $800 a month FaM earns from advertising minimum wage does not make.

undine said...

Ink, please do come back and comment!

eemusings--I don't know if I ever did decide (except to blather on).

CPP--an eloquent testimony against Twitter! I do see good things on there, but I end up avoiding it.

feMOMhist--it's getting to talk that is the most helpful, don't you think?

Funny about Money--so you have blog fatigue, too, even though yours is actually profitable?