So this is my first post. Finally, an opportunity to give something back to the world. Or is it just another chance to caress my ego?
I can understand why you might believe the latter. The internet is quite literally drowning in blogs these days. You can find blogs on current affairs, currency fairs, apples and pears, under the stairs …and even this. Seriously, wtf?
Allow me to let you in on a little secret: I invented this entire list before even checking that the blogs exist! But this is hardly surprising. There are hundreds of millions of blogs in existence, each putting out content all the time. On Tumblr alone there are some 300 million of them. WordPress (home of this blog) claims 53 million new posts every month and 21 billion independent page views. These are crazy figures, numbers reserved usually for national GDP and other Important Things. Then there is social media. Almost a third of the entire human population are active social media users at a time when over a third – some 2.7 billion individuals – survive on less than $2 per day. After a day of distracted trawling through Facebook and the blogosphere, I have to wonder whether any of this vast media output has any value at all?
As far as I can tell, this whole conundrum is just another reflection of our hyper-mediated society. Our access to media of any kind – printed, typed, recorded, filmed – has exploded in the last decade as a result of the rapid global expansion of the internet, now accessible wherever, whenever and however you might want. We ordinary folk were once passive consumers of the formulaic mainstream newsreel, glued to our TV screens in a self-induced coma of BBC News at Ten and Ian Hislop talking about trains. We read our Murdoch press and caught up with the weather after the news had finished. Things are truly different now. Ordinary folk can now become extraordinary; elevated to idol status for the quality of their output. They can even rake in 1 million views for describing their favourite drink. Who needs Murdoch anymore?
In principle, this should be a good thing. The mainstream media has always been monopolised by a select group of opinion-shapers – those with expertise sure, but also an axe to grind and a keen eye for exploitative commercial opportunity. The phone hacking scandal is just the most recent iteration of this condition. This is bad for democracy and for diversity of thought, both of which should be substantially strengthened by the new wave of digital media. When everyone publishes and no-one listens, opinions are harder to shape, marketing slogans skid off the slick reviews of Youtube ‘vloggers’ and the informed nods of their vast audiences. Diversity and authenticity abound.
But the flipside is abundantly clear. When one hundred million people are spilling the contents of their minds out on paper at the rate your drunk uncle burns through scratch cards you can bet your life that anything and everything has already been said. Oddly, this reminds me of Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. In one brilliant scene, the latest space gizmo – an ‘Infinite Improbability Drive’ – causes a bunch of monkeys to spontaneously appear with scripts of Hamlet that they had managed to string together from unintelligent key-bashing. What are the odds? Well, technically speaking, if you try something in large enough numbers for a long enough period of time, it is bound to happen. That, ladies and gentlemen, is where we are now. We might have only had the internet for 20 years, and used it widely for considerably less, but we still find ourselves adrift somewhere in an infinite mess of improbable nonsense, celebrity gossip and ugly Renaissance babies.
People, we are the monkeys.
So what can this very ordinary monkey contribute to an already overcrowded space? Let me think… I am a history graduate, so I could offer a historical take on the events of today. I work in marketing, so maybe I should offer ‘thought leadership’ and ‘best practice’ to help marketers at their jobs. Oh the buzzwords (synergy anyone?). But, in truth, I don’t really know enough about either to add anything valuable to the rather portly waistline of Mr. Blogosphere.
Perhaps, then, I should embrace my inner layman and reject the pretence to offer anything different or enlightening. I should ‘get with the times’. As Trump and Boris have shown on both sides of the Atlantic, we now live in a post-factual world where evidence is ignorance and expertise is impotence. Why offer new ideas when you can recycle those of greater people before you? Why tell an unpalatable truth when you can tell a ‘white’ lie? In fact, why tell any truth when you can always (and I really do mean always) lie? There is simply no need to offer anything original, accurate or faithful when the rewards for doing the opposite are so high.
So it is decided, I will not and cannot give you expertise. But I will give you humour, interesting ideas (partly substantiated) and the odd ironic reflection on blogging. If that sounds like your kind of thing, then read on. If it does not, turn back. Everything that lies before you is straight out of the horse’s arse.