While we’re on the topic of nostalgia, in my totally unscientific and undoubtedly observer-biased surfing around, it seems to me that a lot of people gave up blogging around 2008-09.  Was this part of the growing hegemony of the Book of Face, or did it have something to do with the financial crisis?  People also identify 2008 as the Year Things Changed in the job market, due to financial stuff.

Because of family problems, I paid very little attention to the outside world in 2008-09.  I sum these things up, briefly, by saying “My parents were both very ill and my mother died.”  Although the death belongs in the “blessed relief” category, the grieving process takes its course regardless of one’s actual feelings.  I hadn’t grasped that before.  Grief isn’t necessarily about sadness, but about adjusting to a new reality.  Anyway, I remember vividly the day that Lehmann went under, because I was in FamilyLand, on the phone with a friend in New York who was stunned by the whole thing; she reported on the financial people wandering the streets in the middle of the day looking shell-shocked.  But it was late morning on the left coast, and, in a brief respite from attending on my mother, I was sitting in the sun in a hemlock grove, on a redwood deck built by my nephew from trees he had felled, enjoying the peace and the sunlight, enjoying hearing from a friend I loved but rarely saw, and who was a tremendous support during my mother’s last years.  It was a rare moment of comfort in a difficult trip.  The bankruptcies and the Dow’s slide seemed remote, unreal, impossible, a matter of pixels on screens; reality was wood, slate, glass, concrete, a whole house that was not there before my nephew built it.  This would continue, I thought, people would make things, the world would go on.

Well, it did.  And it didn’t.  People who move pixels on screens spend actual money on houses and other objects created by the people who make things.  My nephew and his wife spent awhile living in their own basement apartment while they rented out their beautiful house, though eventually they reclaimed it for themselves and, now, their children.  I tell the story to illustrate my state of mind at the time.  I’ve rarely blogged about world events of any sort, preferring to ramble on about writing, cats, and the academic life, but I was especially self-absorbed that year.  I have no idea what the job market was like, or whether jobs were advertised and then yanked, or what else might have happened.

So, did junior faculty and graduate student bloggers get spooked and feel they’d better be more circumspect, shut down, go away, not be available for hiring committees to observe online?  Did they decide to buckle down and write more on their dissertations or books so they’d be more hire-able or tenure-able, and give up on blogging as a time-waster?  Or is this pure coincidence (how many academic babies were born in ’08-’09?), or simply that I haven’t actually counted up how many of the bloggers I once read quit in particular years?

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5 thoughts on “Timing

  1. The job market may be part of it, but I think it also has to do with the way blogging and social media more generally have matured or developed over the years. Time was, we were all pseudonymous and we said a lot of ranty and emotional and sometimes borderline unprofessional things–because we felt we had a private corner and none of it mattered except finding like-minded people and helping each other feel a little less lonely.

    These days, no one is pseudonymous. Even the grad student blogger/tweeters I know mostly use their own names (though some have locked accounts or delete them while on the job market). The benefits of community building are still there, but they’re more formalized now and people seem to value the ways that social media help build *real world* connections and get their names out there.

    And you can’t really have it both ways: you can either let it all hang out or you can get some kind of professional credit for your online presence. The desire for professional credit of some sort isn’t unrelated to the contracting job market, but it’s not the whole story.

    (And at the same time that this was happening, old-school bloggers were aging and becoming more concerned with FERPA, the confidentiality of personnel matters, and the like–or were just entering different and more stable professional places. For a variety of reasons, then, The Way We Blog Now doesn’t meet the old needs.)

  2. Another part is that there isn’t really a new generation of grad students being let in —- that was about the time the UCs (what I’m familirar with) cut cohorts down from 20-30 a year down to 3 or 4. They might be getting more actual help from their mentors in those smaller sizes, or more wary about being found out, or there is enough stuff already published that they don’t need to ask those questions and process those ideas, or something.

    And also, I think most people got tired of blogging — you run out of things to say unless you reinvent yourself/your purpose. academia especially is so very cyclical and “same as it ever was.”

  3. I do think that FB and Twitter have a lot to do with the decline of blogging. Younguns seem to want to Tweet more than I do. I am an old fart. I find Twitter confusing. Facebook, on the other hand, feels nicely organized.

  4. I think that all these reasons apply. Also, the new people coming up are blogging/tweeting as self-promotion instead of reflection (or if they’re reflecting, it’s to promote their brand identity). I get why they would want to do that, but it’s different from taking to the pseudonymous interwebs for less goal-oriented purposes.

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