To my shock, I have started 2016 with over 1000 followers on my Facebook page. Granted, the majority of those will be bots and fake accounts ‘like’-ing everything indiscriminately, from personal blogs to violent pornography to artisanal mustard. Nonetheless, I like looking at that number.
I’ve been thinking for a long time about what the point is of writing this blog anymore. When I started writing in 2010, it was to journal my year abroad as a gift for my future self, who would surely want to look back at the photos and stories from that manic year which made me the person I am now. Over time, it has become a repository for unsorted experiences, thoughts and outrages, as well as my one opportunity to write; because in truth, creating texts for websites doesn’t feel like writing so much as delivering a low-budget daytime infomercial though the medium of type.
Sadly it’s obvious that The Blog qua Blog is dying out. Understandably so. No-one wants to read rambling prose by a nobody about nothing. Especially not if it isn’t in listicle form – though for the record, I am a great supporter of listicles and my only complaint about them is that the portmanteau sounds less like a mashup of list + article and more like a mashup of listerine + testicle.
There are a few blog genres that will survive The Great Unfollowing. Cooking blogs are the obvious ones; people love to look at good photos of delicious-looking food, and it’s an instinct that won’t wear out anytime soon. Cooking blogs are not about cooking. They are about the pleasure and thrill of looking at gorgeous food in aspirational settings, in a time when we are all being told that what we eat, whatever we eat and in whatever quantity, is wrong. Also, they are about food porn, and about people’s high-octane health obsessions, and about looking at pleasing photographic art which does not presume to make existential statements.
Travel blogs will probably be fine for a while, because travel is a thing people do rarely, and when they do it, they want to do it right. No-one under the age of 40 really trusts printed travel guides anymore; it is like getting clubbing recommendations from your gran. It feels better to turn to bloggers, who are adventurous young travellers, never tourists, and who somehow manage to pay for their travel by writing about their travel to pay for their travel. Travel bloggers give you something by sharing the best side of a destination with you. And, although I am just guessing here, I suspect that travel bloggers all have admirable facial hair and never need a wingman in bars.
Mothering blogs will survive, because mums have a mafia-like grip on the internet which is acknowledged by no-one and felt by everyone. Health and exercise blogs will continue to thrive because there is no limit to how much people will read if they think they will find the definitive secret to getting bodacious thighs. And specialist blogs documenting things like steam locomotive trainspotting or exotic bird rearing will persist on a low hum for the time being thanks to their small but avid readerships of fellow trainspotters and bird fanciers who read and comment with the kind of heartfelt gusto every single blogger on the planet would kill for from their readers.
Formless blogs like this one just exist for themselves. Guten Morgen Berlin is just my online workbench where I can try things out, with a stack of disoranised papers in the corner, empty tea mugs dotted around the peripheries and a selection of wood shavings and bits of receipts scattered in between the things I am trying to cobble together.
2016 is going to be my year of trying things out. I’m going to try projects I have wanted to do for years and see if I can go further doing the things that I never thought I could do. I’m going to help the campaign for the Berlin bike safety government petition. I’m going to try writing a script and a series of books for kids. I’m going to build websites and create a new home for Guten Morgen Grammar with downloadable teaching resources to be used in schools. I’m going to learn to animate and finish figuring out what the hell MySQL is all about. I shall make things with silver, glass, wood and fabric. I shall see if anyone wants to pay me to write things. I will practise my guitar more. I will figure out what the deal is with vanishing points. I will grow back the fingertip which I sliced off earlier while making salad. I will go months at a time without falling off my bike.
And if I don’t manage any of that, at least I will have fun writing about it all here.