So, Michael Kinsley is concerned that the sheer amount of blog content has reached apocalyptic proportions, what with all the redundant stories and serpentine link trails and reporters becoming bloggers becoming reporters becoming editors becoming vloggers becoming werewolves. So he wrote a piece about his concerns in this week's Time Magazine that's sure to get blogged about and linked to and passed around and placed on Romenesko and in the end we'll all be wallowing in our own stool. Self-fulfilling prophesy!
"How many blogs does the world need? There is already blog gridlock," Kinsley notes. And I sympathize! Here at the end of the election season, I find myself taking a hatchet -- not a scalpel -- to my feed aggregator. You know what? It turns out my life goes on okay if I miss everything that comes out on Taegan Goddard's Political Wire. I've learned that FiveThirtyEight.com can be checked a mere one time a day, without experiencing vertigo. It's been two solid weeks since I've felt the need to visit Time's online ponzi scheme known as The Page, and the experience has been like living inside a paradise, as imagined by Bollywood.
And, here's a full disclosure to some of my relatives and friends: I do not, in fact, have a perfect awareness of every single blog post written here, at The Huffington Post. I spend a nice, tidy amount of time paging through it every day, but you all need to disabuse yourselves of the notion that I can account for every blessed thing written on the site.
Kinsley offers up a bit of personal anecdote, to drive home his worry:
But many readers may be reaching the point with blogs and websites that I reached long ago with the Sunday New York Times Magazine--actively hoping there isn't anything interesting in there because then I'll have to take the time to read it.
Look, I'd be lying if I told you I hadn't experienced my own moments where I hoped there wouldn't turn out to be anything interesting in a blog I made a habit of reading. But I've usually found those thoughts to be the precursor to a larger realization: I was not, in fact, required to read everything! And that sometimes, certain publications are only intermittently interesting. (Good lord, the Sunday New York Times Magazine certainly fits that bill!)
And that's just the thing: I just don't recognize the human beings suffering from blog overload in the way Kinsley describes it, as creatures I have met in Real Life. Blog readers are not all mindless, passive drones on a Sarah Palin-esque quest to read "all of them." The simplest solution to the problem Kinsley cites, it seems to me, is for sentient beings, capable of making choices, to exist. And I think they do! And those people can avail themselves of things like headlines to discern topic matter, and bylines to recognize fascinating authors, and start to reduce their glut of content.
By and large, I think that this is happening. I understand that we've just come through an amazing election season, during which Americans were staggeringly engaged in the process and the stakes, desperate for news and opinion and prediction and analysis. It was a period of involvement, driven by need. Some people will continue this level of involvement on certain topics -- I met a woman this past weekend who's so fascinated by the coming news of cabinet appointments that she felt compelled to visit a handful of sites multiple times a day. But, by and large, web content is not oxygen, and blogs are mostly things that people read in their spare time, for enjoyment. So the glut of content may continue to grow and grow, unabated, but it's existence does not necessitate our enslavement to it. Tomorrow, a tree shall fall in a forest somewhere, and this occasion shall pass, un-Twittered.
Really, if you want to do one thing right now to avoid being drowned in blog content, take this advice: limit yourself to reading only five Tumblrs, and only one from New York City, because they are all the same anyway.