There was a time when oversharing on the Internet was still novel, and readers logged into a blog expecting to see the personal details of a pseudo-celebrity blogger’s life. The early days of blogging were about the bloggers. Oversharing was new and immediate, and some personalities, people like Emily Gould, interviewed yesterday for the site, and Diablo Cody, who was then penning blog posts for City Pages, became celebrities. Sure, these writers did focus on topics outside of themselves, but that’s not really why people read them. No one turned to Diablo Cody for her opinion about new and strange candy bars. They signed on to read her witty turns of phrase or to see if she’d posted another revealing picture of herself, perhaps this time wearing an orange wig and exposing her nipples while straddling her toy dog.
After Jay posted his interview with Emily Gould yesterday, I clicked on the link to her New York Times Magazine article published in 2008, and immediately I knew that I had read it 3 years ago, but had no real specific memory of its content. I read the piece again. It’s a sprawling tale of her rise and fall as a celebrity blogger. During the course of her time at Gawker she rose from someone just writing reactive content, to someone whose world shifted entirely based on how her community of readers interacted with her, judged her, and obsessed over who she was. After a break-up, Gould detailed her personal experiences for thousands of readers to judge. She says that she felt sick after doing so, but the commenters loved it. We were still in an age when readers flocked to the blogosphere in order to read the sexy details of someone’s life.
I don’t think blogs are making writers into celebrities anymore, the way they might have at one time. Instead, blogs have become a gateway to traditional careers, replacing formal education in the world of journalism or publishing. You can get your name out in the public with a blog, and because of that you might make some connections that you otherwise would never have made while journaling privately in the solitude of your basement. The age of the Diablo Cody is over. Why? There’s much easier ways to find out about new and interesting personas online—most notably, Facebook and Twitter. The main reason blogs no longer create celebrities is because everyone now has an online presence, and we’re all capable of oversharing to the point of embarrassment. Why should one person’s life catapult them into the spotlight over another? Only the very best writers and the those who specialize in a certain topic or niche subject really catch fire.
I remember obsessing over Diablo Cody’s blog when it was housed on City Pages. I’d visit the site several times a day sometimes just to see if she’d updated. I was consumed with who she was as a character, not the content she specialized in. Or, maybe more accurately, the content she specialized in was herself, and I was totally drawn to it. Like a good novel featuring some of the most entertaining character development, I wanted to know more about her. I’m not obsessed with any blogs right now. The closest I come to obsessing over a character on the Internet takes place on micro-blogs, where I follow people who have expertly crafted their personas to the extent that I must know more about them. @DadBoner, an imagined figure with an unknown author, is my favorite character on Twitter. On a daily basis I find myself directed to his page, reading his slew of hilarious, character-building posts, hoping myself to one day create a character like his.
The state of writing on the Internet is strong, but you can’t just create a website, write about your day in a way that find you charming, and expect the hordes of readers that some writers once garnered. We all have to be specialists in a certain arm of content now—and, well, if you’re not, what value are you to the reader? There’s personality all over the Internet. It’s becoming harder and harder to make yours stand above the rest.