This post was inpired by Simone Silvestroni on “personal brands”.

I am new to the small web/IndieWeb/personal blogging scene. I tried blogging as a teenager in the early 00s, and thank god the evidence of that is lost to time. But like most people, by the late 00s and early 10s I was thoroughly drawn into Facebook’s world of interacting through pokes, Likes, and short wall posts.

In early 2016 I read Deep Work and deleted Facebook, hoping for a more focused and distraction-free life1. A brief interest in Twitter came and wentl2. I wanted some kind of presence on the Internet, but I was deeply aware of how problematic mainstream social media could be.

By 2017 I began looking into blogging as a way have my own space on the web, vaguely remembering the fun personal blogs of my youth. The trouble was, I was completely out of the loop when it came to the world of blogging. What’s the best way to get into blogging these days? How do you find blogs to follow? How do you you find readers?

I did the obvious thing. I searched for things like “getting started with personal blogging” and “how to start a personal blog”. But the articles I found were about a kind of blog I had no interest in creating. They were all about having a single topic of focus, monetization, search engine optimization, personal branding, analytics, and calls to action. This wasn’t personal blogging for its own social sake, but a completely instrumental take on the personal blog. A blog for the neoliberal subject, for whom nothing is worth doing if it is not somehow marketable.

On reflection, what I was looking for was permission to have my own daft little page on the web. None of my friends had one, and didn’t really follow anyone else’s yet. My searches for help getting started were actually off-putting. I had a little go at blogging about my mathematics studies, but without any community or any desire to “build my personal brand”, the interest faded.

The problem is that any search for blogging, personal blogging, having your own website, etc, just gives you results on how to SEO, monetize, and brand. The reason is the sites offering this advice are precisely the blogs that use SEO, monetization, and branding, shooting them to the top of any search. There doesn’t seem to be much of a way around this. Many bloggers do write posts encouraging others to get started with their own personal blogs. But by their very nature, these aren’t the posts you’ll see when you search “how to start a blog”!

It would be years before I stumbled on things like IndieWeb and the other communities that have sprung up that encourage blogging as recreation and self-expression, and even longer before I actually jumped on board with My RSS is now stuffed with the writings of interesting people, posting what’s on their mind with no regard to “growing their brand”. And I no longer feel like I need permission to post what I like, or particularly care how many people stop by and read. And to those so inclined, keep posting encouragement for others to start too. You never know what might cut through.

  1. I can’t say that’s going particularly well, but I don’t regret deleting Facebook. ↩︎

  2. Fighting over Brexit was what drew me in and eventually pushed me away. That place really is good at bringing out the worst in people. ↩︎