A few years ago a guy clicked through to this blog from a social media site. Apparently he made a quick retreat, and he left the following comment: “Ohh, too many words….” It’s not a revelation to me, but it’s amazing how few people are willing to READ!
My nephew, who is something of a political activist and has a news site of his own, put his finger on it last year. In a piece I’d written about pandemic issues, I used a cover photo of a graph illustrating one of my main points, as I do sometimes when empirics are involved. I’m paraphrasing, but he said I shouldn’t use graphs as covers because it scares off potential readers. It says, “if you click through you’ll have to think!” But I have no ambitions to be a mass sensation, and as a reader of blogs I tend to regard such devices positively. On the other hand, if a picture is worth a thousand words, there’s a chance that good thinkers gather in what they presume they need to know without clicking through. That’s almost as bad from my perspective, because I want to give them the thousand words anyway!
Here’s a similar phenomenon: occasionally I’ll use a meme as a cover photo for a blog post, but some people “like” the post solely because of the meme without bothering to click through! I’m glad we’re simpatico, but I’d prefer they read the post. I view that kind of reaction as lazy or the act of an easily distracted individual.
I have no interest in writing for people who don’t want to think, but the rub lies in finding those that do. I have a full time job, so producing more content is not an option. I’m not affiliated with a well-known publication or an institution with a significant presence on the web. My readers come from the WordPress community, search engines, and a few social media sites to which I cross-post. Occasionally, if the subject matter is pertinent, I post comments to articles on other blogs and link to one of my posts. That brings in a few views, and those visitors have a definite interest in the subject matter.
Social media sites would seem to be a natural channel for readers, but of course they are jam-packed with memes. Some of those are very good and some are very funny. Some are surely worth a thousand words, but I quickly develop “meme fatigue”. And both good memes and bad memes seem to be reposted ad infinitum.
Simplification and humor are major elements of “meme art”, and I would describe the best of it as such. The ability to simplify is likewise one of the greatest skills an economist can possess, so I respect it. In fact, I like to call economics formalized common sense, but that formalization must happen within an expository framework. Many of my posts are mere commentary, but I like a somewhat deeper dive than the meme form can accommodate. If I get excited about a topic and immerse myself, blogging gives me an opportunity to do some research and explain my point of view while doing my best to apply economic thinking. Moreover, I like to write. Unfortunately, I’m not all that funny, but sometimes I try.
I’m frequently disappointed to see memes I view as extremist, distorted, shallow or over-simplified. For example, I’m no fan of critical race theory, but it’s not fiction to say that racist memes sometimes appear on social media, which prompts me to block the poster immediately.
I scroll through a few memes each day, but I spend more time checking the other blogs I frequent, where I find gobs of interesting reading material. I join groups related to my musical interests, which offer great recordings. I occasionally watch video commentary, but prefer the written form. I have friends who send me lonnnng videos, but I wish they’d send transcripts instead. A two-hour video is not a commitment I’m usually willing to make!
There are many who say blogging is passé, and apparently many don’t have the patience to read lengthier treatments. It’s still the form I prefer, despite the difficulty of battling for eyeballs with memes. But that’s not quite right: there’s really no battle when it comes to those without interest in detailed treatments of issues. The real battles have to do with finding motivated and patient users with common interests and getting more favorable placement on biased search engines. Good content is also key, but that challenge is part of the joy of blogging.