Hey strangers, It sure has been a while. A small, but significant number of people over the summer holiday asked me “are you still writing on your blog?”. At no point was my firm “no” met with a positive reaction, which I should probably take as a complement, but at the time I found it rather irritating.
Whilst I sort of stopped out of sheer laziness (it would be wrong to deny it), there are several reasons that, I believe, justify my absence. Time for an explanation, I hope you’re sitting comfortably:
Firstly there was the generic student excuse. Having written essay after essay revising for social history exams, the idea of writing at all, let alone a heart-felt piece on contemporary social issues, quite frankly filled me with dread. I needed a break from wheeling out the obligatory analysis of our society and it’s flaws/delights. I needed a break from writing all together.
Secondly, related I suppose to the previous point, writing for The Student on a weekly basis made me realise how monotonous comment writing can be. I wrote pieces on issues ranging from religion to Barbie to obesity, yet my general views remained consistent (not a bad thing to be fair). As such, each piece came at the issue at hand from the same angle and often led to the same conclusion. Whilst it was pointed out to me that its good for feature/comment writers to have a unique and defined style for gaining a loyal following, it became increasingly challenging (and irksome) to write a captivating and original piece. After a handful of weeks I no longer cared to tell readers that freedom of speech trumped all, or that modern complacency was the ruin of our society; neither did I want to think about it myself. Plus…constantly having to judge the actions of others started to feel rather ironic when I kept saying that freedom of expression was of paramount concern.
Thirdly I lost faith in the industry. I came to university last year with a burning desire to be a journalist. However after following The Tab (a nationwide student online paper/blog) and Facebook exploding with blog posts gone viral, particularly around the Brexit vote, I felt like journalism had lost its credibility. From what I could see, no longer did a piece consisting of an educated argument that was conveyed with: the tightest focus, most pristine use of language and superior articulacy equal success and a loyal following. Now, it seemed the key was a strong ass opinion, written in a way that raised eyebrows and captivated the biggest audience, who largely weren’t looking to read anything at all. Furthermore with the rise of The Blog came the rise of The Sponsor. Social media is nothing more than product placement and fake opinions. It seemed ludicrous to me that these are the people making money now, and I felt (as we are repeatedly told) that the days of the national press were gone. Totally disheartened and sickened by the whole thing, I didn’t see the point in pursuing my dream of being a journalist. And if I had no end goal, what was the point in putting pen to paper, or my fingers on the keyboard, anymore?
But I’m back. What brought me here? Probably first on the list is the fact that, it now being October, deadlines are back and this feels like productive procrastination. Also having had four months off, writing seems rather appealing again.
On a deeper, more serious level though are two other reasons. I’m not Zoella or Deliciously Ella: I don’t have a brand to promote or a following to keep satisfied. Not only does that not matter, it’s a bonus. Just because I may not be tailoring my thoughts or interests to match what the people of social media want, it doesn’t mean that what I write can’t be valued for what it is. The internet has room for both os us: those who aim to make money and feel popular, and those who wish to use this space as a creative canvas. It’s still a magical place to practise one’s rough-as-coal writing skills and develop a style that may, one day, hopefully, produce a diamond of a ‘writer’.
Secondly, and importantly, I have Caitlin Moran to thank (as I do with for solving a significant chunk of life’s problems) for restoring my faith in the future of the national press. I never thought I’d thank Brexit for anything, but for this I have Brexit (and Caitlin) to thank. Brexit was a manic time. Everyone reacted quite like they do to the X-Factor. To break down the analogy (insert tangent): the majority had no concrete knowledge on the subject (not many people are in the music industry, not many people know the ins and outs of European politics or the economy), and few actually thought about the long term (hardly anyone buys the winner’s 2nd single, a lot of people who voted Leave didn’t realise we’d actually leave). Yet everyone (including me) had a passionate belief in whichever contestant/side of the vote they instinctively felt attached to. The world ends, or faith in the Nation is restored depending on whether the chosen contestant loses or wins the X factor. Brexit was the same and everyone seemed entitled to publish their opinion- either by blogging furiously, or writing a “I don’t normally do this, but…” status on Facebook. Yet how many of us really had a clue what was going on or what we should be doing? I certainly had no idea.
Back on topic: This shit-storm saw a spike in the sales of national newspapers, and with it revived my faith in professional journalism. Caitlin pointed out in June that you will only ever get honest opinions, based on factual evidence if journalists are paid by an established and accountable company. And Brexit proved this. The reputation of a national paper is upheld by mandatory transparency and the calibre of their readers. When the average Joe doesn’t know what to think about a serious topic, they look to paid journalists to communicate to them the facts. I did not realise this until the purgatory of the Referendum campaign made the British public do just that. Press columnists, who are paid to research expert’s findings and craft an opinion full time, became like a current affairs Jesus: passing down expert knowledge to us mere humans, in a way which we could understand and relate to, and had time to examine. Just like the good ol’ days.
What an epiphany: Anyone can write down their opinion in a blog, but not everyone can be counted on to be an learned advisor who has the authority to help us react rationally to contemporary dilemmas. Journalists are paid to figure out and convey their honest, considered opinion of what is going on. Bloggers are either opinionated attention seekers (hi) writing in their spare time, or professional ambassadors for hidden sponsors.
So – whether I’m back on the reg, or just popping my head up to say hello, I am back. My faith is restored, and my fingers are ready to to type furiously.