Microblogging: A Small, Strange World
We all have experience with microblogging, even if we’re not aware of it. Influencer Marketing Hub defines it as ‘blog posts under 300 words that can have images, GIFs, links, infographics, videos, and audio clips.’ Naturally, that leads to the question, ‘what is a blog post?’ A definition I find accurate is ‘an online journal or informational website’.
With definitions all cleared up, ‘an online journal’ accurately describes updating your personal Facebook profile, telling your friends and family about your health. It describes the photographs of your breakfast posted to Instagram. It’s so all-encompassing, it practically describes all times you share your thoughts on a personal page of any sort.
A curious reader might wonder why one of my citations is from a marketing company. Moreover, you might start searching about microblogging yourself. What you will find will be pages and pages of google search results linking to someone promoting microblogging as a marketing tool. Why?
Microblogging creates a parasocial relationship that its long-form counterpart could only dream about.
Anyone who has followed my social media profiles would know I’m quite a fan of Owen Jones. While Jones writes, participates in, and shares some fantastic journalism, he also ties in a bit of cheeky banter or cute videos of animals. These behaviours are seemingly intentionally unprofessional — it makes a serious journalist feel more like your friend, which in turn means you’re more receptive to the thoughts they share.
These aren’t behaviours reflected in ‘traditional’ journalistic blogging. The term microblogging is deceptive, it implies that microblogging is like blogging but smaller, when in fact its more like a gateway drug to make you invested in more long-form journalistic work, or even to attain your loyal readership.
The experience of this blog has not felt that way, for various reasons. Firstly, all, if not most, of the people who follow my social media pages attached to this blog know me personally, and I don’t have to win them over — they’re already with me. The layer of deception isn’t there, not the capitalist desire for ‘marketing’ necessary nor desired.
Secondarily, this is a bit of a ruse. For those not already in the know, this blog primarily exists for a university assignment. Behind the scenes, there are quotas for Twitter replies and Instagram stories, and the nature of the posts. When considering making a post which would feel natural outside of this setting, I hesitate and think, ‘no, that might lose me marks.’ When in the real world of microblogging, it might be an entirely authentic behaviour.
There is precisely the problem — this lacks authenticity. In my real, day-to-day life, I haven’t made an Instagram post in over a year, because I find Instagram an insufferable cesspit of vanity. I don’t ever think I’ve seen anyone I follow in journalism create a Twitter poll, but rather ask to ‘hear your thoughts’ from their audience.
On the topic of polls, I shared some polls on subjects of my blog posts after having shared the blog posts, and overwhelmingly my audience responded in a way which aligned with my expressed views. To this extent, I find microblogging politically unhealthy — perpetuating the problems of echo chambers and unchallenged thoughts. Anecdotally, I can say that I regularly get notifications from Twitter on my phone showing me some tweet from someone I’ve never heard of but would be part of my echo chambers.
In summary, I find microblogging, in the context of marketing for a blog, troublingly manipulative, and damaging to public discourse, and much prefer the nuance of long-form journalism. In the context of keeping up to date in mutual and parasocial relationships, it does the job fantastically, but that’s not the nature of this gig.