Replace social media with blogs and RSS?

Every now and then I see tweets like this one:

—Simon Willison (@simonw), 18 August 2018

A while ago, I changed my freelancing website into the personal blog that it is now. One of the reasons was that I wanted to try just that what was suggested in that tweet. I’m a Monthly Active User on several social networks and a more or less daily active one on of them. But even with a lot of filters, a lot that the algorithms serve me is American politics and clickbait. So I was looking for ways to be an online person without relying on those too much. It’s been a couple of months since the website overhaul, so now I can evaluate how blogging compares to social media.

I started writing this post as a balanced thing where of course the ‘No’ answer would be the more reasonable one. After all, there must be a reason social got so popular and only brands and some nerds still use RSS. But yeah, well, not really. Three reasons why we may be better off blogging instead of using social media:

1: Blogging makes me think critically

Posting on a blog takes a bit to a lot more effort than on social media. That makes me think things through just a bit longer then when tweeting. A lot longer actually–for every post I have three drafts that I didn’t publish already. I like the process of putting thoughts in words and finding out my own ideas are not entirely coherent. I then have to do more thinking and research and learn new things. Often when I write things I believe to be correct, I check them just to be sure and then find out I was wrong.

2: My blog creates good interactions

This summer I removed the rarely used comments section of this blog. Instead, at the end of every post, I ask people to write me if they have something to say about the topic. All of a sudden I’m getting quite a few emails and messages! Interestingly some of my good friends now also write me to react to the posts. That’s a lot better than just getting some likes. More importantly, the reactions are really nice and I learn from them! I got some very good discussions via email and DMs. Those discussions are much more nuanced than what I get into on Twitter.

3: I reach more people

If I just assumed everyone I know had an RSS reader and subscribed to my feed, it’s unlikely you would be reading this. So often after I post something, I share it on the social media that I’m on. I also post links on forums and Spectrum. I pick the channels in such a way that I hope people who know about the topics read them and react to them. I don’t spend a lot of time on it, but it works well. In fact, my tweets get a few thousand impressions at most, with about 0,5–5% engagements (that includes people clicking on the tweet and then doing nothing. Useless metric, but it’s all I got). My most viewed post got was read over 6000 times!

What now?

So, can we replace social media with blogs and RSS? I only now realize, that’s like asking if we can replace coffee with water or vice versa. I want both and other drinks! The combination of long(ish) blog posts and quick reactions via other channels is pretty neat. Social media are great for social signaling and getting emotional about topics that others care about. Also the feeling of belonging to a group that thinks just like me is nice at times. It’s silly to spend a lot of time with all that though. So yes, everyone, please build websites, send me your links via Twitter email and whatnot and blog like it’s 2005!