Last night I read Andrew Sullivan’s article in the Atlantic (newly redesigned, by the way). The article was titled “Why I Blog,” and in it, Sullivan gets the definition of blogging right, which makes me very happy.
All too often, people simplify blogging, too easily equating it to other forms of writing. Sullivan makes the point that blogging, and all the author-reader interaction it entails, is subtly different than traditional journalism or essay writing or book writing. Sullivan describes blogging as a style of writing all its own, with its defining characteristic being its humanity, the implied and necessary friendship between a blogger and his audience. Sullivan writes:
Alone in front of a computer, at any moment, are two people: a blogger and a reader. The proximity is palpable, the moment human—whatever authority a blogger has is derived not from the institution he works for but from the humanness he conveys. This is writing with emotion not just under but always breaking through the surface. It renders a writer and a reader not just connected but linked in a visceral, personal way. The only term that really describes this is friendship. And it is a relatively new thing to write for thousands and thousands of friends.
I was a little put off by the self-referential bits near the end of the essay, where Sullivan explains how he came to write the essay as it appeared in the magazine, but I can’t fault him for that. After all, those paragraphs come at the end of an article about how blogging allows readers a view into the blogger’s writing process. I suppose a little spillover into the print edition is allowable.