I received an e-mail from someone who is writing a story on sociologists who blog for Footnotes, the official newsletter of the American Sociological Association. I told him I would do the interview over e-mail and he sent me five questions. I've decided I am going to answer them here, in addition to replying to his e-mail.
Question #1: Why did you start a blog and do you feel it contributes to a wide audience?
I've had people ask "Why did you start a blog?" and "Why do you have a blog?" as if the two questions are interchangeable. Most people who start blogs stop shortly thereafter. I think the question of "Why do you have a blog?" is really two questions: "Why did you start?," and "Why do you continue?"
I started my blog on a whim because it was summer, I was working hard but also a little bored, and it looked fun. The only blog I had ever seen was Kieran Healy's, and since he called his Kieran Healy's Weblog, it never occurred to me to call mine anything other than Jeremy Freese's Weblog.
I figured when I started my blog that I would probably do it for two weeks, get bored and stop. That was three and a half years ago.
The main reasons I keep blogging are that it allows me to introduce a different kind of creativity into my day, and it provides a different way of feeling connected to other people. Blogging has been good for me in a number of other ways, including leading me to embark on some fun adventures that were justified solely by the thought they would make for a good post later.
Do I feel like my blog contributes to a wide audience? Strange question. Reading blogs is a sedentary activity, and so the time people spend reading my blog is time they could be spending exercising. Still, I would think that even those readers of my blog who are relatively "wide" would not blame my blog for it. Indeed, when I went on a diet and tracked my progress on my blog, several other people joined the same diet and also lost weight. For this reason, I would say that if anything my blog has played a positive role in the ongoing War on Obesity.
If the question instead refers to the number of readers, I have no idea how many people read my blog. I do know that more people at the sociology meetings recognize me for having a blog than recognize me for anything scholarly I have done so far. Obviously, I have very mixed feelings about this.
As for whether I contribute anything to the people who read my blog, I view blogs as much more ruthless than the academic world, which has many forums that allow people to contribute by expressing their thoughts to essentially captive or otherwise coerced audiences. With blogs, if you aren't giving people anything in your posts, they won't keep reading. That said, exactly what I'm contributing to those people who check in on my blog from time to time remains mysterious.