Once upon a time, there were lots of higher ed bloggers. We wrote, we mused and we talked about ideas. Those wondrous days of yore were actually not that long ago. It’s almost 2014 and many of us are still up to our old tricks. Except, the tricks are different now. No one really comments on blogs anymore, unless it’s a huge site and even then, you just find yourself engaged in battles against trolls who may or may not be real.
Okay, so that’s probably not the case on most of our blogs. But it’s a concern nonetheless in blogging as a whole. The practice of getting a bunch of people to share their thoughts, however, is over. I’m not really trying to be too outrageous, but we’re simply bantering about the same topics without any real desire to resolve anything. Here’s why.
1. It’s too difficult to apply one situation to all of our situations.
Try as we might, one size doesn’t actually fit all. You can’t apply situations that work for some of us, to work for all of us. Too many barriers. We can be informed and we can watch what others do in the hopes that watching their successes can ignite a fire within our own institutions, but it doesn’t really work that way. So all of the blogging in the world, doesn’t really solve much.
2. The people who (probably) need to be reading, aren’t on our radar.
How many times has this scene played out at a conference? You hear an amazing talk on [insert topic of concern here] and wish your boss could be there to see it. But lo and behold, senior leader isn’t at said conference. And sure, you might relay the information back when you return but people are desk surfing with too much paper and chair surfing to meetings all over campus to really give thought to that “REALLY AWESOME PROPOSAL FROM SOMEONE AT A SCHOOL WAY LARGER THAN OURS AND THAT PROBABLY ISN’T AS FEASIBLE FOR OUR SIZE AND/OR OUR BUDGET!”
So why are wasting time again? If it’s just members of the choir trying to convert each other, there’s not a lot of conversions and the unwashed masses continue to wander in the land of no-clue. It’s a lose-lose proposition.
3. You can’t really be a contrarian. Someone might be watching..
Sure there are a few naysayers out there. But most of them are people who used to work at schools who no longer do. There’s only so much you can say before you get nervous about who is reading what you’re saying. Maybe it doesn’t matter as much as we think, but there’s always a concern that what you say in a blog might impact future employment opportunities or you might change your mind, but be held to your random thoughts from a bygone era.
So what’s the point, really? If there’s a point to this exercise of blogging at all, someone should reveal it? Why are we still doing it? When we started Higher Ed Solo, we openly asked ourselves the question, “Are blogs dead?” We decided in the end, there was value to having the content out there whether people actively engaged with or not; with the hope that we could get them to engage. It’s a process, but I think the world is a better place with us attempt it versus not.
4. How much insider baseball can we spin our wheels on?
So many of our conversations in higher ed are about the inner workings of our very specific and often highly complicated lives. The life of the higher ed professional can be very different than many other jobs, even if we’re doing similar things as people on the outside. This can lead to increasing difficulty of relating to the struggles of more conventional workplaces and having expectations that outsiders might view as unrealistic. To be fair, this can be a problem in any industry; the difference is you don’t see people from those industries blogging about what they’re running into. I’m generalizing, but there comes a point where you have to openly question how much good we’re really doing when we spend our time trying to solve intense issues.
I’ve always used blogging as a personal exercise. In my professional life, I use it to disseminate ideas and to work through things I’m thinking about. I’ve found it to be a really useful tool in my own development. But I often wonder whether the whole exercise has lost its relevance in a world where there’s too much noise to keep up.
So where does that leave us, Mister Naysayer?
Well for starters, I don’t think it means we stop blogging. This isn’t the death knell of the practice and the opposing arguments I hope to spark from this intentionally bleak post will surely talk about the value of collaboration and all of the things we gain from putting our ideas out there.
There just comes a point where doing the same things we did don’t advance the conversations beyond the same places they’ve always been. At some point, people are going to dig deeper and decide that what we’re sharing with the community pushes the boundaries a bit more. How we get there or where that leaves us is anyone’s guess.
I just know it’s time for something different.