As this website reaches its two year anniversary, I explore how online communication has allowed me to progress personally and professionally
This week marks the two year anniversary of this website’s launch, which is a true milestone for me. During this time, I have gone from a career-hungry yet self-doubtful graduate, to an employed writer with almost a year’s experience under my belt.
Throughout this journey, in which there have been many highs and lows, this site has been a platform for me to express myself. In many ways it’s also been a form of cathartic creative release when I’ve needed it to be.
So this week I got to thinking about how fortunate I am to not only live in an age where technology allows such accessible communication, but to live in a part of the world where free speech (to a certain degree) is entirely permitted.
I’ve grown up in an age where using a computer comes as naturally to me as tying a shoe lace. I went through my adolescence while social media began its infancy through websites such as Friendster and MySpace. Technology has very much been a part of my own evolution from child to young adult.
This contemplation was not only aided by my website’s second birthday, but also by spending time with my 92-year-old grandmother over the last couple of weekends.
Speaking to her baffled me to think of an era where people socialised without updating their “status” and responding to “friend requests”. A time when people discovered each other’s interests through conversation and not just noticing what they have “liked” on each other’s “timelines.”
Although I envy this age, to an extent I was a part of it. I feel fortunate to have enjoyed a childhood and early adolescence free from an online presence or identity. Today they are as important as qualifications or experience.
On the flipside, there are so many things to thank this age of scalable interaction for, including the transmission of my work. I remember the first time I published my poetry online at the age of about 13 on a website called MyPoetry.com.
I wrote anonymously, of course, as like many teenagers I was extremely unsure of myself and my work at the time. Still, I remember so clearly the feeling of validation when other poets, or “users”, would comment on my prose, pointing out the parts they liked and analysing the hidden symbolism. This was something I had never experienced, which beat any praise a school teacher could have provided, hands down.
Next came picture comments on MySpace. Anyone from the “MTV Generation” knows what these are and whether they admit it or not, how they made them feel. What could have been more self-gratifying than having complementary comments left by friends (or often slight acquaintances) boosting your self-confidence at a time when it was so needed.
As “Generation Y” has grown older, we’ve begun to look for this same validation in the steps our careers take. MySpace became Facebook and our biggest concern now is how many “likes” the companies we work for have. It seems that whether we like it or not, the online social revolution is here to stay and it will be interesting to see what its next phase will be.
The other online phenomena we have seen emerge throughout the late 90s and early 00s is of course, blogging. A portmanteau of the term “web log”, the phrase “blog” was first used by founding partner and president of Adaptive Path, Peter Merholz, in 1999. “To blog” means “to edit one’s weblog or to post to one’s weblog”, which is essentially a personal journal published online.
When I was studying Journalism at university, the idea of blogging never appealed to me as the market seemed so oversaturated. We were encouraged to do so by our tutors, which is how this website was originally created. I published it for a project, but vowed to never continue it as I did not want to follow the cyber-crowd.
I wasn’t wrong about the oversaturated market. As of February 2011, there were over 156 million public blogs in existence, a number that made my feeble blog seem like a needle in a thousand haystacks. However it wasn’t until I had a conversation with a good friend over coffee one day that something sparked inside my mind.
“What I look for in a blog is a writer’s personal touch,” she explained to me over her skinny cappuccino, “not just your usual cut-and-paste job.” It was then I realised what had really put me off about the “blogosphere.” It was its lack of credibility through the increase of “Churnalists” putting their work online. I vowed to never become one of them, but instead to make my site my own.
I therefore dropped the term “blog” and now simply refer to this creative platform as a website. Instead of posting daily posts to please, I produce a monthly feature that I dedicate a lot of time and thought to, researching my topic widely before even reaching for my keyboard.
As of today, CWGill.com has had 33,066 unique views, 69 comments and this is my 89th post. Thank you to everyone who has supported its growth, from teething to the (not so) Terrible twos.
I can’t wait to see what its next year will bring.