I relaunched my personal blog three weeks ago with the intention to write every day and add another streak to my ongoing list. So far I’ve kept my promise to myself.
I’ve had a few people ask why I’ve gone “old school” and chose to communicate via a self-hosted blog. The main reason is that I was tired of being part of the overall social media negativity, which is ironic because back in 2008 I was an early champion of Facebook and Twitter and even did a series of presentations at local libraries and other groups on what “social media” was and why it was going to be such a great thing.
My premise back then was that the internet had the potential to expand the ability for everyone to participate in social discourse on a grand scale. Certainly everyone could talk with friends and colleagues about politics and other issues, but to communicate to a large audience required owning a newspaper or a radio or TV station, which was a bit out of reach for the average citizen.
Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.A.J. Liebling, 1960
Staying connected to friends and family was a side benefit of Facebook to me. The thought that everyone would have the “power of the press” was exciting. And I still believe that the internet has that potential, but the social media platforms, like most successful things in a capitalist society, became obsessed with maximizing profits over providing a positive public service. (Please know that I don’t really expect anything different from people who start companies. They can run their business as they see fit. I’m just disappointed that I allowed myself to think that social media moguls would be any different than their predecessors.)
I still use Twitter daily. It’s certainly not perfect (Trump has done plenty of damage through his endless stream of “fake news.”) I have kept my Facebook account, though I keep it deactivated more than not. Instagram (owned by Facebook) is also on my “avoid” list, though I check it every few days because many of my family members post there and I want to stay connected.
So I’ve returned to posting on tomkephart.com using WordPress. To me, this is closing the circle: I bought the domain name in 1998 (after selling my original domain, “kephart.com,” to an architectural firm in Denver for $2,000!). Over the years, I’ve developed my own sites (hand-coding the HTML before switching to Dreamweaver a few years later), and used three content management systems: Joomla, Drupal, and finally WordPress. I started with WordPress 1.5 (nicknamed “Strayhorn” after Duke Ellington’s collaborator Billy Strayhorn) in 2005; it’s up to version 5.5 today.
Oddly, I’ve discovered since relaunching this blog that there’s a movement known as the IndieWeb, which is “a community of individual personal websites, connected by simple standards, based on the principles of owning your domain, using it as your primary identity, to publish on your own site … and own your data.”
Which is pretty much where we started back in the mid-1990s. I love it!