I propose to you today that blogs are as old as human communication. Blogs through the ages have raised and razed civilizations time and again.
Before you decide I’ve completely lost my mind—let’s face it; most days I’m pretty close anyway—hear me out on this as I examine blogs through the ages.
What about blogs as we know them?
A quick search of “the history of blogs” delivers an overabundance of links to writers’ examinations of when blogs began and how they’ve evolved over the years. Each one puts a pin in 1994 as the start date with the word “blog” coming into use five years later.
And, of course, they’re correct. –ish.
What’s the point of a blog anyway?
Before I go further in my thesis, I have two questions for us to consider. What purpose does a blog serve? Why would someone start one?
Certainly blogs cover a variety of topics—from a personal recounting of one’s day for all the world to read (anyone else remember Xanga and MySpace??); to an online soapbox to climb on; to a place to gush over a favorite fictional character; to philosophy or politics, clothes or cooking, books or BBQ.
At the heart of a blogger’s motives, regardless of his or her topic, lies the human craving to be heard. To be a voice. To add to the world philosophically, creatively. To join the Great Conversation spanning all of time—past, present and future.
I’ve never met a person who doesn’t want to leave some part of themselves behind them. They may have never used those exact words, but this desire is clear. And, never before has this desire been as crystal as it is today with access to instant information-sharing at our fingertips.
How much are humans heard these days?
Do you like fast facts? I do! So, I did a quick Google search to get some answers to how much content the human race is tossing out there. Hold on to your smartphones!
Like I said, never before have we had such a huge desire to be heard, make our mark, toss our words to the wind.
Or have we?
What are some examples of blogs through the ages?
Essays and Academic Papers
Let’s go back to the early to mid-1900s. Consider if you will the Inklings—J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, the most famous of this group of writers and philosophers. They regularly presented papers and wrote essays presenting their takes on the topics of the times.
These men were academics, businessmen, etc. They came from different walks of life, different backgrounds, different religious persuasions. Their common bond? Writing, reading, philosophy and the sharing of ideas and conversations. And, they shared these thoughts in written and published format, also presenting them orally in lectures as well as informal Inklings gatherings.
These men—along with women like Dorothy Sayers—jumped at every opportunity to share their thoughts with the world.
Pamphlets and Propaganda
Now we travel further back in studying blogs through the ages. Propaganda spread hate and rage and lies in Hitler’s Germany. Pamphlets like Thomas Paine’s Common Sense championed a spirit of revolution amongst the Colonies in 1775 and 1776.
Consider The Federalist: A Collection of Essays, Written in Favour of the New Constitution, as Agreed upon by the Federal Convention, September 17, 1787. (I admit—that was a mouthful!) This collection of 85 articles and essays trumpeted the need to ratify the U.S. Constitution.
In 1732, Benjamin Franklin (AKA Richard Saunders) published his first edition of Poor Richard’s Almanack, something he diligently pursued for 25 years. This Almanack contained words of wisdom for the everyman.
I can’t help but think, were he alive today, Ben Franklin would love Twitter! He could join the masses in tweeting quotes…with or without attribution.
The Earliest Forms of Communication
Let’s jet even further back in time to discover more blogs through the ages. Before the development of an alphabet with letters or the discovery of the printing press, people used symbols to get their thoughts across. And, they used a variety of mediums on which to capture those stories and philosophies for posterity.
When I was a child, I learned about the Dakota tribe of Native Americans who kept a journal of sorts on a buffalo hide with pictures depicting what happened each year. Other tribes used a wampum belt with various colored shells woven in such a way that they told a story.
Even further back we have records of some of the earliest forms of written communication on tablets and cave walls. Sumerian archaic writing, hieroglyphs from the Egyptians and then Sumerian cuneiform writing comprise the earliest recorded types of writing.
Even back more than 3400 years before Christ, we see people wanting to share the histories of their people, the discoveries they made and so much more.
Can anything stop the power of the blog?
So, I propose again: blogs aren’t really the new kid on the block. Humans have had blogs through the ages…in some form or other.
Our desire to share information, passions, creativity, thoughts, etc. shows no sign of disappearing. While blog posts like mine already find themselves bowing out of the way of multi-media formats, the written word will continue to stand.
Videos and podcasts provide convenient formats for our busy life; and some tutorials just have to be seen to be understood. But, at the end of the day, not much compares to the tangibility and longevity of the written word.
Books and printed materials—and, perhaps, archived blog posts—will join the Great Conversation in continued chatter for future generations to digest and discuss. Humans will continue to tell tales, promote ideals they believe in and pontificate upon philosophy and so much more.
What do you think about my theory on blogs through the ages? Would you consider cave drawings to be the first blog posts?
*Inspiration for this post arose while reading The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings by Philip & Carol Zaleski. I am still reading this book and have been off and on all year because it is so rich and inspirational. From this book I discovered the name of my blog. This book gave me the fire I needed to pursue this website at all and to commit to following through in my writing all the way to publication. Whenever I do finish this book (sad day!), you can expect a post dedicated to my reactions and inspirations to it in addition to a thorough Goodreads review.